The Cape Cobras confirmed themselves as the team to beat in the Momentum One-Day Cup when they hammered the defending champion Unlimited Titans by 113 runs at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Friday night.
The Cobras had been sent in to bat and struggled along to 83 for two in 22 overs before lightning and then rain forced the players off the field for 75 minutes. The delay served as a major disruption for the Titans, who came back lacking intensity, bowled poorly and saw the Cobras amass 237 for five in the 42 overs now allotted to them.
As poorly as the Titans bowled on a pitch offering substantial assistance to the bowlers, their batting was even worse as they subsided to 133 all out and their biggest ever defeat at the hands of the Cobras.
In retrospect, it was also silly of them to choose eight specialist batsmen and only two fast bowlers in Junior Dala and Lungi Ngidi, with the Cobras’ pace quartet of Beuran Hendricks, Tshepo Moreki, Dane Paterson and Wayne Parnell showing up the opposition with the way they bowled.
Off-spinner Henry Davids produced a top-class spell up front for the Titans, bowling seven overs for 16 runs, and Ngidi and Dala were impressive with the new ball, each claiming a wicket.
Parnell (6) edged a cramped stroke into his own stumps when Ngidi gained extra bounce and nipped one back into the left-hander, while Andrew Puttick (22) was bowled by a tremendous delivery from Dala, beaten for pace as the ball jagged back to hit the top of off-stump.
It was hard going for the Cobras, but Omphile Ramela and Stiaan van Zyl had just raised a fifty partnership off 60 balls when the rain came.
Davids returned with the ball once play resumed and, in his second over back, he claimed the prized wicket of Van Zyl, lbw for 28 as the left-hander was deceived by the flight and missed a power-sweep. Davids finished with one for 24 in his nine overs and was one of the few Titans bowlers who could brag to the wife about his performance.
Ramela found an excellent partner in captain Justin Ontong and was content to go to his half-century in a measured 74 balls, before Dala took a superb return catch, diving forward, to dismiss him for 53.
The Cobras were 149 for four with just eight overs left in their curtailed innings, but that’s when the visitors would break the shackles thanks to Ontong and Dane Vilas.
Ramela’s dismissal would also mark the start of the final powerplay and 88 runs were bashed from those eight overs.
Ontong was particularly mean to medium-pacer Grant Thomson in the 40th over, hitting him for two fours and two sixes, in alternating blows, as he raised the 200, the fifty partnership off just 32 deliveries with Vilas, and his own run-a-ball half-century.
Thomson eventually had Ontong stumped – thanks to brilliant work by wicketkeeper Mangaliso Mosehle standing up – for 65 off 53 balls to end the over, but it would not mean much respite as Vilas finished in style with a six and a four off Dala in the final over as he raced to 46 not out off just 23 deliveries, with three sixes.
The rain delay close to midway through the innings would mean the Duckworth/Lewis equation would adjust the target upwards and the Titans were left with 247 to win in 42 overs.
But left-arm quick Hendricks made huge inroads with the new ball, having Davids caught down the leg-side, thanks to extra bounce, for a four-ball duck and then having Theunis de Bruyn (14) also caught behind with a fine swinging delivery.
The introduction of Moreki in the 10th over was one of those inspired changes that make captains very happy as the nippy 22-year-old bowled Mosehle for 14 with his second delivery.
Dean Elgar (8) and Graeme van Buuren, who was the only Titans batsman to impress, stroking five fours and making 40 off 36 balls, were both caught behind by Vilas off Moreki, giving the former Dolphins paceman three for 26 in seven impressive overs and career-best figures in the Momentum One-Day Cup.
And Hendricks would also claim a career-best as he removed Qaasim Adams (3), Heinrich Klaasen (4) and last man Ngidi (4) and finished with outstanding figures of five for 31, the third-best figures for the Cobras in the competition and best against the Titans, just edging ahead of Monde Zondeki’s five for 32 at Newlands in 2006/7.
Thomson was run out for 13 and off-spinner Dane Piedt chipped in with the wicket of Tabraiz Shamsi (13) as they made their second-lowest total ever against the Cobras.
The Titans are languishing in fifth place on the log, on 13 points after eight games, and they will be reliant on other results going their way, while beating the Dolphins and Highveld Lions in their last two games, if they are to make the playoffs.
The Cobras, with the way the ball talked for their bowlers and their batsmen posted an impressive total in a bonus point win, have no such worries.