The Titans’ phenomenal performances over the last two rounds of the Sunfoil Series caught the eye as they clinched the four-day title at the weekend, but coach Rob Walter said there has been a tremendous amount of hard work over the last three years leading up to their triumph.
The Titans first of all produced an epic batting display to save their game against the second-placed Highveld Lions, batting for 10-and-a-half hours in their second innings, and then, last weekend, defended a target of just 136 as they bowled the Cape Cobras out for only 125, left-arm paceman Rowan Richards taking seven for 40.
“Everyone loves success but it’s a great feeling when you know what went into winning the title. When I started coaching the Titans, we said we wanted to win the first-class competition and there has been systematic improvement, going from last to fourth to second last season and now first.
“And that’s thanks to the effort that was put in, for three seasons in a row, and the extra time the players spent on their games and on their preparation for matches. We have worked very, very hard and we spoke continuously about what it means to be a champion side, the kind of behaviours needed, what that looks like. It’s a bit intangible until you do it, then those performances in the last two games come along.
“The last two games have been at the opposite ends of the cricketing spectrum – against the Lions we were purely trying to save the game, and the second match was just about all-out attack to try and win. It was huge for the players and an awesome achievement,” Walter told The Citizen on Monday.
Despite having to do without their national team players for the bulk of the season, it is clear that the killer instinct remains in the Titans camp and Walter praised the heroes of their campaign.
“It’s very much down to mindset, you must be prepared to win the game in the last session of the last day, and the players were geared to go the full distance. That killer instinct is just in their nature, it runs through their veins.
“You could see Dean Elgar’s hunger ball-after-ball as he set about batting at a higher level, like a Test batsman. To score over 1100 runs, Heino Kuhn must have played well but it was high-quality batting and he didn’t put a foot wrong in scoring that century against a really decent Cobras attack – with four international-grade bowlers – and it stood out that he’s good enough to play Test cricket, if he’s not in the national selectors’ discussions then there’s a problem.
“Qaasim Adams just grows and grows, gets better and better. He had an outstanding season and was able to deliver in varying situations – when we were on top or when we were very much under pressure. Theunis de Bruyn is a high-quality young cricketer who had a really good season and Henry Davids delivered in the last two weeks when we were horribly under the pump.
“The bowling unit also had a lot to do with the success of the team. Rowan Richards is always a competitor and when he got a sniff, he was able to find that little bit extra, like all x-factor players do. He just loves bowling and his 16 overs on the trot against the Cobras – and it was hot – were quick and on the money.
“Marchant de Lange had a change in length and mindset and had instant reward, while Ethy Mbhalati did well, was always solid. Then Tabraiz Shamsi got 41 wickets, with two 12-fors, which is a huge feat for a spinner in South Africa, so he’s very exciting,” Walter said.