Titans coach Mark Boucher said his team has not played to the best of their ability and that the Knights fully deserve their narrow triumph in the Sunfoil Series.
The Knights beat the Highveld Lions by an innings and 121 runs in the final round of fixtures, but they only topped the log by 1.78 points and it could have been so different for the Titans had they just batted better in the first innings of their last game, against the Warriors, when they were bowled out for just 227 and only earned 2.54 batting points; just 90 more runs and the Titans would have won the title.
“We knew what we had to get, we knew we had to bat well, but we haven’t played the way we can the whole season and we didn’t deserve to win the title. The Knights threw their all into their game against the Lions, their gamble worked and they played unbelievable cricket to score 443 and then bowl the Lions out for just 87.
“Our batting in general has to improve, particularly in terms of partnerships, centuries win you trophies. We only played to within 60-70% of our capabilities and were within a point or so of winning the title, but I don’t blame the last game, there were other matches where we didn’t bat well enough and we tended to lose sessions badly. There were some great individual performances, but we didn’t quite gel as a unit, we played good cricket but not great cricket,” Boucher said.
Two of those great individual performances came in the final game against the Warriors as Shaun von Berg became the first player to score a century and take 10 wickets in the match in a franchise game, and Heino Kuhn steered the Titans to a record target of 315 with an exceptional 165 not out.
“Every time Shaun comes into the team, he produces the goods and does the business. Last week he and Heinrich Klaasen won the game for us and he’s a street-fighter, I really enjoy having him in the team. He’s one of those guys that it would do the Proteas no harm to have a look at – his leg-spin has come on leaps and bounds, he consistently hits good areas, and he could do a good job as a second spinner on the subcontinent.
“Heino showed what a great player he is and showed his character by toughing it out when he said he didn’t feel great. That innings answered everything when it comes to questions over him playing for the Proteas, he carried his bat and won the game,” Boucher said.
The coach danced around the issue, however, of whether the Titans had unsuccessfully gambled with a Willowmoore Park pitch that had inconsistent bounce from the first day, making it very difficult for them to keep up with the Knights’ haul of 6.70 batting points.
“The pitch was strange, it was up-and-down on the first two days but then it flattened out. It was a bit of a mystery and when the ball is keeping low it will be in the back of the batsman’s mind, but we should still have somehow got to 320. There were some indifferent shots so we can’t blame the pitch, we didn’t apply ourselves in the first innings and it was only an unbelievable knock from Shaun that got us in front of the Warriors. The first hour of the second day was a train smash,” Boucher said.