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Cricket | Domestic Cricket

Domestic Wrap 2016



TITANIC YEAR AGAIN!

The Multiply Titans had an excellent 2015, winning the Ram Slam T20 Challenge as well as the Momentum One Day Cup and coming second in the Sunfoil Series under the tutelage of Rob Walter, who had turned the side around from a team who were struggling to climb any table to a side challenging for titles on a regular basis.

This year has been no different for the men from Centurion, as they went one better in the Sunfoil Series, lifting the title ahead of the bizhub Highveld Lions while becoming the first franchise to retain the T20 Challenge when they beat the Warriors in the final at SuperSport Park. The only blotch on Walter's report card was failing in the Momentum One Day Cup, surrendering their title and coming last on the log.

Another feather in the cap of the Jacques Faul camp was the appointment of former Proteas wicketkeeper, Mark Boucher, as head coach after Walter took up a position overseas. Boucher guided his new franchise to the T20 title in his first season in charge with Farhaan Behardien blowing most bowlers away during the course of the tournament.

T20 CHALLENGE - RETAINING THE TITLE

The T20 Challenge started under a dark cloud after Gulam Bodi had been banned for 20 years for fixing or attempting to fix matches during the 2015 Ram Slam T20 Challenge. Four other players also received bans, namely Jean Symes, Ethy Mbhalati, Pumelela Matshikwe and Thami Tsolekile.

Symes received a seven-year ban while Matshikwe and Mbhalati were sent packing for 10 years, although Matshikwe had three of his 10 years suspended. Tsolekile, the former Proteas wicketkeeper and bizhub Highveld Lions captain, received a ban of 12 years.

The match fixing resulted in RAM Hand to Hand Couriers pulling the plug on their sponsorship and this scar left Cricket South Africa (CSA) scrambling to find a new sponsor for the shortest format of the game. But despite not being able to secure a title sponsor, the cricket played on the field excited fans all over.

Behardien smashed the fastest domestic T20 half century record when he bludgeoned four boundaries and five maximums off just 15 balls to register an unbeaten 55 against the Warriors in a rain affected match at Buffalo Park in East London. Behardien's knock helped the Titans to a six-run win which moved them above the Warriors on the log and gave them the right to host the final.

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The right-handed middle-order batsman ended the season as joint second-best with 352 runs at a staggering average of 117.33 while maintaining a strike-rate of 188.23. Behardien also ended third on the big-hitters list, smashing 20 sixes, one behind Jon-Jon Smuts and two behind Rassie van der Dussen of the Lions.

David Miller, playing for the VKB Knights and Smuts of the Warriors, were the only two players to register a century in the tournament with Miller's coming against the Titans early in the competition. Miller smashed eight fours and nine sixes to end unbeaten on 120 off 61 balls but his mammoth knock did not prevent the Titans going on to win the match by three wickets and a ball to spare thanks to a half century from Heinrich Klaasen (52) and quick-fire 30's from Behardien (30 off 18 balls) and David Wiese (34 off 15 balls).

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Smuts, captain of the Warriors, scored 107 off 58 balls with five boundaries and nine sixes as the Warriors broke some records in chasing down a record total of 217 against the Hollywoodbets Dolphins in Durban. Smuts, who topped the run scorers list with 371 runs, was aided by Colin Ingram, who smashed six boundaries and three sixes to end on 55 off 26 balls.

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Hardus Viljoen of the Lions ended as the leading wicket taker with 19 wickets but Andrew Birch of the Warriors could so easily have taken that mantle had he played in the Eliminator against the Lions as well as the final against the Titans. Birch, who ended with 17 wickets, produced the best bowling of the tournament when he claimed figures of 5-16 in 3.2 overs to help the Warriors beat the Titans at SuperSport Park in Centurion in their first encounter.

Kyle Abbott's return from Australia meant that Birch had to sit out to maintain the 'balance' of the side and it cost the runners-up dearly. Although the Warriors went on to beat the Lions in the Eliminator, his presence was missed in the final. Birch's ability to snatch wickets early and put the pressure on at the back-end of the innings was missed as the Warriors conceded 19 runs in their final over of the show-piece game, which eventually cost them.

There is no doubt that the two best sides contested the final at SuperSport Park with the Titans being the form team and the Warriors maintaining consistency under Malibongwe Maketa. SuperSport Park hosted their second final in a row and the Titans lifted the title for the second consecutive time - becoming the first franchise to do so.

The Titans, sent into bat, posted 155 for six thanks to Aiden Markram (33) and Wiese (24 not out) while Lesiba Ngoepe and Basheer Walters produced two brilliant run outs. The Warriors in reply were rocked back as Clyde Fortuin (0) and Smuts (16) were scuttled early. Despite the Titans losing their captain, Albie Morkel, after bowling just five balls, the men in blue restricted the visitors to 149 for six with Lungi Ngidi (2-27) and Tabraiz Shamsi (2-36) being the chief destroyers.

MOMENTUM ONE DAY CUP - HEROES TO ZEROS AND LIONS ROAR

The Titans though had a miserable 50-over sojourn with the former champions winning just three of their 10 matches and ending bottom of the log. In contrast the BuildNat Cape Cobras were flying high, winning seven of their 10 matches while winning five of those with bonus points.

Alviro Petersen was in sublime form with the bat for the Lions, notching up 726 runs at 80.66 while maintaining an excellent strike-rate of 100.13. Petersen also scored five centuries and one fifty while his teammate, Stephen Cook, was a distant second on 504 runs with a brace of centuries and fifties.

Birch was again taking wickets at will, nabbing 17 scalps at 20.11 but was pipped to the post by Malusi Siboto of the Knights, who claimed 19 wickets at 23.26. Birch was so on-song that he managed 14 maidens in 72.1 overs and an economy rate of 4.73. His next nearest rival was Matshikwe who managed 10 maidens.

The Lions ended second on the log, seven points behind the Cape Cobras and earned the right to host the Warriors at the Bidvest Wanderers in Johannesburg in the semifinal. The hosts won the toss and decided to bowl first, restricting the Warriors to 202 for eight in 41 overs after rain intervened. The visitors were teetering on 61 for four but Jerry Nqolo (63) and Christiaan Jonker (42) rescued the innings with a stand of 89.

Cook and Petersen had rare failures with the bat but Van der Dussen (83 not out) and Dominic Hendricks (70 not out) put on an unbeaten 128-run stand for the third wicket as the Lions ended on 174 for two, winning by eight wickets via the Duckworth/Lewis method.

The final looked to be a mouth-watering affair with the high-flying Cobras and the on-song Lions but Matshiwke (8-2-28-3) and Aaron Phangiso (9-0-33-3) blew the home side away as the Cobras folded for 169 in 42 overs. Cook (77 not out) and Petersen (55) both scored half centuries as the Lions chased down their target in just 33.4 overs to lift the title they last won outright 12 years ago.

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SUNFOIL SERIES - GOING ONE BETTER

The Titans were back to their best in the four-day format, winning six of their 10 matches, losing just one and drawing three. The men from north of the Jukskei River amassed 37.2 batting points, 4.9 points clear of the Lions but with their two extra victories, ended a massive 23.9 points clear of the Lions to win the title after ending as runner's up to their northern neighbours last season.

There was a slight uproar from the former Titans and Proteas spinner, Paul Harris, via social media this last week when the squad for the Sri Lankan tour was announced. Theunis de Bruyn was selected in the squad but Harris asked why Heino Kuhn had been overlooked. And Harris had a point!

Kuhn scored four centuries and four half centuries, averaged 62.55 with the bat and ended with 1126 runs under his belt! Such was Kuhn's dominance with the bat that his nearest rival, Dane Vilas of the Cobras, ended with 761 runs, which earned him a call-up to the Proteas when Quinton de Kock was injured, while Cook was third with 738 runs.

There were three spinners in the top 10 wicket takers, namely Tabraiz Shamsi (41), Keshav Maharaj (36) and Simon Harmer (31) but Viljoen was once again at the top with 47 wickets to his name. An amazing statistic came from one of the joint runner's up, Duane Olivier of the Knights, who captured 41 wickets at an average of just 16.07 per wicket. Olivier and Shamsi were the only two bowlers in the top 10 that boasted an average under 20.

The Titans began their march to the title with a 66-run victory over the Warriors after conceding a 94-run first innings deficit. The victory was aided by Kuhn who crafted out 141 in the second innings and then Wiese claimed 3-28 as the Warriors crumbled in pursuit of a 276-run victory target.

The Cobras were then dispatched by 10 wickets with Shamsi claiming match figures of 12-85 but then the Knights stopped them dead in their tracks by beating the champions elect by five wickets. The Titans were bowled out for 141 with Olivier claiming 5-42 but then Mbhalati grabbed five wickets as the Knights were dismissed for just 76. The Titans failed to pass 200 again and Reeza Hendricks scored 69 as the Knights pulled off a victory.

Kuhn was at it again, scoring 129 and 62 as the Titans beat the Dolphins by four wickets in Benoni. A rain-affected draw against the Lions followed but then the Titans exacted revenge against the Knights with a massive 359-run victory at Supersport Park. Kuhn's 151 not out in the second innings allowed the Titans to declare on 368 for two before Marchant de Lange grabbed 7-76 to bowl the Knights out for 164.

A draw with the Dolphins was followed by an eight-wicket triumph over the Warriors in Port Elizabeth before another draw with Lions left the door slightly open for their neighbours to snatch the title. The title came down to the final round of matches with the Titans taking on the Cobras in Paarl and the Lions taking on the Warriors at St George's Park.

The Lions capitulated in the biggest fashion, being bowled out for just 68 in their first innings as Sisanda Magala claimed six wickets. The Warriors then amassed 375 before dismissing the Lions for 206 with Birch claiming figures of 3-42.

In Paarl, the Titans had conceded a first innings deficit of 119 runs as Wayne Parnell ripped through the batting line-up, claiming 5-62. But Kuhn came to the rescue yet again, scoring 127 in the second innings to help the Titans to 256 all out as Dane Piedt claimed 7-106. Rowan Richards though decimated the Cobras' second innings, claiming 7-40 to hand the Titans a 10-run victory and the Sunfoil Series crown.



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