Titans emphatically end Auckland's winning run
Titans 172 for 4 (Rudolph 63, Behardien 48*) beat Auckland Aces 113 (Mbhalati 3-26, Thomas 3-18) by 59 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The underdogs Auckland Aces' three wins out of three in the Champions League T20 was one of the developing feel-good stories of a tournament which is widely seen as being overrun by the cash-rich teams from the IPL. Auckland's run of victories ended in a dismal manner as their batting collapsed to 113 against an efficient Titans side in Durban.
Auckland's top order had prospered with such regularity in the tournament that their middle order hadn't been tested in any of their three matches so far. Against the Titans, though, the star names at the top finally floundered exposing the Auckland batting's lesser lights, who failed the test after a series of unwise slogs.
It was Titans' top order which flourished this time, as their openers Jacques Rudolph and Henry Davids put on their second substantial partnership in a row. They lashed 74 at nearly nine an over, with a boundary coming in all but two of the first ten overs as Davids again showed off his power-hitting, while Rudolph once more showed he can thrive in T20s, mixing a series of off-drives with some reverse-sweeps.
The Auckland bowlers pulled things back in the third quarter of the innings as Martin van Jaarsveld pottered along at just below a run-a-ball and Rudolph started to tire towards the end of the innigns. They couldn't finish off the comeback though as Farhaan Behardien showed why he was a first-choice pick for South Africa with a withering onslaught on Kyle Mills, who has been one of the bowlers of the tournament so far. Mills was taken for 21 in the penultimate over, and a middling target suddenly became a challenging one.
The most Auckland had to score in the competition so far was 139, but this time they were up against 173. Alfonso Thomas demonstrated why he is among the most successful Twenty20 overs and had Auckland gasping by the sixth over: he had Lou Vincent caught-behind, and had Azhar Mahmood dabbing a short ball straight to slip. In between Martin Guptill top-edged a slower bouncer from Ethy Mbhalati to the deep, and Auckland had lost the only three batsmen who had had proper hits in the tournament so far.
Auckland were soon on their knees as Anaru Kitchen, Colin de Grandhomme and Colin Munro all managed to pick out outfielders on the leg side off fairly innocuous deliveries. At 58 for 6 in the ninth over, the game was virtually over. Three overs later, Auckland were staring at total humiliation as they teetered at 68 for 9, with a Kyle Mills run-out adding to the embarrassment of the bad shot selections.
With net run-rate potentially a deciding factor on which teams qualify for the semi-finals, a defeat by more than 100 runs could have crippled Auckland's chances. They were spared that ignominy by a free-swinging last-wicket stand between Michael Bates and Andre Adams, who put on 45 to take the total to three figures.
For the Titans, it was a job well done, lifting them to the top of the table with a second consecutive convincing victory.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo