du Plessis spins Titans to T20 title
Titans 187 for 6 (Behardien 42*) beat Lions 142 (du Plessis 4-24, Morkel 3-28) by 45 runs
The Titans beat the Lions by 45 runs to win the MiWay T20 challenge final at the Wanderers on Sunday to mark the end of South Africa's domestic season. Both teams qualify for the Champions League T20 in September.
Fad du Plessis spun the Titans to victory with a return of 4 for 24 after his team posted an imposing 187 for 6, batting on the same pitch that was used for the Twenty20 between South Africa and India on Friday night. The Titans had the advantage from the get-go when Lions' international signing Dirk Nannes was ruled out of the match with a hamstring injury. Ethan O'Reilly replaced Nannes and battled with his lengths throughout, conceding 45 runs in his three overs.
Henry Davids and Heino Kuhn started aggressively, blasting 42 off the first 20 balls, before Davids was bowled off the pad by Chris Morris. Kuhn was caught behind in the next over and Roelof van der Merwe holed out to deep midwicket two overs after that, off the bowling of Aaron Phangiso.
The left-arm spinner was the Lions' only economical bowler, giving away just 14 runs in four-over spell. Dwaine Pretoris chipped in with the wicket of du Plessis, who Pretorius dropped the ball before the South African middle-order batsman pulled to Morris in the deep. The wickets allowed the Lions to pull things back and they had the Titans cornered at 115 for 5 after 15 overs.
Farhaan Behardien shared in two sizeable partnerships to ensure the score soared. He put on 42 runs for the sixth wicket with Albie Morkel and 33 for the seventh, in 14 balls. The Titans blasted 72 runs off the last five overs, in which the Lions dropped Behardien once and had him caught off a no-ball from Pakistan international Sohail Tanvir.
The Lions made an already tough task even more difficult as they collapsed to 24 for 3 after three overs. Jonathan Vandiar was caught at third man off the second ball of the innings and Alviro Petersen and Quinton de Kock were both victims of Albie Morkel in the same over.
Neil McKenzie and Jean Symes put the Lions back on track with a 50-run stand for the fourth wicket, the biggest of the match. Then, the dominoes began to fall. Symes was bowled by a du Plessis googly that kept low and Pretorius went the same way, in the same over. When Neil McKenzie was bowled, by Roelof van der Merwe in the next over, the Lions' fate had been decided. du Plessis added the scalps of Morris and Thami Tsolekile to his haul to finish as the second highest wicket-taker for the Titans in the competition.
The Titans have enjoyed their most successful summer in three seasons. They also won this season's first-class competition, the SuperSport Series, under new coach Matthew Maynard. The Titans will now compete in their first Champions League. They were due to play in the 2008 version which was cancelled after terror attacks in Mumbai.
The Lions defeat extends their trophy drought to six years. The last cup they won was in 2006, when they beat the Cobras in the final of the domestic twenty-over competition. They have had some recent success though and qualified for the Champions League T20 two seasons ago, when they lost to the Warriors in the final.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent