Watson's fantastic 142 in vain
Titans 266 for 4 (Rudolph 96, de Villiers 62) beat Dolphins 254 for 5 (Watson 142) by 12 runs
A superb 122-run opening partnership between AB de Villiers and Jacques Rudolph set the Titans up for an exciting 12-run win over the Dolphins in the second semi-final of the Standard Bank Cup at SuperSport Park in Centurion. Doug Watson's career-best 142 went in vain as the Titans qualified for next week's final, where they will face the Eagles.
In a surprise decision, Hashim Amla, the Dolphins captain, chose to field on a very good batting pitch. Both teams had key withdrawals through injuries, with Shaun Pollock unavailable for the Dolphins and Justin Kemp missing for the Titans.
A confident start from de Villiers and Rudolph, two of the six internationals who turned out for the Titans, brought the hundred up in 128 balls. de Villiers capitalised on a reprieve given to him by Watson at third man when on 30, and raced to 50 in 56 balls, which included seven fours and a big straight six off Andrew Tweedie. Rudolph's 50 was slightly slower, coming off 78 balls and including six fours.
Imraan Khan got the breakthrough at 122 when de Villiers (62) drove back down the pitch and Khan got down low to take an excellent catch off his own bowling. Zander de Bruyn hit two fours in his 31 before being well caught at midwicket by Ashraf Mall after mistiming a pull off Lance Klusener.
Rudolph had moved on to 96 when some good fielding at short fine leg found him slipping as he tried to recover his ground, only to be run out four short of the hundred.
The 200 came up in 242 balls as Daryll Cullinan had a little flurry, clearing the ropes on three occasions. However he was found inches short of the crease by Amla at mid-on while he was attempting a quick single. He made 25 off 18 balls.
Albie Morkel took over the hitting role, and Tweedie was given some serious punishment and disappeared for 76 from his nine overs. The Titans ended with 266 for 4, their highest Standard Bank Cup total, with Morkel undefeated on 29 off 15 balls and Alviro Petersen making a quick 12. The last six overs produced 69 runs as the Titans kicked on from a steady start.
Three maidens and a wicket in the first five overs increased the pressure on the Dolphins batsmen as they set off chasing a big target. Khan flashed at Andre Nel once too often as he edged to de Villiers after scoring four. But Watson relieved some of the pressure with three boundaries as he and Wade Wingfield took 15 runs off Ethy Mbhalati and then seven off Nel in the sixth and seventh overs. A near run-a-ball 100-run partnership followed, with Watson bringing up his 50 in 59 balls.
Two quick wickets tilted the scales in the Titans' favour with Wingfield, having scored 40, edging Mbhalati to de Villiers who dived full-length to his right to take a acrobatic catch. An over later, the Dolphins were 120 for 3 when Pierre de Bruyn clean bowled Amla for 1.
A fourth-wicket partnership of 50 between Watson and Jon Kent kept the Dolphins in the hunt. However, the required run-rate was steadily climbing to above nine an over, with only ten overs left to be bowled.
Watson reached probably the best hundred of his career, which included ten fours and a flat six over square leg, in 116 balls. He had singlehandedly kept the Dolphins in the game. Pierre de Bruyn swung it back towards the Titans with a perfect yorker which spread the stumps of Kent, who made 37 off only 30 balls.
Klusener came in with the Dolphins needing 83 off 50 balls. Some good bowling, attacking his leg stump, kept him cramped him up at first. Ones and twos took the Dolphins to 220, still 47 behind with three overs to be bowled. Nel gave away 11 in one over but Thomas, the best bowler on view, followed it up with another excellent over conceding only six singles.
The Dolphins nearly pulled off an unbelievable win as they attemped to get 30 off the last over. Two sixes gave them a chance, but Watson's dismissal, for a career-best 142, sealed their fate and they fell 12 runs short. The Titans' exceptional fielding, Amla's decision at the toss, and Klusener again coming in too late were the three main factors that decided the game.