Titans secure title with record win
With a victory as commanding as victories come, the Titans won the SuperSport Series. Their margin of an innings and 325 runs against the Dolphins in SuperSport Park is the largest in a first-class match in South Africa.
The Titans began the last round of fixtures 0.68 points behind the Cobras but ensured the men from the Cape had no chance of surging ahead. Frequent weather interruptions also played a significant part in the Cobras draw with the Lions at the Wanderers.
After being put in to bat, the Titans scored at over five runs an over to amass 473 for 9 declared on the first day and capture seven bonus points. By the end of play on day one, they had already taken two Dolphins wickets and went on to shoot the opposition out for less than 100 in both innings. The Dolphins made fewer runs in the match than Faf du Plessis did on his own, making it the first time since the 1988-89 season that a team has sunk to such a low.
The Titans lost Jacques Rudolph early but Heino Kuhn and the captain Martin van Jaarsveld added a brisk 102 runs for the second wicket. van Jaarsveld made 50 off 74 balls but Kuhn was quicker, scoring at a strike-rate of nearly 90 during his innings of 128. When he was dismissed in the 48th over, the Titans had already scored 255.
The quick scoring did not stop with Kuhn's departure. du Plessis struck 15 fours and four sixes during his 157 off 162 balls, adding 156 for the fifth wicket with Henry Davids, who made 73 off 95 deliveries. So severe was the ransacking of the Dolphins' bowlers - Brandon Scullard conceded 143 in 20 overs - that Titans declared after 87.1 overs, just before stumps on day one, giving their bowlers a two-over crack at the weary Dolphins openers.
Neither Imraan nor Divan van Wyk got off the mark. Rowan Richards and Ethy Mbhalati dismissed them in successive overs to leave the Dolphins on 5 for 2 at stumps. Daryn Smit, the No. 3 batsman, also fell for a duck on the second morning and the collapse did not stop, with only Vaughan van Jaarsveld making more than 20. Richards, Mbhalati and CJ de Villiers took three wickets each to skittle Dolphins for 62.
With a lead of 411, and his bowlers needing only 20.5 overs to dismiss Dolphins in the first innings, Martin van Jaarsveld enforced the follow-on, with telling effect. The Dolphins top three got off the mark in the second innings but none of them made it to double figures. All of them fell to Mbhalati, who went on to finish with 5 for 32. No Dolphins batsmen made it past 20 this time and they folded for 86 in 28.5 overs.
The Titans had won the first-class competition in the 2008-09 season and now claimed their first trophy under the new management of Matthew Maynard and Martin van Jaarsveld. When Maynard took over at the start of the season he was told that he would have to win at least seven trophies out of a possible nine in his three-year tenure.
Titans' emphatic win at SuperSport Park meant the Cobras had no chance of defending their title after the first three days of their match were affected by rain and bad light. The Cobras put the Lions in under cloudy skies and had early reward when Stephen Cook was bowled by Rory Kleinveldt for 4. Alviro Petersen and Gulam Bodi grew roots and put on 131 for the second wicket. The pair scored slowly and denied the Cobras any chance of a point. Their attack only had rewards late on the first day when Bodi and Neil McKenzie were dismissed within 11 runs of each other.
The Lions middle order was strong again, with Temba Bavuma continuing his fantastic debut season with 64, and Chris Morris contributing with 60 at No. 8. They were eventually bowled out for 410 on the third day.
The Cobras had to score quickly to have any chance of staying in the match but stuttered through the early part of their innings. Yaseen Vallie* was the major contributor with a career best 167 and starts from everyone else gave the Cobras a 10-run lead. Morris' good all-round performance continued with 4 for 100.
With a draw looking the likeliest result, the Lions batted sedately to just before 4pm before the teams shook hands and ended the game. Their captain, Petersen, did not bat in the second innings but ended the competition as the top run-scorer - 816 runs at an average of 62.76.
A dead rubber was played in Port Elizabeth, where the Knights beat the Warriors by 161 runs.
The Knights had a tough first innings and were bowled out for 240, with Johann van der Wath the top-scorer with 79. Arno Jacobs scored a massive 152 and Ashwell Prince got 60 to take the Warriors to 318, a lead of 78. The match remained a tight affair in the third innings. Morne van Wyk's 155 and Ryan McLaren's 90 led the Knights to 373 in their second innings.
The Warriors were set 205 to win but collapsed to 134 all out. Quinton Friend took six wickers and Werner Coetsee claimed four for the Knights. The Warriors do have the competition's top bowler in their ranks. Simon Harmer ended the season with 44 scalps at an average of 31.75.
*04:00 GMT, Feb 13: This story previously said that Stiaan van Zyl's 167 gave Cobras the lead. This has been corrected