Lions end trophy drought
Highveld Lions 155 for 5 (de Kock 44, Davids 1-12) beat Titans 125 (Gibbs 22, Morris 2-18) by 30 runs
Lions ended a five-season trophy drought with a tense victory over their northern neighbours to cap off an outstanding season under new coach, Geoff Toyana.
They finished second in the first-class competition, were joint winners of the one-day cup and have finally added a second piece silverware to their cabinet since the start of the franchise system nine years ago.
For Titans, it was a less-than-ideal farewell to coach Matthew Maynard, who has chosen not to renew his contract with them. Despite having a full galaxy of international stars available to them, Titans were unable to chase down a moderate target as the Lions' bowlers defended with the tenacity and determination of the animals they are named after.
After their batsmen were repeatedly stalled in compiling a total, Lions appeared to have conceded the advantage early on. When Henry Davids and Heino Kuhn began the Titans' chase with 40 runs in the first four overs, it seemed Lions would once again succumb to their local rivals.
But a moment of inspiration in the field changed that. Davids got a thick edge to third man off Hardus Viljoen where Imran Tahir was stationed. Although not known for his fielding, Tahir took a difficult catch and steadied himself as he almost fell over the boundary to take the first wicket.
The Lions' spinners struck three times in the next four overs to claw their way back. Aaron Phangiso had Kuhn and AB de Villiers out lbw while Tahir dealt Farhaan Behardien the same fate.
But it was only when Herschelle Gibbs and Roelof van der Merwe were dismissed within three balls of each other, that Lions had a real chance. At 87 for 6, Titans needed to score at 9.8 runs an over for the next seven overs.
They still had the one person who could do that, Albie Morkel, up their sleeve. Having left the field after bowling 2.3 overs after turning on his ankle, it was unsure whether Morkel would be able to bat. He appeared uneasy on his ankle and hobbled through his first run but soon found his top gear.
He slog swept Tahir for six to announce his intent and formed a dangerous partnership with another big hitter, David Wiese. The latter showed his muscle with a six over mid-wicket but then offered a chance when he skied one to square leg but Sohail Tanvir dropped the chance.
Wiese and Morkel posted 35 runs, the second highest-stand of the Titans' innings, before Wiese was fell on his sword, caught at long-off. With him gone, most of the Titans' hopes went with him. The last four wickets fell in the space of 11 balls with all of the Lions' bowlers claiming two apiece. Morkel was the last man out, caught at mid-off against his IPL team-mate Chris Morris' bowling.
It spoke volumes of the improvement Lions have made in their strike bowling department, which for seasons lacked bite but outshone their batting today. Although Titans were without death-bowling specialist Alfonso Thomas, they managed to restrict Lions, especially in the latter parts of the innings. After the hosts scored 67 runs in the first eight overs, they managed just 88 from the last 12.
Quinton de Kock's outstanding form in the competition continued. He finished the competition with 524 runs, the highest-ever scored in this tournament. He opened the batting with his usual carefree aggression.
Rassie van der Dussen was happy to play second fiddle while de Kock took on the bowling and eventually got a leading edge back to Roelof van der Merwe to give Titans their first wicket. Lions tinkered with their batting line-up and moved Neil McKenzie up to No. 3.
The combination of youth and experience brought just 21 runs before de Kock hit Henry Davids' first ball of his second over, a full toss, straight down deep midwicket's throat. The Titans' captain stalled the Lions' momentum and it was up to his opposite number, Alviro Petersen, to get it back.
Petersen hit Davids into the stands and drove Marchant de Lange through the covers before he tried to do the same to Albie Morkel. Petersen swung, missed and his leg stump was out of the ground.
Sohail Tanvir was promoted in an effort to lift the run rate but he could not get going quickly enough. With McKenzie and Jean Symes, he added 41 runs in the last five overs with de Lange proving tough to get away at the end but it proved to be enough.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent