Local knowledge was going to be an advantage for South African sides at this year's Champions League and the Titans showed why. A major factor in their 39-run win over Perth Scorchers was their ability with the ball, which helped them find the correct length on their home turf to far greater effect than Scorchers' bowlers did.
Evidence of that can be found in a simple score comparison. At the end of 12 overs, the Titans were 105 for 0. At the same stage of the Scorcher's innings, they were 64 for 4.
Scorchers' bowlers pulled it back and gave away only 58 runs in the last eight over of the innings to restrict the Titans to 163 but their lapses earlier cost them at the end. On a pitch with good bounce, every bowler in the attack preferred length and full deliveries to ones just back a length, which the Titans later showed would have made it more difficult for the batsmen.
Titans captain Martin van Jaarsveld was surprised at the lack of penetration from the Perth attack upfront, especially since he thought whoever had first use of the surface would make it count. "I was quite disappointed to lose the toss because I thought it was going to do quite a bit," he said. "But at the beginning they bowled either too full or too short and our openers were electric."
For 73 balls, Scorchers allowed Henry David and Jacques Rudolph to dictate proceedings. Davids enjoyed shimmying down the track and hitting through the offside, and took the pressure off Rudolph, who was allowed time to show why he should not be labelled a Test player.
Only when Davids was dismissed did Scorchers get measure of how to operate. Brad Hogg led the way, giving away only two runs of his third over and the Titans batsmen had to do more than just help themselves. "It was tough to hit the spinners," van Jaarsveld said.
With a rein on the innings, Nathan Rimmington did the rest of the containing and gave away only five singles in his last two overs. Scorchers' captain Marcus North said that performance gave the team some belief as they went into the break and enhanced Rimmington's reputation as his go-to man.
"He is our banker. As a captain he is the guys you want to throw the ball to and you know he will get it right more often than not," North said. "It comes with the confidence of having a few good games and it is down to hard work. He has worked really hard at those yorkers and trying to be a step ahead of the batsmen. He is very easy to captain and very clear and decisive about what he wants to execute and what fields he wants."
Van Jaarsveld must feel as though he has three Rimmingtons. His seamers, Alfonso Thomas, Ethy Mbhalati and CJ de Villiers did not put a foot wrong, after Eden Links set the tone with a tight first over. Links got the length right immediately as he beat Herschelle Gibbs with a short of a length delivery. And the rest of the attack very rarely swayed from that plan.
"We decided to hit four-day lengths and aim for the top of off stump," van Jaarsveld explained. "I found that the tall bowlers were able to extract a lot of bounce off the wicket."
CJ de Villiers, who will remind some of Marchant de Lange, was the tallest of the lot and had the most success. He used his variations well too, something a bowler like Mitchell Marsh was not able to do. "There is slight inexperience in their bowling line-up," Van Jaarsveld said. "And we sort of took the wind out of the sails upfront."
North said the air stayed out, even in the batting department, where he would like to see improvement. "The wicket played really well and we left too much work for the middle order. The top four have to take responsibility. With the make-up of our side - five batsmen and the keeper at six - we really need the top four to fire."