The match is shaping up as a potential decider for first place on the final log as whoever wins will climb above the Dolphins and go into the last round of matches in pole position, while the losers in Benoni could find themselves out of the playoff places if the Knights beat the Highveld Lions in Kimberley on Tuesday.
While any team would be stupid to be upset about the genius De Villiers returning to their line-up, it does make life difficult for coach Mark Boucher as he looks to balance his side in terms of cricketing essentials and quota considerations.
One thing is certain though and that is that De Villiers will not be keeping wicket, which means Heino Kuhn’s place is secure.
“I couldn’t do that to AB, he hasn’t kept for a while and I don’t want to put any extra strain on his body, which is obviously already an issue. I don’t want to be the guy who gives him a back injury and then he misses out on an IPL contract!
“We’re short of batsmen, so both Heino and Aiden Markram will have to play. So a bowler will make way for AB, but we still have plenty of bowling options,” Boucher said on Monday.
All-rounder Chris Morris is also making a return to the Titans fold, having caught a flight back from New Zealand ahead of the third Test, and will give them a top-class strike bowler against a Warriors team that is powerful up front with Jon-Jon Smuts, Colin Ingram and Colin Ackermann making early wickets crucial.
That means Shaun von Berg, who produced a superb, man of the match display of leg-spin bowling in the win over the Dolphins at the weekend, will suffer a most unfortunate fate of being dropped, along with David Wiese, a vital all-round contributor to the Titans’ success.
The Titans are likely to field an attack of Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Junior Dala, Malusi Siboto, Tabraiz Shamsi, Albie Morkel and Aiden Markram, with Farhaan Behardien also able to bowl, a line-up that Boucher is confident will still cover all the bases.
“We still have plenty of options and I’ve always said that it’s going to take a squad effort to win the trophy. It’s just unfortunate that guys who have won games for us will miss out, I would love to have someone like Shaun von Berg playing in every game, but it doesn’t always turn that much in Benoni,” Boucher said.
While the bowlers have certainly been doing their job, Boucher was delighted by the high-quality batting the Titans produced in beating both the Highveld Lions at the Wanderers and the Dolphins at Kingsmead on two vastly differing pitches.
“We know we have got the talent and ability to score big, but we batted really well the last two games. After we were 35 for six against the Knights, we had an honest chat about it not being necessary to panic up front, there’s a lot more time than you think. We also understand our strengths, that we can really put teams under pressure at the end with our middle-order and death-hitters, and the guys have bought into that.
Davids has now injured the other hamstring and is not available for Tuesday’s game, with Jonathan Vandiar, who has been successful this campaign as well, taking his place at the top of the order.
Titans squad – Jonathan Vandiar, Aiden Markram, Heino Kuhn, AB de Villiers, Farhaan Behardien, Albie Morkel (Capt), Chris Morris, Malusi Siboto, Tabraiz Shamsi, Junior Dala, Lungi Ngidi, Shaun von Berg, David Wiese.