With Heino Kuhn schooling the rest of the specialist batsmen on how to score big runs, the Titans pulled off an exciting four-wicket win over the Warriors in their Sunfoil Series match at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Sunday.
The Titans were chasing a testing 315 to win and Kuhn scored a magnificent 165 not out to lead them to victory, although he needed the help of Shaun von Berg, who topped off an outstanding all-round display by scoring a brisk 35 not out just when it looked like the Titans were faltering.
Kuhn and Dean Elgar put on 113 for the first wicket, and at 217 for two, the Titans were cruising. But yet another middle-order collapse put the result back in the balance, before Von Berg struck some hefty blows to see them home.
He also scored 103 out of 227 in the first innings and claimed 10 wickets in the match with his leg-spin, the first player to achieve this feat in the history of local franchise cricket and a worthy man of the match.
While a courageous victory was rightly celebrated, the Titans could not help wondering what could have been if only they had batted better in the first innings, as they finished just 1.78 points behind the Knights on the final log.
The Titans began the final day on 49 without loss and both Elgar and Kuhn went to their half-centuries in the first hour.
But Elgar was trapped lbw for 58 by the medium-paced but nagging Tladi Bokako in the first over after drinks.
But that was the Warriors’ only success in the morning session as the Titans went to lunch on a commanding 155 for one, with Kuhn looking menacingly in control on 89 not out and Aiden Markram with him on seven.
Markram tried to counter the canny off-spin of Simon Harmer by using his feet and hitting over the top, but the Warriors captain had the last laugh as he bowled the Titans batsman for 17, through the gate as he had done in the first innings.
Heinrich Klaasen is another young Titans batsman who has come of age this season, and he went steadily to 13 with the home side on 217 for two and looking likely winners.
But Bokako then beat and bowled Klaasen with a splendid delivery and the Titans middle-order has been one of the parts of their game that has let them down in their title defence. The next 13 overs before tea saw them collapse to 271 for six, the Warriors staging a terrific comeback to give themselves a chance of victory.
Henry Davids (7) fell into Harmer’s web and was caught at short-leg, Jonathan Vandiar (16) was caught behind down the leg-side off Basheer Walters in the first over with the second new ball, and debutant Tony de Zorzi was trapped in front for a two-ball duck by Anrich Nortje.
But then in stepped Von Berg and he belted five fours and a six in 24 deliveries to ensure the Titans would finish the competition in second place.
While Von Berg edged the contest for man of the match, it had been another inspirational performance by Kuhn, whose 165 not out spanned 373 minutes and 285 balls, with 19 fours and a six.
In tough situations, the sheer quality of Kuhn, the Titans’ leading four-day run-scorer, is seen in spades and it was largely thanks to him that the Titans pulled off their highest ever run-chase, beating their 311 for eight against the Highveld Lions in Benoni in 2009/10