Cricket 2.3.2017 08:28 pm

Titans and Lions have contrasting fortunes ahead of big weekend

Stark contrast: Henry Davids' (R) Titans are dominating but Mangaliso Mosehle's Lions have hit a slump. Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images.

Stark contrast: Henry Davids' (R) Titans are dominating but Mangaliso Mosehle's Lions have hit a slump. Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images.

Mark Boucher’s Centurion-based men are flying high in the One-day Cup and hope to capitalise but their neighbours are struggling badly.

The Titans have bounced back spectacularly from their opening domestic One-day Cup loss to the Dolphins with two bonus point wins, but senior batsman Henry Davids says they cannot afford to let slip their intensity over a huge weekend.

They play the Knights in Benoni on Friday, while their match in the Eastern Cape is on Sunday.

Also read: Can the Proteas middle order please stand up?

“Anyone can beat anyone in this competition, but the Knights have been very good this year, they are wounded after two big losses. They have a lot of pride and they’ll want to hit back hard, while the Warriors are a very dangerous white-ball side. So we’ll have to play to our potential,” Davids said on Thursday.

Davids and his opening partner Jonathan Vandiar sit at the top of the leading run-scorers list after first-wicket stands of 153, 313 and 38, and Davids said the key to their success, which has been a vital factor in the Titans challenging for top spot in the standings, was, counter-intuitively, not trying to be too attacking.

“It’s nice to have good form coming through, but the key has been to give myself time to get in, to not be overly aggressive. It’s more a change in mindset than anything else,” he said.

The Titans bowling attack have also fulfilled their side of the deal, especially in the win over the Highveld Lions, when they defended 268.

“We did well in the game at SuperSport Park to get to a decent total and then it helps that we have a variety of bowlers which covers all aspects – off-spin, leg-spin, pace, swing and skill,” Davids said.

In contrast, one does not need a detailed study of the Highveld Lions’ performances thus far in defence of their title to identify that their new-look side has struggled to ram home the advantage when they are on top.

The Lions started their campaign with an impressive victory over the Warriors, but successive defeats to the Dolphins and Titans have left them bottom of the log.

They also have a crunch weekend with matches against the Cape Cobras in Paarl and the Knights at the Wanderers ahead.

The game against the Cobras is a repeat of last season’s final which the Lions won by eight wickets, but only four of their players from that match will line up on Friday – Aaron Phangiso, Rassie van der Dussen, Nicky van den Bergh and Dominic Hendricks.

“We’ve lost a dozen players, so it’s a young side building for the future, but it’s been disappointing to lose the last couple of games when we’ve been in control. We had the Dolphins  48 for four and were bowling well, but then for some reason we changed the plan and started bowling cutters,” said coach Geoff Toyana.

“We also should have won against the Titans, but we allowed them to get 268 after being 156 for six, which was always going to be tough. It’s something we’re trying to work on.”

Beuran Hendricks is not allowed to play against the Cobras in terms of his loan contract, so Toyana has called up Pukke student Wihan Lubbe for his debut, which will strengthen the batting.

The 24-year-old can also bowl some off-spin.

Far from laying down the law though, Toyana is trying to get his young charges to relax, hoping senior players will bring some calm, while also admitting that he may have pushed some of the rookies too soon.

“Guys like Aaron Phangiso and Reeza Hendricks have crucial roles as the older guys in the set-up and the key is for them to get the guys to chill in pressure situations, we’ve chatted a bit about that,” he said.

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