Opportunities to turn out for the Multiply Titans are like gold given the strength and depth of the squad, but several fringe players will get the chance to impress when the franchise hosts the fifth edition of the Momentum eKasi Challenge against the bizhub Highveld Lions in Hammanskraal on Wednesday.
None of the current Proteas will be in action and the Titans have also had a spate of injury withdrawals from the training squad that was announced last week for the annual cross-Jukskei derby, but the home side will still boast plenty of quality with the likes of Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, captain Albie Morkel and Shaun von Berg all taking part.
Top-order batsman Henry Davids and pace bowlers Malusi Siboto, Junior Dala, Lungi Ngidi and Eldred Hawken are all unavailable for Wednesday’s clash, which has led to exciting young prospects Gregory Mahlokwana, Corbin Bosch, Migael Pretorius and Jiveshan Pillay all being called up to the squad.
“It will be a very young squad because with such a long season ahead, I’ve got to protect those players with injuries, that’s my major concern at the moment,” said head coach Mark Boucher. “It will be good for some of the guys to get another week or so of rest and repair their bodies.”
“We’ve shown already last season that we are not scared to give players an opportunity. Rivaldo Moonsamy and Eldred Hawken came through well last season, and the opportunity will be there again on Wednesday and maybe someone will stake a claim for a regular starting spot.”
The eKasi Challenge trophy is one the Titans would dearly love to get their hands on, having lost all four previous games in the event, but the Highveld Lions are bringing a strong side to Hammanskraal, full of dangerous match-winners like Rassie van der Dussen, Nicky van den Bergh, Wiaan Mulder and Bjorn Fortuin.
Veteran opener Stephen Cook is leading the Lions and is looking forward to the social outreach aspect of the event, which will also see both teams holding a coaching clinic at the nearby Temba Cricket Oval on Tuesday afternoon.
“I’ve always enjoyed the activities around the game – the coaching clinics, the interacting with the kids and the new environment we get to play in. It’s about so much more than just the 100 overs on the day. We’ve done well in the past on the field, but we also really want to add value off the field.
“We can become very inward focused in cricket, not looking for the greater good, but you never know when you can be a hero to someone and we must all remember that responsibility. We need to show the spirit of cricket that is sometimes lacking,” said Cook.
The Highveld Lions, thanks to a masterful Temba Bavuma century, disposed of the Titans by 18 runs at Soweto Cricket Oval last year, with Grant Mokoena, playing next to the streets of his youth, scoring a hundred of his own.
Mokoena is no longer with the Titans, having moved to the Knights, but they do have the home-grown talents of pace bowler Alfred Mothoa for the locals to get excited about.
With Dala, Siboto and Ngidi all out of action, Mothoa obviously has a great chance of playing just his second game for the Titans on Wednesday, following the success of his debut in the last Sunfoil Series game of last season.
“The ekasi Challenge serves a wonderful purpose and is going to be great for the Hammanskraal community, but we are focusing on red-ball cricket in practice at the moment; looking forward to the start of the Sunfoil Series next week,” Boucher said.
But in an extremely hectic, compressed domestic season, Boucher could well be calling on some of the players who get a chance in Hammanskraal to step up in key matches later in the summer.
Multiply Titans squad to face bizhub Highveld Lions tomorrow (from): Aiden Markram, Jiveshan Pillay, Jonathan Vandiar, Heinrich Klaasen, Rivaldo Moonsamy, Tony de Zorzi, Albie Morkel, Shaun von Berg, Corbin Bosch, Alfred Mothoa, Gregory Mahlokwana, Grant Thomson, Migael Pretorius, Andrea Agathagelou.
bizhub Highveld Lions squad (from): Stephen Cook, Rassie van der Dussen, Omphile Ramela, Nicky van den Bergh, Wiaan Mulder, Bjorn Fortuin, Craig Alexander, Ayavuya Myoli, Nono Pongolo, Ryan Rickelton, Carmi le Roux, Yaseen Valli, Ndumiso Mvelase.