Faced with injury niggles and the heavy workload of some of his players, Multiply Titans coach Mark Boucher fortunately has many ports of refuge to call on for their RamSlam T20 Challenge derby clash with the bizhub Highveld Lions at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Wednesday.
The Titans could be without their captain Albie Morkel, who was unwell on Tuesday, while Aiden Markram has been playing non-stop since touring England with South Africa A at the end of May and needs a break, as does Proteas star Quinton de Kock.
Dale Steyn is also continuing with the next stage of his rehabilitation in Cape Town, after returning to action after long-term injury with three tidy displays for the Titans.
Fortunately, there is such depth in the Titans squad that Boucher has ready-made, quality replacements eager to get a game. Foremost among these is all-rounder Chris Morris, who will return to action against his former team on Wednesday, having fully recovered from the stress fracture of the back he picked up on the Proteas’ tour of England in mid-year.
Heinrich Klaasen will take over the gloves from De Kock and could also be used as an opening batsman in an all-new partnership with Dean Elgar in the absence of Markram, and if Morkel does not get the all-clear from medical staff then either Shaun von Berg or David Wiese could comfortably slot into his place.
“Chris will probably play at the Wanderers and we’re just waiting for the medical report on Albie, who hasn’t been feeling great lately. Quinny has also been given the week off and Aiden has played a lot of cricket recently and has one or two minor niggles, and he needs a mental break too,” explained Boucher.
“But it’s important other guys get game time, especially someone like Chris, who we need to push but not push too hard, and it’s great to be able to give Heinrich, who is a really good player, a chance. We have to try and keep guys in form, but we have to balance that out with also keeping the players mentally fresh, especially if we qualify for the semi-finals which is a one-off game, so it’s quite challenging.”
The key for the Titans lies in being mentally refreshed – with the rain-out in Benoni last weekend helping in that regard because their last outing was now 10 days ago – and ensuring they can bring their trademark intensity to the Bullring on Wednesday night.
“I see it as a blessing that we haven’t played for a while and we’ve had two good training days, we practise with intensity, we’ve trained a lot until pretty late, the guys have hit a lot of balls, so we’re pretty comfortable. Some of the guys probably needed some time off.
“So we take the positives from the break and a couple of guys are raring to go and we’re in a very good space. We’ve ticked all the boxes in training and we’ve prepared according to the conditions and the opposition. We hope the energy levels are high for every game and then it’s just about executing our skills,” he said.
In terms of taking on the Highveld Lions at the Wanderers, Boucher said it is important their batsmen do not go too hard too early against a quality pace attack.
“It’s about not becoming frantic, the Lions have quite a lot of pace bowlers and they like to attack the batsmen. Generally at the Wanderers, you also get more bounce, so you have to look at a few more balls. But we’re not going to look too much at the opposition and we come from a bouncy pitch as well at SuperSport Park,” said Boucher.
In Kagiso Rabada and Hardus Viljoen, the Lions have two of the fastest bowlers in the country and both have looked in form thus far in the campaign. But while there is obvious danger in handling them, there is also a risk factor for the Lions if they don’t land the ball in the right areas.
“They are two very good bowlers who we have to respect and if KG and Hardus hit the right lengths then they can make it difficult to score, but if they miss their lengths then they can also go for runs. Pace is very valuable but it can also be one of the worst things if you’re bowling loosely and the ball is flying off the bat.
“But there are so many different variables in T20 cricket, but we have prepared for anything they can throw at us,” concluded Boucher.
Multiply Titans squad to face bizhub Highveld Lions (from):
Albie Morkel (Capt), Farhaan Behardien, Junior Dala, Henry Davids, AB de Villiers, Tony de Zorzi, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi, Malusi Siboto,Shaun von Berg, David Wiese