Red ball action is back with the start of the new Four-Day Franchise Series which starts tomorrow as the Titans host the Dolphins in Centurion.
The 2018-19 campaign gets off to an earlier start than normal owing to the hosts’ Abu Dhabi T20 Trophy commitment that takes place next month.
Before that, though, the champions will be hoping to lay down an early marker when they welcome the Durbanites to SuperSport Park.
Mark Boucher’s side were narrow winners of the first-class competition last season when they edged out the Warriors by just over one-and-a-half points. It was their second title in three seasons as they continued their dominance in the longest format over the past few years.
The home side have bolstered their squad this season with the return of Standard Bank Proteas batsman Theunis de Bruyn from the VKB Knights, while Tshepo Moreki has signed from the Cape Cobras.
Both are in the squad for the opening game and Boucher is excited by the value they will add.
‘Theunis is a very good player and a very dominant batsman,’ said Boucher. ‘We saw an opening in our batting line-up and believe Theunis can definitely strengthen our batting unit.
‘Tshepo is a promising talent. I was really impressed with the way he bowled against us in Paarl [last season]. I love his attitude on the field, he’s fit and is hungry to play, so I am looking forward to see what he can bring with the ball.’
Following their game this week, the Titans then depart for the United Arab Emirates and will only return to red-ball cricket again 12 October.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, will be hoping for a bit more luck with the weather this season. They showed plenty of promise in 2017-18, but eventually ended the campaign in a disappointing fifth position, although the season overall was a successful one after they won a share of the 50-over title.
First-class success, though, remains elusive and the KwaZulu-Natal side are yet to win the four-day title outright in the franchise era.
Assistant coach Imraan Khan is hoping for a good start on the Highveld. ‘We had a good season last campaign, but we feel that a lot of our improvement needs to come in red ball cricket,’ he said. ‘Our four-day campaign was the most disappointing tournament for us and we want to hit the ground running at the start of this season.’
National star Keshav Maharaj has been released from South Africa duty and will lead, what on paper, looks a young and inexperienced visiting team.
Farhaan Behardien (capt)
Theunis de Bruyn
Tony de Zorzi
Shaun von Berg
Keshav Maharaj (capt)
Vaughn van Jaarsveld
Head to head – Titans vs Dolphins
Titans 8 – 6 Dolphins
Titans match stats
623-6 (Pietermaritzburg 2006-07)
548-6 (Durban 2012-13)
69 (Centurion 2012-13)
62 (Centurion 2011-12)
Highest individual score
237* – Dean Elgar (Pietermaritzburg 2017-18)
160 – Vaughn van Jaarsveld (Durban 2012-13)
Best bowling in an innings
5-25 – Albie Morkel (Benoni 2008-09)
7-112 Imran Tahir (Durban 2010-11)