AFTER a jam-packed, action-filled and thrilling 34-day period, the T20 Challenge title will be decided on Friday when the Multiply Titans and Warriors go head-to-head at SuperSport Park in Centurion.
Those were the two best teams in the competition, according to coaches Mark Boucher and Malibongwe Maketa, who are both bidding to win their first pieces of silverware on the highest domestic stage.
Former Proteas star Boucher, who is in his first season as a professional head coach, insists that personal records are of no consequence to him as he tries to inspire his team for one last time in 2016.
“It’s all about the Titans against the Warriors,” he said. “I think the two teams that are in the final are the two that fully deserve to be there and it all points towards a really tight and close contest.
“Finals are always tight and Twenty20s are such that anything can happen. Hopefully we can put in another good performance, which will be enough to bring us the title.”
The hosts earned an automatic ticket to the final by topping the league phase of the competition, while the visitors had to play an extra match in midweek – the Qualifier against the bizhub Highveld Lions, which they won convincingly by seven wickets to get to Pretoria.
The finalists met twice in the first round, the Warriors winning comfortably by six wickets at the final venue, with the Titans edging a five-over per side contest by six runs in East London. The result in the latter match ultimately gave the 2015 winners the advantage of home advantage in the decider.
Home advantage is not the only thing Boucher’s men will possess on Friday. They have a remarkable record against their opponents having lost only six times in 22 games.
“I think that makes absolutely no difference,” the home coach said about that stat. “Records are everything of the past and that’s why they are called history.
“This is the present and they are playing good cricket at the moment and they have a few guys in good form, they’ve got a good mix of youth and experience.
“We’re certainly not looking at those things, we know we need to rock up on the day. Our energy needs to be good and hopefully the skills will take care of themselves.”
Maketa, meanwhile, is also adamant that the past is the past, saying the current crop of players cannot be associated with their head-to-head record because most only recently entered the system.
Instead he feels his younger generation of Warriors players thrive on taking on teams like the Titans. “They are a world-class team and a team we enjoy playing against because they bring the best out of us,” Maketa said. “We have players who are striving to become international players just like many of them.
“And the best way to measure yourself is to go out and play against international players. If you do well against international players, people will take notice of you.
“We’ll just be going out there to try to put in a good performance and one that will make the people of the Eastern Cape proud.”
In team news, no further Proteas are available for selection for the Titans, leaving Boucher with the same squad available from the last two games.
For the Warriors, Andrew Birch is pushing for inclusion after he made way for Kyle Abbott in the last game. The rest of the squad remains unchanged.
“It’s very tough to tell one of your best players and the player that has really created and given the team the opportunities they have now that he’s missing out,” Maketa said of his selection headache. “But for the final it’s a clean slate. He automatically comes into contention because he’s done so well at that ground in the past.”
HEAD TO HEAD – Multiply Titans v Warriors
Matches Played 22
Titans Win 13
Warriors Win 06
No Result 02