Titans v Knights: Outsiders have skills to squeeze power players

Aiden Markram
Markram has ground form

Ed Hawkins reckons the unfancied Knights could pip Titans at Centurion on Sunday in the Momentum One-day Cup

"All brawn and big bats but little brains when in the field. No team scores their runs quicker than Titans but a tournament economy rate of 5.6 is worsened only by bottom side Cape Cobras"

Titans v Knights
Sunday 15 March 08.00
TV: live on Betfair Video

Titans must win

Titans are the holders of the Momentum One-Day Cup and have won three of the last four titles. They have work to do, though, in their final group game which is must win.

A 4-5 record (their poorest record since the 2015-16 when they won only three games) is a disappointing return for a team which has been going off at skinny odds. Not to mention the talent they possess. Even with players away with South Africa they can still boast Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Farhaan Behardien and Theunis de Bruyn. But that's batting prowess.

They don't fare so well with the ball. Lungi Ngidi and Tabraiz Shamsi would add much-needed potency if they were available following South Africa's postponed tour of India. To that end, Quinton de Kock, Heinrich Klaasen and Faf Du
Plessis could all be available, too. One suspects, however, Titans will only be able to call on their internationals if they make the knockouts given the tight turnaround.

Probable XI Markram, de Zorzi, Moonsammy, Elgar, Thomson, Behardien, Galiem, Arnold, Gumede, Mothoa, Mananck.

Batting struggles

A point behind Titans in fifth, the Knights are not done yet but it is worth noting that they have won only three of the matches they have managed to complete and have a significantly inferior run rate to their opponents.

Still, one of those wins came against Titans. And it was eye-catching to say the least. They chased 307 with eight balls to spare with opener Andries Gous hitting a brilliant unbeaten 163, replying to centuries from Markram and Diego Rosier.

It was a surprise result because Knights have struggled for runs. No team has scored fewer. More importantly, no team has scored more slowly. But they might have turned a corner. That Titans display and a stroll with the willow against Cobras have come in their last two completed games.

Probable XI Gous, Snyman, Kruger, Petersen, van Biljon, Mokoena, Makweta, Buduza, Jansen, van Berg, Baartman,

Road possible

SuperSport Park, Centurion is familiar to punters as one of the best batting tracks in South Africa. There have been eight scores of 290 or more across both innings in the last eight ODI. The Lions posted 305 in the first match of the tournament when defeating the Dolphins while Titans were beaten when defending 284 in 39 overs against the Dolphins. We should be looking to play even money for 300 or more with the notoriously grey skies of Pretoria clear.

Knights steely

Knights could well be a fancy for this one, despite their inferior record. And we're not just pinning our hopes on the two most recent head-to-heads, both won by Knights.

That leaky bowling display by Titans at the venue is a factor which interests us more. One suspects they are a one-dimensional outfit. All brawn and big bats but little brains when in the field. No team scores their runs quicker than Titans but a tournament economy rate of 5.6 is worsened only by bottom side Cape Cobras.

By contrast, the Knights have the second most economical attack with an average of 5.1 runs per over conceded. The Dolphins are best at 4.6. That could sway us into reckoning they are value because on a flat wicket it is smarts with the ball which is going to prove crucial. The 7/52.42 currently on offer with Titans a stinker of a price at 1/21.49 could be a wager.

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Markram your card

Markram is something of South African cricket's forgotten man. Tortured by spin and self-inflicted injuries in his most recent international appearances have led many to doubt he has the temperament to make the most of a a brilliant natural talent.

But the wicket at Centurion affords the opportunity to remind the powers-that-be of his ability, just as his countrymen return home from India. Markram, despite struggling in internationals at the ground, should have good vibes.

In last year's final he produced a scintillating knock of 127 off 88 balls from the No 4 position. Now opening, he will get every opportunity to build on that. He could go off at around 11/4 for top Titans bat with Sportsbook.

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