It was always obvious that AB de Villiers held the key to the destination of this contest, but no one would have envisaged the dramatic manner in which events were to unfold after his dismissal at the PCA Stadium on Tuesday (September 24) evening.
De Villiers's run out after a bizarre yes-no with Farhaan Behardien triggered an extraordinary collapse for Titans in their Group B Champions League Twenty20 encounter against Brisbane Heat in a must-win game for both sides at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Tuesday (September 24) evening. (Highlights)
From the relative comfort of 107 for 4, the Titans plummeted to 123 all out, seemingly having thrown the game away, but there was more drama to follow, if that was possible. Morne Morkel and Marchant de Lange worked up extreme pace and were well assisted by Rowan Richards as Brisbane wilted under the heat despite the stubbornness of James Hopes, their captain. (Stats)
Chris Sabburg briefly ignited their hopes with two fours and a six in his 7-ball 19 after walking in with 30 needed off 15 deliveries, but Brisbane were bowled out for 119 off the last ball of their chase, handing the Titans a nervy, exciting four-run win. The Titans thus notched up their first victory of the competition, while Brisbane slumped to their second successive loss and face the genuine possibility of an early exit. (Pics)
At no stage did Brisbane get any momentum, Richards drawing first blood by getting rid of a clueless Joe Burns and de Lange then cleaning up Peter Forrest and Ben Cutting in the same over. Fascinated by the big blow when working the ball around would have been more prudent, like Hopes did, Brisbane rapidly hurtled to their doom, only shored up by Hopes and Dan Christian who put on 44 for the fourth wicket in 50 deliveries.
The stately pace wasn't going to be enough because Brisbane only batted in one gear, leaving too much for the lower order to do against the quality of Morkel and de Lange. Sabburg fired briefly but was run out by a wonderful thrown from Roelof van der Merwe in the final over, and that simply was that.
Put in to bat under overcast skies after play began 45 minutes behind schedule due to afternoon rains, the Titans had fought their way into a position of some strength after a diffident start. There was early assistance for the Brisbane quicks, Matthew Gale (4/10) and Hopes himself getting both generous seam movement and reasonable bounce.
The Titans lost Jacques Rudolph in the second over, to Gale's second delivery in Twenty20 cricket, but recovered brilliantly through Henry Davids, the captain, and Heino Kuhn, who added 69 in just 50 deliveries. The stage was set for a de Villiers special, and South Africa's limited-overs captain began briskly with four wonderful boundaries to show that he was in the mood.
Then, in a moment of madness, de Villiers and Behardien were embroiled in an extraordinary mix-up that ended with Behardien scrambling to safety and de Villiers standing frozen in the middle of the pitch. It was as if Behardien was the more accomplished batsman and de Villiers the sacrificial lamb.
What followed then was complete and undiluted mayhem. Batsman after batsman came and left in a trice, Behardien included, as the bottom caved in meekly. Starting with de Villiers's dismissal, the Titans lost 6 for 16 in 27 deliveries and failed to bat out their 20 overs.
It was a bitterly disappointing total even in difficult batting conditions merely because the Titans had done all the hard work through Davids and Kuhn. Kuhn embraced counter-attack with Davids only marginally behind as suddenly, Brisbane began to feel the heat and the loose deliveries came a little more frequently.
Alister McDermott and Ben Cutting both took fearful poundings under the circumstances, and though Kuhn and Davids fell within five runs of each other, de Villiers looked in sublime touch again as he played a series of handsome strokes that made batting appear particularly straightforward. Perhaps, de Villiers felt he was somewhat responsible for Davids's run out, so he appeared determined to bat his way through the innings until being run out himself in the strangest of fashions.
That set the stage for Gale, 29 and only making his T20 debut because Kemar Roach was ruled out, to step up and stake his claims. Nathan Hauritz had trigged a sense of panic in the Titans ranks with four wonderful overs of offpsin for 1 for 14 and Gale polished off the tail, taking three wickets in four deliveries. On another day, it might have been more than enough.