The Nashua Titans won the toss and elected to bowl first in their RAM SLAM T20 Challenge qualifier against the Chevrolet Warriors on a good-looking pitch at Buffalo Park in East London on Wednesday.
The table-topping bizhub Highveld Lions earned automatic passage into the Sunday’s final at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium, and the Warriors and the Titans, who finished second and third in the final standings respectively, will square off in today’s sudden-death encounter to earn the right to face the Gauteng-based franchise in the showpiece.
The winner of today’s contest will also gain entry into the lucrative Champions League later this year, and there is thus plenty to play for in East London.
The home side sealed their second-place finish on the log courtesy of an eight-wicket win over the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras on Thursday – their sixth triumph of the ten-match campaign, and coach Piet Botha will once again be looking to his bowlers, who have enjoyed great success this season, to keep the Titans in check. With the bat, it is opener Christiaan Jonker who has taken centre stage, as his 310 runs have come at an average of 44.28.
For the visitors, an undefeated innings of 57 from overseas professional Scott Styris helped to secure an eight-wicket win in the final game of the season against the Chevrolet Knights, and ensured they finished just a point adrift of the Warriors in third. However, the New Zealander is no longer available for the competition, and much of the build-up to the match has been dominated by the recruitment of his replacement – former Proteas opener Herschelle Gibbs.
The 39-year old brings a wealth of experience to the table, with nearly 15,000 international runs and the distinction of having played in the Big Bash, IPL, Bangladesh Premier League and other notable T20 tournaments. Yet having been out of competitive cricket for nearly three months, it remains to be seen how much of an impact he will have.
Along with Gibbs, the Titans have made one other change from the showdown against the Knights, with Proteas ODI captain AB de Villiers coming in for Mangaliso Mosehle.
The Warriors, meanwhile, have made one change from their last outing against the Cobras, as paceman Ayabulela Gqamane replaces left-handed opener Ashwell Prince.
CHEVROLET WARRIORS – Christiaan Jonker, Colin Ingram, Davy Jacobs (capt), Samit Patel, Adrian McLaren (wk), Wayne Parnell, Simon Harmer, Lundi Mbane, Craig Thyssen, Rusty Theron, Ayabulela Gqamane.
NASHUA TITANS – Henry Davids (capt), AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs, Heino Kuhn (wk), Roelof van der Merwe, David Wiese, Eden Links, Farhaan Behardien, Alfonso Thomas, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel.