The Titans face Auckland Aces at Durban on Wednesday (12.30pm BST), two teams with a 100% record. The winner could find themselves as favourites to reach the semi-final.
Both have been impressive in the earlier stages of the Champions League and while they may have been outside bets before this tournament began, both have adapted to conditions much better than the IPL squads seem to have done.
Playing on South African surfaces would have held no fears for the home based Titans but few punters were giving Martin van Jaarsveld’s side a chance before this tournament began. The squad needed to rely on one or two top players such as Jacques Rudolph and Henry Davids to perform and fortunately for the skipper and the Titans’ supporters, that’s exactly what happened at the weekend.
The Titans’ victory over the Perth Scorchers was built around an opening stand of 109 between Rudolph and Davids and clearly these two players will have key roles in this latest contest. As impressive as that win over Perth was, the openers are crucial as the remainder of the Titans’ batting order contains a mix of inexperience and ageing professionals such as Van Jaarsveld himself.
Auckland may well have the edge over their opponents in the batting department with a whole host of T20 specialists including Lou Vincent and Martin Guptill at the top of the order. Further down the list, Colin de Grandhomme is a man with the fourth highest strike rate in the shortest format of the game while Anura Kitchen is another batter in fine form.
The key man however is Mahmood whose unbeaten half century took his side to victory against the Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday. Despite his advancing years, the Pakistani all-rounder is in the form of his life with bat and ball and will be pivotal to the result in this match.
Without Mahmood, the Aces’ bowling attack may just be the weaker of the two and while it contains Kiwi internationals such as Kyle Mills and Andre Adams, it might just lack the penetration to take early wickets and keep the opposition contained.
For the Titans, Alphonso Thomas leads the attack and is arguably the most effective bowler in the later stages of a one day match. The hero in the win over Perth however was CJ de Villiers with 3-16 and with Roelof van der Merwe providing experience with his economical left arm spin, the Titans just edge it as far as bowling is concerned.
Suddenly, one emphatic victory has seen the Titans turn from an outside bet to an underrated side who many are expecting to use home advantage to take them to the semi-finals at the very least. The worry from a betting point of view is their reliance on Rudolph and Davids at the top of the order. If the wily Mahmood can prise out one or both of these men, another comfortable victory for the Aces is the more likely outcome.