Although the Momentum One Day Cup starts on Wednesday with the Lions taking on the Warriors at the Wanderers‚ the all-conquering Titans have remained the talk of the town.
Lions captain Stephen Cook concedes the Centurion-based team‚ who powered to a third straight T20 trophy last weekend‚ will be the team to beat in the 50-over format.
"They are absolutely‚ especially given the depth of their squad, the quality of their players as well as the confidence with which they are playing. They’ve won the majority of the trophies over the past 18 to 24 months.
"They are probably the team to beat but we certainly don’t count ourselves out‚" Cook said.
He believes his side can learn a trick or two from their neighbours. "The big message I’d give the guys is to believe in their skill. Back yourself. I think as good as the Titans are‚ what sets them apart is their belief.
"When they walk out, they look as though they are expecting to win. I’d like to see a similar approach from our players." Cook argued that his team is perhaps better tailored to the 50-over format than the condensed energy that prevails in the shorter game.
"Our aggression can be a bit more controlled across 50-overs rather than coming out and going wham-bam‚" he said.
"What let us down in the T20 was our finishing. We don’t have an experienced middle order finisher. We don’t have a [David] Miller‚ or a [Farhaan] Behardien.
"We have guys that are still learning the role.
"A Nicky van den Bergh or a Ryan Rickelton are new to that.
"The 50-over game gives us a chance to spread our resources a little across the innings. With the ball we have a bit of variation‚ a bit of pace‚ a bit of spin‚ a left armer in Beuran Hendricks."
The sheer depth in the Titans squad will come in useful for them as the national squad players gear up for clashes against Zimbabwe and India.
Cook thinks it may make the competition a little harder to predict. "Obviously, with the national squad guys not being there can cause a little reshuffle in thinking‚" he said.
"It will put the responsibility on different players. I told our guys: ‘if you are feeling a bit of pressure that is a good thing’.
"Pressure‚ I believe‚ is a privilege. If you are under pressure, you have an opportunity to do something special.
"Embrace it‚ don’t shrink because of it‚" Cook said.
"I’m very optimistic about how we are going to go about it. We don’t lose a lot of players to the national team. It will be KG [Kagiso Rabada] and maybe one more. I think that holds us in good stead."
His own form had been a matter of conjecture earlier in 2017 when the Proteas prepared for the Test series against England. Cook struggled to find form at Durham and an opportunity was missed.
Now he feels there is more clarity about what he is trying
"I haven’t played a lot the last few weeks.
"I played a couple of amateur games just to keep going.
"I think I got to the stage of my career where I’m not too concerned about it.
"I felt since I became captain that I have taken a load off myself in terms of worrying too much about my batting or my game all the time.
"I try and take care of the
other guys and, ironically, you inevitably probably start performing better.
"You look at the situation and ask: ‘what do you think the team needs now’.
"You try and be a good example‚" he said.