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The Nashua Titans finished the 2011/12 season as Cricket South Africa's (CSA) champion franchise when they added the MiWay T20 Challenge trophy at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Sunday to the SuperSport Series crown they won earlier in the summer. This is the third time the Titans have been crowned domestic T20 champions (the previous occasions were in 2005 and 2008). They beat the bizhub Highveld Lions by the decisive margin of 45 runs, having made187/6 after being sent into bat and ten restricting their opponents to 142 all out in 18.5 overs.
Farhaan Behardien was once again the star of the show, making an unbeaten 42 off 26 balls to earn the batting award. The bowling award went to his Titans' team mate, Faf du Plessis, who took 4/24 in his 4 overs, including 11 dot balls. He and fellow spinner Roelof van der Merwe destroyed any thoughts of a Lions' fightback after they had lost too many top order wickets too quickly.
Van der Merwe also bowled 11 dot balls to take 1/17 as did the Lions' Aaron Phangiso who had the outstanding return in a losing effort of 2/14. Phangiso has taken 11 wickets this season and his economy rate has been an outstanding one of a fraction over 6 runs to the over â€“ very special for this format.
Like AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Du Plessis, Imraan Khan and Vernon Philander before him he was a member of the under-19 class of 2003 and there is no reason why he should not join them in Proteas' colours one day.
What is crystal clear is that Behardien has come to stay as a Proteas' T20 player. His average of 66 and his strike rate of 143.5 in this season's domestic competition speak for themselves. Anybody who can score fast runs without losing their wicket is worth gold.
His tactical maturity and mental strength have been other big assets and it is significant that he appreciates the importance of rotating the strike just as much as hitting the big boundaries.
It has been a very good season for new faces to bid for international promotion and the Lions have made a big contribution in this regard. Phangiso is one but there are several others in the Lions' ranks such as the teenage left-hand batsman, Quinton de Kock, who, like Behardien, made more than 300 runs, and Chris Morris, who is a bowling all-rounder of huge potential.
Morris averaged 37 with the bat, was the leading wicket taker with 21 dismissals at 12.66 and took the most catches for his franchise as well.
CSA CEO Jacques Faul congratulated the Titans on their victory and the Lions for reaching the final after finishing top of the log by some distance.
"Both teams have played excellent cricket although the Titans were the better side on the day and fully deserved to take home the silverware," he commented. "Both franchises will be very worthy representatives of South Africa at this year's Champions' League.
"We have seen highly entertaining cricket over the past three days at the magnificent Bidvest Wanderers Stadium, first from the Proteas and India and now from the Titans and the Lions. It shows that our cricket is in a very healthy state both at international and domestic level.
"It was a very fitting way for the professional season to finish.
"We have a number of players leaving for the Indian Premier League (IPL) this week and we wish them well as standard bearers for South African cricket."