(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) –The first century of this LPL season courtesy Avishka Fernando, along with the first 200-plus score of the tournament, propelled the Jaffna Kings to a 23-run win over the Dambulla Giants to secure a place in Thursday’s final against the Galle Gladiators.
That the margin of defeat was even that close, was down to a late onslaught from Chamika Karunaratne, who ended unbeaten on 75 off 47 deliveries – a knock that will leave the Giants wondering what might have been.
Indeed, with both bat and ball the Giants were wasteful in key moments. Having been set a gargantuan target of 211, too many of Dambulla’s batters failed to build on promising starts. Phil Salt, the LPL’s leading run-scorer, looked dangerous, but top edged a short, slightly slower one from Suranga Lakmal; Niroshan Dickwella looked like he was preparing to do some serious damage but then whipped out the reverse sweep to ill-effect; while Najbullah Zadran had tonked two sixes in his 15-ball 25, before top edging a heave over cover. If any of them had stuck around a little longer, maybe Karunaratne’s knock might have been a match-winning one.
Then in the field, there were a host of misfields, while Rahmanullah Gurbaz – who would go on to lay waste to the Dambulla bowlers on his way to a 40-ball 70 – was dropped twice, once on 11 and the second time on 32. He would put on a 122-run opening stand with Avishka, and in the end the pair would account for 170 of the Kings’ 210.
Even on a Sooriyawewa surface that saw the ball coming onto the bat nicely – a far cry from the rank turners seen in Colombo during the group stages – a score beyond 200 was still a fair bit above par. That paired with an inability to hold onto the chances they did create, ultimately proved fatal for Dambulla.