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Jaffna look to break Galle hoodoo in final showdown

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Lanka Premier League 2021 – Final 

By Roscoe Thattil Reporting from Suriyawewa 

Jaffna Kings finished the league phase at the top of the table, they have seemed to be the most consistent team throughout LPL 2021 and they definitely look the best all-round team on paper. But for some reason they haven’t been able to get past the Galle Gladiators in each of their three previous encounters in this edition. However, it all comes down to who plays the better cricket in the final 40 overs of the competition to be crowed the champions of the LPL 2021.

The Afghanistan pocket rocket Rahmanullah Gurbaz has found his mojo in the latter part of the tournament and will be a threat to the Gladiators at the top of the order, while his opening partner Avishka Fernado hit a memorable century in the second qualifier on Tuesday(21). Fernando’s century is also the only time a batter reached the three figure mark this season.

The Kings have a devastating batting line up to follow in the likes of Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Shoaib Malik, Thisara Perera and Wanindu Hasaranga, while the less known soldier Ashan Randika could be devastating and win a game on his own with the bat too.

There seemed to be plenty of life for the fast bowlers at the Sooriyawewa Stadium in the second Qualifier and the Kings might be tempted to replace Chathuranga de Silva with youngster Chamika Gunasekara who is a decent right arm quick bowler. Jayden Seales seems to be a handful on this pitches and the Kings missed a trick by not playing him in the first Qualifier.

The ever reliable Wanindu Hasaranga has gone under the radar a bit during the past couple of games and is due a performance while Maheesh Theekshana’s stocks continue to rise with continuous impressive performances and will be a man to watch out for in the final.

The Galle Gladiators had their ups and downs during the league phase but a smooth game in the first Qualifier meant they reached the final without breaking a sweat thanks to a stunning century opening stand between the returning duo of Danushka Gunathilake and Kusal Mendis. These two will hold the key once again in the batting department for the boys from the south while the likes of skipper Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Mohammad Hafeez and Samit Patel will need to step up with the bat.

Nuwan Thusara also known as “podi Mali” had a dream game in the first Qualifier capturing five Kings’ wicket and will once again be a threat to the same opposition. He has the experienced Mohammad Amir as his opening bowling partner who will look to swing the new ball to breakthrough early while also be the key for the Gladiators at the death.

Patel has been the star spinner for the Gladiators and skipper Rajapaksa has plenty of other spin options too in the likes of Hafeez, Pulina Tharanga and Sahan Arachchige. Isuru Udana has gone under the radar but he has been very smart with the ball for the Gladiators and his variations will be a key once again in the final.

Interestingly, this is also a repeat of the final of the 2020 Lanka Premier League, where the Jaffna Kings went on to clinch the inaugural LPL title.

Probable XIs

Jaffna Kings:

Rahmanullah Gurbaz(wk), Avishka Fernando, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Shoaib Malik, Ashan Randika, Thisara Perera(c), Wanindu Hasaranga, Chathuranga de Silva/Chamika Gunasekara, Jayden Seales, Suranga Lakmal, Maheesha Theekshana

Galle Gladiators:

Kusal Mendis(wk), Danushka Gunathilaka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa(c), Mohammad Hafeez, Sahan Arachchige, Samit Patel, Anwar Ali, Pulina Tharanga, Isuru Udana, Mohammad Amir, Nuwan Thushara 



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Athapaththu, Sri Lanka too strong for Kenya 

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ICC Commonwealth Games Qualifier 2022

Sri Lanka’s spinners restricted Kenya to 87 for six before captain Chamari Athapaththu struck 57 off 29 balls to power Sri Lanka to a nine-wicket win on the third day of the ICC Commonwealth Games Qualifier 2022 at the Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur.

Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bowl in a match they dominated virtually throughout even though their bowlers got off to a shaky start, conceding seven wides in the first three overs.

Sri Lanka’s infielders were just as sharp as in the first game against Scotland that they won by 109 runs. Kavisha Dilhari’s direct hit sent opener Mary Mwangi back to the dugout before Kenya captain Margaret Ngoche was trapped in front by Inoka Ranaweera.

Kavisha Dilhari was introduced into the attack in the eighth over, bowling a maiden, which included the run out of Sharon Juma. This brought Sarah Bhakita to the crease. The powerful right-hander wasted no time, pulling a delivery into deep mid-wicket for four before she launched Ranaweera over her head for six.

Not to be left behind, opener Queentor Abel drove Dilhari against the spin and through the covers for two boundaries in the 14th over. Athapaththu broke the 45-run partnership between Abel and Bhakita, trapping the former in front with the score on 71 after 16 overs. Bhakita departed soon after, miscuing a Dilhari delivery into the hands of Ama Kanchana at mid-wicket.

Sri Lanka only conceded nine runs in the final three overs to restrict the East Africans to 87 for six.

In reply, Sri Lanka were in an aggressive mood right from the first over. Vishmi Gunaratne lofted Lavendah Idambo over mid-on for her first boundary of a run-a-ball knock of 26. Mercyline Ochieng came in for some treatment in the second over as Athapaththu cleared the off side circle twice for a pair of boundaries to get her innings going.

Things would go from bad to worse for Kenya who were helpless in the face of the assault from Athapaththu, who had struck 86 off 45 in Sri Lanka’s earlier win over Scotland. The left-hander flicked Mwangi off her pads for her first of three maximums, taking 16 off the final over of a Powerplay, which yielded 57 runs.

Two overs later, Sarah Bhakita was carted over her head for six by the Sri Lankan skipper before she was swept over the deep mid-wicket boundary off the very next delivery.

With five runs required for victory, Athapaththu was stumped off the bowling of a jubilant Esther Wachira. Sri Lanka, however, had no issues hunting down what remained of the target, winning with 63 balls to spare.

Kenya skipper Margaret Ngoche remained optimistic in spite of the loss.

“We bowled too many extras, but the girls did well. We put up a fight,” she said.

Athapaththu was asked about Dilhari’s development, and she responded by heaping praise on the off spinner.

“Kavisha is one of our main bowlers who we rely on to keep the opposition in check. Today, she flighted the ball and drew the batters to make mistakes. We hope she keeps doing this in the remaining games,” she said.

Athapaththu also took home the Player of the Match award, yet she expects even more from herself going forward in the tournament.

“This is how I always play. By my standards, I’m still not fully satisfied, and I feel I can still tighten up my game. I look forward to the next few games,” she said.

Brief Scores:

Kenya

87/6 in 20 Overs 

Mary Mwangi 33, Sarah Wetoto 29 ; Chamari Athapaththu 1/10

Sri Lanka

89/1 in 9.3 Overs.

Vishmi Gunaratne 26 not out, Chamari Athapaththu 57; Esther Wachira 1/04

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Sri Lanka Under 19s looking to keep unbeaten status intact against hosts

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by Reemus Fernando  

Sri Lanka Under 19s will enter today’s final group ‘D’ encounter almost assured of their quarter-final place and fates of Australia and hosts West Indies in the ICC Under 19 World Cup in their hands. Despite leading the points table in their group the team will look forward to registering a win against the hosts.

“The team will try to enter the quarter-finals unbeaten and will field a team that can counter West Indies’ strengths,” a team official told The Island from St. Kitts yesterday.

Mahinda Halangoda, the manager of Sri Lanka Under 19 team was speaking to The Island after fellow Group ‘D’ team, Australia beat Scotland to remain in contention for a place in the quarter-finals.

“You need to win to avoid looking at net run rates to earn your quarter-final place. The team will not take chances,” Halangoda said.

Sri Lanka will meet hosts as the only unbeaten team in Group ‘D’. While Scotland are out of contention, West Indies will be looking to register a victory to secure a place in the quarter-final in the tournament proper.

Despite Australia’s big win against Scotland on Wednesday giving them a net run-rate boost, they are not assured of qualification. If West Indies beat Sri Lanka in a very close finish, then Australia could be eliminated to the Plate round. If Sri Lanka beat West Indies, Australia will qualify.

Sri Lanka registered a four-wicket win against Australia in their second tournament match on Monday to lead the points table. “No one expected us to beat Australia as they were a strong team, one of the favourites. Dunith Wellalage did really well to guide the team. A victory on Friday will be the ideal way to conclude the group stage,” said Halangoda.

Wellalage picked up his second five-wicket haul of the tournament on Monday before scoring a crucial half-century to lead the side to victory.

The tournament’s decisive phase has seen one of the team’s leading batsmen failing to deliver while a batsman replaced him producing results. Pawan Pathiraja who was the team’s most consistent batsman until the team reached West Indies was dropped after he failed to impress. It would be interesting to see if the team would recall him for the final group match.

Sakuna Liyanage who replaced wicketkeeper-batsman Anjala Bandara did a rescue job in the first match he played scoring a match-defining half-century. Liyanage also kept wickets for Sri Lanka as both wicketkeepers were not fit to play during the initial stages. Liyanage’s form has seen him retain his place despite Bandara returning to the match against Australia.

Sri Lanka banked on spinners to earn results in this World Cup and it would be interesting to note how the team from the land of legendary fast bowlers would take the final group encounter.

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Rumesh faults bowlers, says nothing wrong with batting strategy

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With left-handers Sean Williams and Craig Ervine being thorns in Sri Lankan flesh, Sri Lanka are pondering roping in off-spinner Ramesh Mendis for the series decider today at Pallekele. Here coach Rumesh Ratnayake is seen having a close eye at Mendis. Image courtesy: SLC.

Rex Clementine at Pallekele

Sri Lanka’s interim coach and one of cricket’s most amiable guys Rumesh Ratnayake admitted that there were a few grey areas in the team’s bowling in the first two ODIs. Zimbabwe nearly scored 300 runs in the first game and although the hosts chased down the target, when the tourists crossed the 300 barrier on Tuesday, Sri Lanka faulted. The series is squared at 1-1 and today’s third and final ODI will decide the outcome of the series.

“We can’t afford to give away 300 runs. The maximum we can give away is 260. In the last two days we have been trying to fix that. Hopefully we will fix it in the next game,” Ratnayake told journalists.

The team’s strategy of playing three all-rounders and relying on just four specialist batsmen has been criticized heavily, but Ratnayake endorsed the strategy. “Composition of the side is the best we can have at the moment. We don’t have eight of our best players for this series. We filled in with guys like Kamindu (Mendis) and all. He’s not regular batting at three. I am sure when recognized players come it would be much better. I feel Kamindu has done his best. After the struggle losing four wickets it was a super fight back. Whoever who comes in we can’t say they are new. We need to have a seamless transition,” added Ratnayake.

Captain Dasun Shanaka has a lot of admirers for bringing the team together and getting the most out of his players. Tactically, however, he’s no Ian Chappell or M.S. Dhoni. In the second game, several of his frontline bowlers were underutilized. “Chamika (Karunaratne) had four overs to bowl and we have addressed that issue. Jeffrey (Vandersay) had one over left and Dushmantha (Chameera) had one over left. I hope it won’t happen again. We have now spoken of giving the main bowlers a go.”

As expected, Sean Williams and Craig Ervine have been Sri Lanka’s biggest challenge in the series. While Williams made a century in the first game, Ervine produced a match winning 91 in the second game. Ratnayake added that Sri Lanka needed to target the two key batsmen. “They have two left-handed batsmen and they are the mainstay of their batting. We will try to address the issue tomorrow.”

Does that mean that off-spinner Ramesh Mendis will get a game, “Good idea isn’t it,” Ratnayake said playing his cards close to his chest, like always.

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