Galle Gladiators’ luck in the LPL 2020 finally ran out as their susceptible batting came a cropper against Jaffna Stallions in the final on Wednesday.
Responding to Jaffna Stallions’ total of 188 for 6, built around Shoaib Malik’s defiant 46 and a blistering cameo of 39 not out from 14 from skipper Thisara Perera, 135 for 9 was all Galle Gladiators could manage, to go down by 53 runs in the summit clash.
The match was all but done and dusted two overs into the chase as Galle Gladiators crumbled to an abysmal 7 for 3. Hazratullah Zazai perished third ball to Dhananjaya de Silva. He tried to smash the slow bowler over long-on, but only managed to hit one straight up in the air.
There was bigger disaster in store for the chasing team. Their star performer Danushka Gunathilaka was run out in the most bizarre fashion. While going for a hesitant run, the batsman collided with the bowler Suranga Lakmal and lost all momentum.
Jaffna Stallions skipper Perera picked up the ball at mid-on and ran out Gunathilaka easily. The appeal wasn’t withdrawn on sportsmanship grounds, and LPL 2020’s leading run-scorer was back in the hut for 1 in the all-important final.
As if things couldn’t get worse, Ahsan Ali edged a back-of-the-length delivery from Lakmal behind the stumps for 6. Galle Gladiators could never recover from the horror start as Jaffna Stallions kept the pressure on.
Skipper Bhanuka Rajapaksa led a counter-attack, and smashed four sixes in the space of six balls, spread over two overs. However, it was too good to last as he perished for 40 from 17. Rajapaksa charged at Malik, only to toe end one to short third man.
Like his skipper, Azam Khan also hit four sixes in his innings, but his knock too was cut short. Trying to take on Duanne Olivier, he heaved a slower off-cutter on the leg-side, and was caught for 36 off 17. The wickets kept falling, but Galle Gladiators had given up long before, and Jaffna Stallions pretty much sailed to victory in the end.
Malik added two wickets to his 46 while Usman Shinwari also helped himself to a couple of scalps.
Jaffna Stallions put up dominant batting show in the final
Although no Jaffna Stallions player scored a half-century in the LPL 2020 final, there were significant contributions from batsmen in the top and middle order that aided their cause. This was after Jaffna Stallions had won the toss and decided to bat first.
Johnson Charles, who hit form in the semi-final, hammered Mohammad Amir for two fours in the opening over. He took 14 off the second over from Nuwan Thushara as well, punching him through cover and mid-on for fours and then flicking him over fine leg for another boundary.
Charles’ dangerous innings ended on 26 from 15 courtesy a brilliant diving catch by Gunathilaka. The opener mistimed a slower ball from Dhananjaya Lakshan, and Gunathilaka pounced to his left to complete a superb take at long-on.
Galle Gladiators skipper Rajapaksa dropped in-form Jaffna Stallions opener Avishka Fernando on 15. It wasn’t to prove costly though as Fernando perished for 27, top-edging a slog sweep off Sahan Arachchige.
Bringing his experience into play, Malik (46) played anchor to perfection while Dhanajaya de Silva (33 from 20) went berserk at the other end. The highlight of de Silva’s innings was hitting two sixes and a four off successive balls in Lakshan Sandakan’s last over, twice giving the bowler the charge.
Skipper Perera came to the party, hammering five fours and two sixes in his unbeaten 39 off 14 balls. His first six came via a Dhananjaya Lakshan slow ball that was muscled over long-off. The 20th over began with Perera lofting a length ball from Nuwan Thushara over long-on for maximum as Jaffna Stallions finished on a high.
In the end, the batting side had way too many runs to play with. It was fitting in a way that Jaffna Stallions won. With three wins from nine games, Galle Gladiators definitely wouldn’t have been worthy champions.
LPL 2020 Captains’ corner
Jaffna Stallions captain Thisara Perera:
"My boys did really well. If we put a good score on the board, always we can maintain the pressure. That's why we won the toss and elected to bat first. We are gelling as a family. We always experiment so (losing) was not a worry. We got our full strength in the semi-finals and today also."
Galle Gladiators captain Bhanuka Rajapaksa:
"It's sad to lose the final but credit goes to the Stallions for the way they performed throughout the season. We had a bad day and Stallions played brilliant cricket to win the trophy. We needed to concede about 20-25 less runs in the field.”
LPL 2020 Final - Jaffna Stallions vs Galle Gladiators: Who was the Man of the Match and the Man of the Series?
Jaffna Stallions’ skipper Perera hammered a scintillating 39 not out from 14 while Dhananjaya de Silva contributed 33 from 20 apart from picking the scalp of Hazratullah Zazai in the first over.
For his stellar all-round show though, Malik was named man of the match. He held one end up, and allowed the stroke-makers to throw their bat around. With the ball, he got the massive scalp of Rajapaksa, who was looking extremely dangerous.
There were two chief contenders for the man of the series. Gunathilaka was the leading run-scorer with 476 at a strike rate of 144.68.
When it came to match-winning impact though, Jaffna Stallions' Wanindu Hasaranga had the edge. He finished the tournament with 17 wickets at a strike rate of 13 and an economy rate of 5.18. The numbers are proof of the leg-spinner’s dominance over the batsmen. He was fittingly named the player of the tournament.Published 17 Dec 2020, 00:30 IST