The build-up to LPL 2020 was marked by unpredictability, chaos and total confusion. In a way, it is fitting that two inconsistent sides - the Jaffna Stallions and the Galle Gladiators - have made the final by knocking out the top two sides from the league stage - the Dambulla Viiking and the Colombo Kings.
The Galle Gladiators, despite winning only two matches in the league stage and sneaking into the semis at the last moment, now find themselves one triumph away from lifting the LPL 2020 title. How bizarre is that?
As for the Jaffna Stallions, they did not win a single game in the tournament after clinching their first four in a row. However, on the day that mattered, they lifted their game and eased into the LPL 2020 final by keeping the Viiking challenge at bay.
Form Guide: Galle Gladiators
The Galle Gladiators haven't shown any semblance of consistency in LPL 2020, as they have either been too good or atrocious.
Against table-toppers Colombo Kings in the semis, they were lucky to run into a wounded opposition. However, credit must be given to their bowlers for a professional display. The trio of Nuwan Thushara, Dhananjaya Lakshan and Lakshan Sandakan were excellent and throttled the Colombo Kings’ batting.
Mohammad Amir may have gone wicketless in the match, but he has looked dangerous in the last few games. The Galle Gladiators would be sweating over the fitness of Thushara, who played the last game with a niggle.
Despite their triumph in the semi-final, the Galle Gladiators should be concerned about their batting. They were poor in the chase, and it needed a smart cameo from Dhananjaya Lakshan to see them through.
The Galle Gladiators would want the likes of Danushka Gunathilaka, who is the tournament’s leading run-getter with 475 runs, skipper Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Ahsan Ali to be at their best in the summit clash.
Form Guide: Jaffna Stallions
The Jaffna Stallions began brilliantly with four wins in four, but then stuttered and eventually completely lost their way.
Johnson Charles, who had been in terrible form up until the semis, brought out his A game against the Dambulla Viiking and punished the bowling to bring the Jaffna Stallions back on track.
The Galle Gladiators should be worried on two counts. While Charles has struck form, the other opener, Avishka Fernando, hammered 92 not out and 84 in the two league games between the teams.
At the same time, the Jaffna Stallions should be concerned about their frequent middle and lower-order meltdowns. They were lucky to get away with it against an under-par Dambulla Viiking batting line-up.
The biggest threat for Galle Gladiators will come from leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga, who has been absolutely brilliant in IPL 2020.
With 16 wickets, including 3 for 15 in the semis, Hasaranga is the leading wicket-taker in the tournament. His scalps have come at a strike rate of 12.3 and an economy rate of 5.27.
The leggie has been well-supported by Dhananjaya de Silva and Suranga Lakmal, while Usman Shinwari has gone off the boil after a bright start.
Jaffna Stallions vs Galle Gladiators: Match Prediction
Both the Jaffna Stallions and the Galle Gladiators can entertain and exasperate in equal measure. It could come down to how their match-winners perform on the big day.
For the Jaffna Stallions, the performance of Hasaranga and Avishka Fernando will be the key again. There will also be expectations from Charles and Dhananjaya de Silva.
The Galle Gladiators would, of course, look to Danushka Gunathilaka to come up with one last special batting effort. Dhananjaya Lakshan and Lakshan Sandakan would also take a lot of confidence into the final.
The Jaffna Stallions got the better of the Galle Gladiators in both the league matches, but the final against a red-hot Gladiators side might prove to be a different cup of tea.
Predicted to win: Jaffna Stallions