By Madushka Balasuriya
Fine century by Angelo Mathew
Dambulla exacted retribution for their chastening defeat two days prior, beating Kandy by 95 runs in the third place playoff of the Super Four Provincial Limited Overs Tournament yesterday, and in the process registered their solitary win of the tournament.
The victory was set up by a measured Angelo Mathews ton and late order cameos from Jeevan Mendis and Isuru Udana, which propelled Dambulla to a daunting 325/5.
As in the previous three games, Mathews was needed in the middle much earlier than he would have liked, once again tasked with stemming the tide following yet another top order failure. Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka have been Sri Lanka’s most successful ODI opening combination since 2017, but the pair have scarcely built a case for a World Cup berth in this tournament, recording their fourth successive opening stand of less than ten runs.
For Mathews, it was a case of fourth time’s the charm, finally managing to complete the rebuilding job he had promised over the course of the tournament. In each of the four games, the Dambulla Captain, batting at number five, has been required to bat inside the first 15 overs. Apart from a fourth ball dismissal in the first game, he had recorded successive scores of 78 off 84 and 47 off 67. Both efforts ended up in losing causes however, with his teammates unable to take up the scoring burden around him.
This time, despite the top three of Dickwella, Gunathilaka and Oshada Fernando falling cheaply, Mathews was provided able support. First was courtesy a counter-attacking 87-ball 95 from Bhanuka Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa has been among the tournament’s form players, but with scores of 38, 16, and 27, he had thus far failed to convert any of his promising starts. But on a pitch that was holding up a touch, the 27 year-old southpaw showed great maturity, consistently rotating the strike and playing the ball late and square of the wicket.
This also allowed Mathews to play his most fluent knock of the tournament, eventually bringing up just his third List A century off 104 deliveries, inclusive of nine boundaries and two sixes. The 150-run fourth wicket stand also laid the platform for an impressive death overs siege, in which 192 runs were scored off the last 20 overs for the loss of just two wickets.
A large part of this was down to Udana, who furthered his case for a World Cup spot with a 14-ball 34, having come in to bat at the fall of Mathews’ wicket in the 46th over. Mendis, meanwhile, showed off his trademark pinch hitting ability notching up a quick fire fifty off just 33 balls, inclusive of two boundaries and three sixes. He also showed great match awareness, first taking the scoring burden off Mathews, and then bringing the dangerous Udana onto strike whenever possible, as Dambulla scored 61 runs off the final five overs.
In Kandy’s chase, a 120-run second wicket stand between Sadeera Samarawickrama and Sangeeth Cooray looked to have brought some impetus to proceedings following Dimuth Karunaratne’s dismissal off just the second ball of the innings, but their brittle middle order and long tail meant it was always going to be a tall ask.
After Mendis and Udana, fresh off their batting heroics, combined to dismiss both Samarawickrama and Cooray in quick succession, much of the pressure fell on the shoulders of 20 year-old Pathum Nissanka, with all-rounders Sachitra Senanayake, Chaturanga De Silva and Thisara Perera the only other recognised batsmen.
Nissanka had impressed this tournament, registering an unbeaten fifty last time out, but could only manage 11 this time around. Silva and Thisara offered brief cameos, but successfully chasing a target of 326 always looked an unlikely outcome.