By Shamseer Jaleel, reporting from Sooriyawewa
After a dramatic start in the My11Circle Lanka Premier League 2020 (LPL), yesterday’s encounter saw the Jaffna Stallions beating the Galle Gladiators by eight wickets under lights at the Mahinda Rajapakse International Cricket Stadium (MRICS) at Sooriyawewa.
Galle who won the toss, elected to bat first on a batting paradise. West Indian dasher Chadwick Walton and Sri Lankan opener Dhanushka Gunathilaka opened the innings for the team from the down south. Gunathilaka looked in peak form, cutting and pulling at will. He punished the loose balls with disdain and was a treat to watch. However, his partner Walton was never on top and struggled for timing. Walton was out cheaply when the total was 24.
Azam Khan, the son of former Pakistan player Moin Khan, joined Gunathilaka at the fall of Walton’s wicket. With the introduction of Sri Lankan spin sensation Wanindu Hasaranga, life became difficult for both Gunathilaka and Khan. Gunathilaka was soon bowled in the very first over by Hasaranga when he dragged the ball on to his stumps after scoring a quick fire 38; following which Bhanuka Rajapaksa joined Azam Khan at the wicket. At the half way mark the Gladiators had scored 73 runs.
The Gladiators never got on top of the Stallions bowlers and lost Azam Khan to Hasaranga for 20 with the score at 79. Even though Milinda Siriwardana joined the hard-hitting Rajapaksa at the wicket, they always looked short of some runs, as they found the going tough due to a fine spell of bowling by Hasaranga. Former South African and current Yorkshire pacer Duanne Olivier snuffed out Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Milinda Siriwardena in the space of three balls to leave the Gladiators at a precarious 93 for 5.
Shehan Jayasuriya joined skipper Shahid Afridi at the stumps, with the team needing to consolidate initially in order to attack later. Jayasuriya was given out LBW by umpire Hannibal in the 15th over, only to be overturned after a referral. Upon the Gladiators reaching the 100 mark in the 16th over, Afridi soon cut loose with his usual powerful shots, effortlessly cutting and pulling. A seasoned campaigner, Afridi’s experience in the T20 Circuit was a bonus for the Gladiators who were struggling for runs. Fresh from the Pakistan Super League earlier this month, he reached his half century in only 20 balls. Going for quick runs, he lost his wicket after reaching 58 runs off only 23 balls. He hit three boundaries and six huge sixes in his breezy knock. Shehan Jayasuriya ended on an unbeaten 17 runs with the Gladiators compiling 175 for 8 in their 20 overs.
The Stallions took lease of the wicket with rising star Avishka Fernando and wicketkeeper-batsman Minod Bhanuka, who put on 35 runs, before Bhanuka lost his wicket for 18 runs. Nottinghamshire wicketkeeper-batsman Tom Moore lost his wicket in the eighth over to put the Jaffna in a spot of bother.
However, after a slow start, Avishka Fernando reached his half century off only 42 balls, inclusive of five sixes plus three boundaries. He was well complemented by former Pakistani skipper Shoaib Malik who played the supporting role. Both put on a valuable unbroken third wicket partnership of a 110 runs. The pair played beautifully and was seemingly never under any pressure and polished off the job at a canter; thus giving the Stallions a winning start. Fernando ended unbeaten 92 off 63 balls.
Galle Gladiators 175 for 8 in 20 overs
Shahid Afridi 58, Dhanushka Gunathilaka 38, Bhanuka Rajapaksa 21, Azam Khan 20.
Duanne Olivier 4/44, Wanindu Hasaranga 2/12
Jaffna Stallions 176 for 2 in 19.3 overs
Avishka Fernando 92*, Shoaib Malik 27*, Minod Bhanuka 18.
Mohammad Amir 1/29, Mohamed Shiraz 1/38
Man of the Match - Avishka Fernando (Jaffna Stallions)
Field Umpires - Lyndon Hannibal and Deepal Gunawardene
Match referee - Wendell Labrooy
Today’s matches (28 November) at MRICS
Kandy Tuskers vs Dambulla Viiking 4 p.m.
Galle Gladiators vs Colombo Kings 8 p.m.