Nagenahira Nagas returned to the blueprint that devised their first three victories, as a belligerent innings at the top of the order and a clinical finish from Angelo Mathews backed up a strong bowling performance led by Shaminda Eranga.
The Nagas’ six-wicket win over Uva Next ensures they avoid top-placed Wayamba United in the first semi-final tomorrow, a task Uva Next must now face, perhaps without wicketkeeper Upul Tharanga and allrounder Andrew McDonald, who both left the field through injury.
Imran Nazir took flight for the Nagas in the chase, as he walloped eight fours and a six in his 25-ball 44. Nazir was typically powerful square of the wicket, punching Oram over cover to get the Nagas’ chase into gear, before hitting a spate of square boundaries in the last three overs of the Powerplay.
He was stumped advancing to Sachithra Senanayake in the eighth over, but Mathews, his replacement, ensured the chase stayed on track, first by collecting risk-free runs into the outfield, before hastening toward the target as the close approached. He was unbeaten on 43 from 33 balls when he hit the winning runs with five balls remaining.
Dilshan Munaweera contributed his highest score of the tournament for Uva Next, but sacrificed muscle-power for longevity, striking at a relatively steady 129 for his 45. The Uva top order was restrained by tight overs from Eranga and Mathews at the top of the innings, though Kanishka Alvitigala, who also took the new ball, could not boast their parsimony.
Munaweera launched three sixes and two aerial fours, but struggled to pierce the infield for ones and twos until the field spread. He departed just as he’d looked set to launch when he miscued a scoop to short fine leg, but the selectors who have chosen him for Sri Lanka’s World Twenty20 squad will be encouraged by an innings of more application than he has shown so far in the tournament, though they will look to him to better ally that attitude with his striking power on the international stage.
Thilina Kandamby also made 33 for Uva Next, but three run-outs and a strong collective bowling effort from the Nagas ensured the target remained manageable on one of the flattest tracks the SLPL has seen.
Eranga resumed the intensity that had brought him success at the beginning of the tournament, in four one-over spells that reaped two wickets and only conceded 25. He troubled batsman with sharp seam movement throughout the innings, and found the yorker length he had been missing in the last two matches, even uprooting Hammad Azam’s leg stump in the 20th over.
Pix by Shantha Rathnyake