Danushka Gunathilaka (left) and Kusal Mendis scored 50s apiece and figured in the highest partnership of the LPL 2
By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Galle Gladiators kept their stranglehold on defending champions Jaffna Kings when they beat them for the third consecutive time in the ongoing Lanka Premier League to win the Qualifier 1 match played at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium yesterday by a comprehensive margin of 64 runs and gain direct entry to the final.
Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka provided the ideal start to the Galle team with a record first wicket partnership of 121 off 80 balls which laid the base for an imposing total of 188-5 after being invited to bat first.
Jaffna’s powerful batting line up was snuffed out for 124 in 16.5 overs with fast bowler Nuwan Thushara taking a career best 5 wickets for 13 runs off 3.5 overs.
Jaffna, although losing still have a chance to make it to the final when they play Dambulla Giants in Qualifier 2 tomorrow at the same venue.
Mendis and Gunathilaka got Galle off to a flier producing their best power play of the tournament scoring 61 off the first six over and set up a fantastic platform for the team at the halfway stage putting on 95. The intent shown by this pair in running between the wickets and the energy they produced put Jaffna on the back foot.
Gunathilaka brought up his half-century off 34 balls and the hundred partnership with it in the 11th over with a six off Shoaib Malik. Off the next over Mendis completed his half century, a ball quicker than his partner. The batsmen enjoyed batting on a faster surface provided at Hambantota than the slower surfaces they experienced at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.
The pair was severe on anything loose and pounced on every ball and made it count. Their batting was a great mix of improvisation, wrist work and power.
Thisara Perera, the Jaffna skipper finally broke the partnership by bowling Gunathilaka for a superbly constructed 55 off 42 balls (6 fours, 1 six) to take his 250th wicket in T20 cricket.
Player of the Match, Mendis continued to play a classy innings reaching the second highest total of the tournament – 85 off 53 balls striking four sixes and seven fours before Suranga Lakmal finally had him trapped in front of the wicket.
The massive partnership at the top paved the way for Galle’s highest total of the tournament with Bhanuka Rajapaksa, the captain providing the final flourish to the innings with a cameo knock of 25 off 15 balls inclusive of three sixes.
Any chance of Jaffna making a match of it was derailed in the first over when Mohammad Amir hit for six first ball by Avishka Fernando had his revenge by getting through his defences to bowl him off the next.
Galle kept on chipping away at the wickets from one end while Rahmanullah Gurbaz tried his best to keep Jaffna in the hunt with his best innings of the tournament – 59 off 37 balls, but with wickets tumbling at the other end the task proved too much for him and he too succumbed under pressure.
- Galle Gladiators 188-5 (20) (Kusal Mendis 85, Danushka Gunathilaka 55, Bhanuka Rajapaksa 25, Wahab Riaz 2/39, Thisara Perera 2/36)
- Jaffna Kings 124 (16.5) (Rahmanullah Gurbaz 59, Wanindu Hasaranga 29, Nuwan Thushara 5/13)
Kusal Mendis who was Player of the Match for his knock of 85 is congratulated by Galle Gladiators coach Umar Gul
Galle Gladiators fast bowler Nuwan Thushara who took five wickets in action