As the teams pile up
On the surface Galle Gladiators does not deserve to be in this final. They won only a third of their matches in the tournament, and their semi-final opponents suffered several injuries in Sunday’s nail. And yet, when you watch the attack, they suddenly managed to connect at the end of the tournament, you also can’t really envy them their place.
Dhananjaya Lakshan, who swings the ball in the right hand, and throws a collection of slower balls, may have been the find of the tournament. Nuwan Thushara, who throws it in his arms as Lasith Malinga, impacted with the new ball and at death. Lakshan Sandakan has found a T20 strategy that seems to work for him: often pushing the ball wide, and also bowling faster through the air than before. Mohammad Amir led the attack, enjoying the sweeping conditions the tournament has seen over the past week. As if by magic, gladiators have three of the top five goalkeepers in the tournament, Sandakan took 11 wickets, while Lakshan and Amir have 10 each.
And yet, in spite of that, Jaffna Stallions feels that their attack is still the best in the competition. Largely this depends on Wanindu Hasaranga, who was the average monster of the tournament, taking on 16 wickets and even more impressively, maintaining an economic rate of 5.27 through his 33 overs. To put that economic index into perspective, no other bowler who has taken a wicket in the LPL can come close to matching it. Batistas know it’s his joke they need to pay attention to, and yet it has perished en masse.
There is variety here as well. Usman Shinwari’s speed can be deployed almost anywhere in the inning. Duanne Olivier bowled much slower than he could, but worked on his control during the tournament. And as seen on Monday, Dhananjaya de Silva is a good support spinner, especially when bowling to left-handeders (Danushka Gunathilaka of Gladiators and Bhanuka Rajapaksa are both left-handed batsmen), and Shoaib Malik’s darts can be effective through the middle overs, and even at the death.
On the beating front, there is less on these sides. Gunathilaka was very attentive at the top of the inning for Galle, but although they set off for their modest goal on Sunday, that middle order still seems a bit weak. Stallions meanwhile had runs from Avishka Fernando and Thisara Perera throughout the course of the tournament, but there is no one in that grouping who could be said to be irresistible.
Be careful about
Gunathilaka v the spinners of Stallions
In the two previous matches against Stallions, Gunathilaka won 56 of 44 and 38 of 30, and was dismissed both times by Hasaranga. In the final, he may have to face another spinner before he even gets to Hasaranga, though. Stallions deployed Dhananjaya de Silva’s offense at the top of the inning on Sunday, great, and maybe they will do that again to target Gunathilaka in particular.
Mohammad Amir v Avishka Fernando
If there is one team that Fernando enjoyed playing against this tournament, it was the Gladiators. He scored 92 not out 63 against them in their first match, and 84 away 59 in the second. Stallions haven’t played them since Amir’s bowling lived late in the league stage, however, and Fernando was a nervous beginner against pace. If there is a swing in the air, this forms as an interesting battle.
Head to head
In spirit, this is not the same Gladiators costume that Stallions played in the league stage, but for what it’s worth, Stallions weakened to two wins chasing 176 and 171.
Gladiators sweat about the fitness of Chadwick Walton and Thushara. Walton, who pulled a popliteal, probably won’t play, but captain Bhanuka Rajapaksa said he would consider having Walton on the side if he is at least “75% fit”. Meanwhile, Tielhara played the semi-final with a niggle, which may have made the injury worse. He will be judged before the match.
Galle Gladiators (probable): 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Ahsan Ali, 3 Bhanuka Rajapaksa (cap.), 4 Azam Khan (wk), 5 Sahan Arachchige, 6 Shehan Jayasuriya, 7 Chanaka Ruwansiri, 8 Dhananjaya Lakshan, 9 Mohammad Amir, 10 Lakshan Sandakan , 11 Nuwan Thushara
Stallions understand to have a full squad to choose from. Surely they will go with the same XI.
Jaffna Stallions (probable): 1 Avishka Fernando, 2 Johnson Charles (wk), 3 Charith Asalanka, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Thisara Perera (cap.), 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Chaturanga de Silva, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Usman Shinwari, 11 Duanne Olivier
Statistics and trivia
- Galle Gladiators took their wickets with a terrific average of 49.05 until their fifth match – easily the worst in the league. In their four most recent matches they have taken their wickets at 18.78, which is easily the best.
- Wanindu Hasaranga bowled 97 point balls in his 33 LPL overs. This means that almost half of his deliveries were dots or wickets. He only conceded eight sixes and nine fours.
- Danushka Gunathilaka’s 475 count is 227 better than that of Colts’ most prolific batsman, Avishka Fernando.
- When the LPL franchises went on sale, Galle was the first to be created by Quetta Gladiators owner Nadeem Omar.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is a Sri Lankan correspondent for ESPNcricinfo. @afidelf