Jaffna Kings to face Galle Gladiators in LPL final today
Jaffna Kings, the reigning champions, will meet Galle Gladiators today (23) in their final of the LPL second edition scheduled to commence at 7.30 pm at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium. Galle Gladiators, led by Bhanuka Rajapaksa, entered the final after beating Jaffna Kings three times in a row in this tournament. They started the tournament by defeating Kings by 54 runs. They later beat Kings again by 20 runs in a low-scoring affair.
The two teams met at the first qualifier game at Hambantota last Sunday, where the Gladiators once again dominated the game by defeating Kings by 64 runs to qualify for the final. Openers Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka put on a superb 121-run stand to claim their win with fluent half-centuries.
“There was no secret behind the success against Kings in our previous games, but we won’t underestimate Jaffna Kings at this final. It’s a big game. We know how they beat us at the final to clinch the title in the inaugural edition,” said Skipper Bhanuka Rajapaksa.
Rajapaksa further said the Hambantota Stadium is more fresh compared to the R. Premadasa Stadium, and is most suited for the batters to go for higher runs.
“Jaffna Kings have a good batting lineup, so our bowlers have a big responsibility to restrict them as early as possible,” said Rajapaksa.
“Noor Ahamd, the 16-year-old wrist spinner from Afghanistan, did a good job for the Gladiators, but he missed this game as he went for national duty at the youth world cup. He did a good job for our side, but we have good backup bowlers and hope to do well,” added Skipper Rajapaksa.
Experienced players like Samit Patel and Mohammad Hafiz always supported our side, while Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka are in good form as batters and all-rounders Isruru Udana and Pulina Tharanga always improve the side; and paceman Nuwan Sampath, who took 5 for 13 in the last Jaffna Kings game, is also among the wicket-takers and all there are a big advantage for the side. Samit Patel is a leg spinner with 15 wickets so far, while experienced paceman Mohammad Amir is expected to make an early breakthrough.
Meanwhile, Jaffna Kings made a good comeback after the qualifier 2 game, defeating Dambulla Giants by 23 runs on Tuesday.
“There was pressure after losing the playoff game against the Gladiators, but players made a good comeback against Giants. As a unit, everything was done really well at the qualifier 2 game, it gives good confidence before the final,” said Skipper Thisara Perera.
“The final is just another match, and I am sure my team can do well in the final to retain the title,” added Perera. Openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Avishka Fernando added a superb 122 runs, which was the highest partnership for any wicket this edition so far; and 210 for 4 wickets is the highest team total so far this tournament, and Jaffna Kings has already twice passed the 200 runs mark this tournament, which proved their batting strength. The 23-year-old Avishaka Fernando hit a 63-ball century, which is the first century by Sri Lankan player at LPL. It gave a big boost, and their opening combination is expected to repeat their skills today to create a big challenge against the Gladiators’ bowlers.
Thisara Perera strengthens their middle order with experienced Shoaib Malik and Tom Kholar -Cadmore, while Wanindu Hasaranga and Chaturanga de Silva are also useful all-rounders that can score well. Two key spinners, Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana, who have taken the highest 15 wickets in 9 matches, are their main strike bowlers; but the Hambantota wicket works in favour of face bowlers. Pacemen Suranga Lakmal and 20-year-old Jayden Seales from West Indies, who took 14 wickets in six matches, are in good form, giving much confidence to Jaffna Kings. Jaffna Kings will look to defend their title, while last year’s runners-up, the Galle Gladiators, are also ready to take the challenge.