Kusal Mendis cameo helps Reds clinch title with ease

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Skipper Kusal Mendis, leading from the front, steered SLC Reds to a comfortable 7 wicket win over SLC Blues in the final of the SLC Invitational T20 League worked off at RPS, Colombo on Monday (15).

Put in to bat, Blues posted a below par 136-6 in their allotted 20 overs, and Reds reached the target with 19 balls to spare.

Blues were off to a poor start after opener Lahiru Samarakoon (6) departed cheaply in the second over which brought Sadeera Samarwickrama to the crease. He too followed a similar script when he was caught and bowled by Maheesh Theekshana in the 6th over.

Having lost two wickets at the end of the power play, Blues looked to accelerate their innings, but brilliant bowling from the Reds bowlers put the shackles on them and did not allow them to free their arms.

Blues strong batting line up with the likes of Dhananjaya de Silva (25), Janith Liyanage (12) and Chamika Karunarathne (2), were unable to step forward in this crucial game, and they too failed to impress.

Ashen Bandara top scored with a fighting 40* off 30 deliveries including 4 boundaries, while opener Lahiru Udara chipped in with 37 runs to help Blues go past the 100 run mark.

Maheesh Theekshana and Asitha Fernando were the pick of the bowlers sharing two wickets each, while Dunith Wellalage and Lahiru Madushanka grabbed one apiece.

In reply, it was a walk in the park for the Reds as they achieved the target in just 16.5 overs.

Reds were off to a decent start with a 49 run partnership for the first wicket between Lasith Croospulle and Kusal Mendis, until Praveen Jayawickrama got the breakthrough to send Croospulle (25) back to the pavilion in the 5th over.

In came Bhanuka Rajapaksa to the crease, and the right hander – who had a poor run in the tournament – was expected to step forward and put up a good show, but he failed this time too, as he was struck plumb in front in the 8th over to put Reds under some pressure.

No.4 batter Kamindu Mendis looked dangerous in the middle with his run a ball 18 runs which included a huge six, but he too failed to hang on as Praveen Jayawickrama picked up his second wicket when Kamindu was caught at mid on.

With just 36 runs required for victory, Wanindu Hasaranga joined skipper Kusal Mendis in the middle, and the duo ensured there were no further hiccups and took them over the line with ease.

Credit, however, must go to Skipper Kusal Mendis, who blunted the rest of the attack with timely boundaries. Mendis was the hero with his unbeaten 45 ball 56 runs which included 4 boundaries and a six. His cameo in the final match saw him being adjudged the man of the match. He also ended as the highest run scorer of the tournament.

Wanindu Hasaranga’s late flourish brought him 24 runs off 14 balls including 4 boundaries.

 Brief scores:

SLC Blues: 136-6 (Ashen Bandara 40*, Lahiru Udara 37, Maheesh Theekshana 2-22, Asitha Fernando 2-31)

SLC Reds: 137-3 (Kusal Mendis 56*, Wanindu Hasaranga 24*, Praveen Jayawickrama 2-34)

By Mustaq Sydeen