Bhanuka and spinners guide Galle Gladiators home in opener
By Mustaq Sydeen
Skipper Bhanuka Rajapaksa set the stage on fire with the bat as Galle Gladiators beat defending Champions Jaffna Kings by 54 runs in the opening match of the second edition of the Lanka Premier League at RPS, Colombo on Sunday. Put into bat the skipper led from the front with a breathtaking 56 runs off 31 balls, hitting 6 fours and 3 sixes, before the spinners completed the job for the Galle Gladiators.
Dhanushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis opened the innings for Galle Gladiators after serving a six month ban from domestic cricket after a bio bubble breach during the England series in June. Gunathilaka (8) marked his return in style with consecutive boundaries, but failed to carry on as Thisara Perera took a sprawling catch while running back to pouch Gunathilaka’s miscued skier.
Kusal Mendis’ little cameo was also limited to just 16 runs as he was caught behind off Jayden Seales. With wickets falling in quick succession, skipper Bhanuka Rajapaksa - continuing his brilliant form from the recently concluded T10 League - played his natural aggressive game and continued to smash the ball all over the park to revive their innings.
Along with Samit Patel, Bhanuka added a quick 40 runs for the fifth wicket before Wanindu Hasaranga broke the partnership, when Bhanuka tried to smack one over midwicket, but only succeeded in getting a top edge to the keeper. However, Samit Patel put the final touches by chipping in with an important 42 runs off 31 deliveries including six boundaries to take his team past the 150-run mark.
Jayden Seales was the pick of the bowlers claiming three wickets, while Wanindu Hasaranga picked up two wickets. In reply Jaffna Kings were bowled out for just 110 runs. None of their batsmen were seen to be comfortable in the middle except Wahab Riaz, who was the only player to pass the 20-run mark. Upul Tharanga was given a lifeline early in the innings when Mohamed Hafeez plopped an opportunity on the third attempt.
However, Tharanga (17) failed to capitalize on his luck as Hafeez eventually got his revenge when the left hander backed away to slap a cut shot, but the ball just rose enough to beat his bat and castle him. The experienced Hafeez then returned to pick up Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s (11) wicket in his very next over to add salt to Jaffna Kings wounds. The defending champions continued to struggle against spin, which saw another batter bite the dust. This time it was Avishka Fernando (1) who was caught at first slip off Samit Patel.
Patel continued to trouble the Jaffna batters as Galle picked up their fourth wicket (his second) to kind of brain-freeze Jaffna Kings, who found themselves in a spot of bother. At a time when Jaffna Kings were reeling at 75-7 in 13 overs, Wahab Riaz (27) along with Suranga Lakmal (10), looked to perk up their innings, but the early pressure was too much for them to handle as both players were sent packing by Pulina Tharanga in consecutive deliveries to hand Galle Gladiators a comfortable win.