HISTORIC 20-20 LANKA PREMIER LEAGUE 2020 FINAL
By Srian Obeyesekere
The dust settled on month long fast flying action, battered and bruised, but unscathed, the two worthy finalists, the Galle Gladiators and Jaffna Stallions flex their muscles to reigning supreme in the final countdown to the historic 20-20 Sri Lanka Cricket organised Lanka Premier League 2020 in the showpiece Day-Night final at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium on Wedndesday, December 16 at Sooriyawewa in the picturesque port city of Hambantota that also boasts of one of the country’s major airports in the traditional South of Ruhuna.
That it is a final set apart for its unique trimmings robed in the version of the now world populous Indian Premier League is indeed a lending significance given the nature of the tournament that has been showcased by the nerve center of the game, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) in giving new definition to taking the country’s cricket to the next level. In that backdrop, Wednesday’s crunch game for the big spoils between the Galle Gladiators and Jaffna Stallions does assume the magnitude of the type of top flight international contests. The finalists having come through the test from the humdrum of intensity of many an international star pitted in a mix from several countries has indeed been the lending fusion to making this LPL final special.
Therein, the action generated through the league to an underdog team in the Galle Gladiators and one of the favourites in the Jaffna Stallions holding their own in contrasting terms to getting there to within a step of being crowned the worthy LPL 2020 champions in this maiden extravaganza has been absorbing stuff. If Thisaran Perera’s Jaffna Stallions has gone the distance having topped the table for a good part of the tournament before being undone by the Colombo Kings to bouncing back in the final contention, the Galle Gladiators conspicuously rising from the dumps of nearly exiting the tournament in a leap forward that hung on a thread to transcending small beginnings to the giant size has been outstanding. In that light, indeed the Gladiators have lived true to their name hype to winning the hearts of cricket fans. That it has been more to do with the singular virtual lone championship crusade mounted by that lanky opening batsman, the hard hitting Danushka Gunathilaka is a piece of cricket’s marveling heroics. That the 29-year old left hander has inspired the rest of his team to rally round from a defeatist position to playing like a champion side that threw out table leaders in the decisive semi-final has certainly put the Galle Gladiators from the lowly to top notch contenders to lay hands on the LPL trophy. Therein, they face the ultimate test of going past the high riding Jaffna Stallions. It is also creditable that stand in skipper Bhanuka Rajapaksa for Shahid Afridi, has progressively risen in stature providing the galvanizing quick scoring sparkle in the last couple of outings that has contributed to their success.
The Jaffna Stallions, for their part, have played brilliant cricket having notched four successive wins on the back of the batting and bowling heroics of their pinch hitting burly skipper Thisara Perera while the rest have rallied around their giant performer. One of the pick has been the gritty right handed all-rounder Dhananjaya de Silva whose 61 off 38 in defeating the Kandy Tuskers in figuring in a big partnership with the skipper, was outstanding. Of course, the Stallions will have to rethink their batting strategy in the semi-final against the Dambulla Vikings where there wasn’t much Dhananjaya could do batting as late as No.8 where his cool and calculation could be decisive upfront.
In the final estimation, both sides have played the type of cricket that make the two evenly matched. The semi-finals results are the best dictates of the fact. Both sides produced unlikely match winners – Dhananjaya Lakshan for the Gladiators and Johnson Charles for the Stallions having risen from a low profile. It goes to underline the depth in the two sides.