By Srian Obeyesekere
In a continuation of their dominative run, Dambulla Aura coasted to the finals of the fourth edition of the Sri Lanka Premier League 2023 defeating Galle Titans by 6 wickets with two balls to spare yesterday at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium. Having bowled out Galle for 146 in 20 overs, Dambulla made light of the target reaching 147 for 4 with skipper Kusal Mendis leading from the front with a Player of the Match 49 off 45 balls hitting 6 boundaries. He put on 37 22 balls for the first wicket with Avishka Fernando who set the tempo striking a breezy 24 off 14 belting 3 sixes and 1 boundary. Following Fernando’s departure stumped by Litton Das attempting to hoist Shakib Al Hasan, Mendis went on to add a further 31 for the second wicket off 29 balls with Sadeera Samarawickrama who made 13 off 15 (1×4).
The decisive contest reached a pitch with the advent of Kusal Janith Perera following Samarawickrama’s departure as the left-hander bulldozed his way to a 39-ball 53 clouting 3 sixes and 4 boundaries in a cut and dry exhibition of stroke play of clean hitting on the leg side. Mendis was adjudged the Player of the Match, but indeed Perera, who turned 32 yesterday stole the show by his run assault that won him the crowd. It was flamboyant highlighting the characteristic pinch-hitting flow that has made Kusal Janith Perera a treat to watch in full flow and a fitting birthday present half century. The Perera-Mendis partnership yielded 69 off 56 balls when the skipper was trapped leg before wicket by Tabraiz Shamsi, one short of fifty with the latter falling with Dambulla 1 short of victory caught and bowled by Dasun Shanaka.
The Galle Titans, put into bat, was off to a bad start with Bhanuka Rajapaksa falling for a second ball duck bowled by Binura Fernando. It did conjure the question as to why Shevon Daniel, who had made some hard-hitting knocks upfront, was not in the starting line-up. The innings revolved around a sturdy 80 off 61 by Lasith Croospulle, unfazed by the taking out of his opening partner, churned out an absorbing innings decked with 7 boundaries in an otherwise conspicuous Titans fall that lacked batting zeal for the decisive dash in the battle to the last post. The next best was the 19 by Shakib Al Hasan as Australian pacer Hayden Kerr was on song for figures of 3 for 18 off 3 overs.
The Titans will nevertheless get a final fling when they take on B Love Kandy, winners of yesterday’s eliminator against Jaffna Kings when the two sides clash on Saturday that would decide the second finalist.
Galle Titans 146 (20 Overs) (Lasith Croospulle 80, Shakib Al Hasan 19 19, Dasun Shanaka 12, Hayden Kerr 3/18, Noor Ahmad 2/27, Hasan Ali 1/28, Dhananjaya de Silva 1/29, Binura Fernando 1/33)
(Kusal Janith Perera 53, Avishka Fernando 24, Kusal Mendis 49, Sadeera Samarawickrama 13, Dhananjaya de Silva n.o. 2, Alex Ross n.o. 1, Dasun Shanaka 1/1, Seekuge Prasanna 1/22, Shakib Al Hasan 1/23, Tabraiz Shamsi 1/37