by Roscoe Thattil
Jaffna Kings have been the most consistent team throughout the LPL 2021but they found themselves wanting in the first qualifier when they were comprehensively beaten by the Galle Gladiators in Hamabantota. However, they will get a second chance to reach the final due to their consistency throughout the league phase as they meet Dambulla Giants in the second qualifier in Hambantota today(21).
The Giants played their perfect game in the eliminator against the Colombo Stars on Sunday as their bowlers were impressive once again in restricting the Stars to 145, before the young and upcoming Janith Liyanage steered the run chase with a classy unbeaten half century.
Phil Salt holds the key in the Giants top order while Liyanage will be expected to control the innings once again. The Giants have the power of skipper Dasun Shanaka, Afghanistan batter Najibullah Zadran, Chamika Karunaratne and Ramesh Mendis in the lower middle order and will want their top order to set a platform to launch later in the innings.
The wily old Imran Tahir has led from the front in the bowling department for the Giants and is likely to play a major role in the when he is called upon to bowl his quota of four overs. The ambidextrous Tharindu Ratnayake has also had a very good tournament picking up key scalps and given the captain the option of bowling both right-arm off spin or left-arm orthodox.
The Jaffna Kings conceded too many runs in qualifier 1 as Galle raced to 188 in their 20 overs with the former’s bowlers being taken to the cleaners. Kings skipper Thisara Perera promised a comeback and a much improved performance in qualifier 2 and there is none other than himself to lead his teams’ fight back.
The Kings struggled to adjust to the conditions in Hambantota after their success in Colombo during the league phase and are expected to make a couple of changes for this all important encounter.
Jaffna have been comfortable batting first and posting big totals but interestingly opted to field first in the first qualifier and might change their tactics when it comes to the toss this time around.
The winner of the qualifier 2 tonight will meet the Galle Gladiators in the grand finale on Thursday.
Niroshan Dickwella(wk), Phil Salt, Janith Liyanage, Najibullah Zadran, Dasun Shanaka(c), Chamika Karunaratne, Ramesh Mendis, Tharindu Ratnayake, Josh Little, Imran Tahir, Nuwan Pradeep
Rahmanullah Gurbaz(wk), Avishka Fernando, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Shoaib Malik, Thisara Perera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Chathuranga de Silva, Jayden Seales, Suranga Lakmal, Maheesha Theekshana