Dimuth Karunaratne was finally able to produce the kind of substantial ODI score Sri Lanka’s selectors were looking for, but it was offspinner Akila Dananjaya who impressed the most in the final round of group games in the Super Four Provincial Limited-Over Tournament, taking 5 for 53 for Colombo against a Galle side that had won both their previous matches.
In addition to Karunaratne, Pathum Nissanka and Wanindu Hasaranga also made half-centuries on the day. Neither of those players seem to be serious contenders for the World Cup squad, however.
Akila had been Sri Lanka’s first-choice spinner last year, until he failed a biomechanics test and had his offbreak banned. When he remedied his action and returned to the fray, he looked a diminished bowler in the one-dayers against South Africa, taking only two wickets in four games.
This showing against Galle, however, may persuade the selectors to pick him in their World Cup squad, perhaps alongside legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay, who is also having a good tournament. Akila’s wickets in this match were important ones – he dismissed Dhananjaya de Silva, Milinda Siriwardana and Minodh Bhanuka, all of whom had been in decent form. Hasaranga was one of his victims as well.
Karunaratne’s 86 off 74, meanwhile, propelled him to the top of the tournament run-scorers’ list after three matches, which is a strong suggestion to the selectors that he is ready to play ODI cricket again.
His innings helped Kandy ease to a seven-wicket win over Dambulla, who had earlier been dismissed for 198 thanks in part to Thisara Perera’s 4 for 25. Karunaratne will have one more chance of strengthening his World Cup case when Kandy play Dambulla again on Wednesday.
A notable absence from the Galle XI for this match was captain Lasith Malinga, who is expected to fly back to India in order to be available for Mumbai Indians’ match against Kings XI Punjab at Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday. He is, however, expected to catch another overnight flight back to Sri Lanka that same evening, in order to make it to Dambulla in time for the Galle v Colombo tournament final. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)