A marauding Dilshan Munaweera trumped an Angelo Mathews special to launch Uva Next to victory in the SLPL, and a Champions League berth, in a rain-plagued final that just managed to eke out the overs required to constitute a full match.
Munaweera clubbed five sixes in his 23-ball 44 to leave Uva 19 runs ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis par score after 5.1 overs, after they had hurtled to 63 for 1 in pursuit of 137 from 15 overs.
Following a two-hour rain delay earlier in the evening, the match had already been shortened, but when the second downpour came, it left an already sodden field unusable. The weather frustrated the first full house of the tournament, and spectators had already begun filing out when the match was deemed over, and a lengthy fireworks delay went off in the damp. It was a pity, for the on-field fireworks had the makings of a grand finish to the tournament.
Chasing just over nine an over, Uva bludgeoned at least one six from each of the overs they faced. Mathews perhaps erred by taking the new ball himself and by pushing for wickets, rather than bowling to contain, with the threat of more bad weather looming.
Their opponents meanwhile got their strategy right; attacking from the outset to push beyond the Duckworth-Lewis score. Munaweera strode down the pitch to pound Mathews high over square leg off the third ball of the innings, before leaning back to send Shaminda Eranga over the same boundary next over. A four over point, making room to carve a short ball angled into him, and a six over long off, extended the ballistics, before Munaweera effectively sealed the match with two straight sixes and a four off Mendis in the fifth over.
Mathews had earlier performed a stunning resuscitation on Nagenahira Nagas’ stagnating innings, stroking a scintillating 73 from 27. The Nagas were at 48 for 3 from 9.1 overs when the first rains came, but despite a two-hour break in play, Mathews launched immediately after resumption, cracking the offspin of Sachithra Senanayake back over the bowler’s head to herald his charge. Everything short was aimed at the deep midwicket fence, and everything wide, backward of point. The balls in the slot disappeared over long on. A six and a four off Andrew McDonald saw the twelfth over fly for 17, before Dilhara Fernando was crashed away for 22. Umar Gul did not escape punishment either – his final over went for 17, with two fours pounded square and a massive six over the straight boundary.
Before the rain, Uva peppered the openers with a short barrage, and until Gul pitched three consecutive balls slightly fuller in the fourth over, Nagenahira batsmen had few answers. Imran Nazir and Ahmed Shehzad’s swipes to the legside veered from awful to mediocre as neither managed the footwork nor the timing to make adequate contact. Jacob Oram embellished his reputation for parsimony at the SLPL, conceding only nine from his first spell of three overs, while accounting for Shehzad after Nazir had been dropped off his previous over.
Nazir had provided Nagenahira with several blazing starts earlier in the tournament, but struggled to a laboured six from 16 balls in the final. He became the first victim of an Andrew McDonald double strike in eighth over, having his middle stump pegged back after attempting to sweep a length ball from the seamer. McDonald then removed Travis Birt, shortly before a heavy rain and intermittent drizzle forced the long delay. (ESPN)