After what seemed like endless setbacks, the first game of the Lankan Premier League is finally in the books, and it could hardly have been scripted better. Over 400 runs, dropped catches, monster sixes, quick fire fifties, an Andre Russell cameo – and a Super Over. Welcome to the LPL, ladies and gentleman.
In the end though, it was the Colombo Kings that emerged victorious in a game that neither team really deserved to lose. The one-over eliminator saw the Kings set a target of 17, with the Tuskers only able to respond with 12, but that was arguably the least of the game’s highlights.
While showcase knocks from Kusal Perera and Dinesh Chandimal would have pleased many of the cricket-starved Sri Lankan fans watching at home, it was 18 year-old Rahmanullah Gurbaz from Afghanistan that gave the LPL its first taste of firepower, punishing a lacklustre Angelo Mathews to kickstart the Tuskers’ innings. He and Perera put on 75 for the opening partnership inside the Powerplay period.
After Gurbaz fell, Perera continued to carry his bat virtually throughout the innings, eventually falling in the final over. Perera’s partnerships with Kusal Mendis and Asela Gunaratne were calculated in their execution, and ensured that an ideal platform was in place for a late assault that saw 70 taken off the final five overs to propel the Tuskers to 219 for 3 – the highest ever score at Sooriyawewa – and one that should have been match-winning.
However a reinvigorated Chandimal kept the Kings in the chase, with his 46-ball 80, and cameos from Laurie Evans, Thikshila de Silva and Russell kept the scoreboard ticking. But it was Isuru Udana‘s outrageous late heroics that took the game into a decisive super over.
There were several that could have made this section. There was young Gurbaz’s blistering 22-ball 53, Perera’s brand of measured belligerence which brought him a 52-ball 87, and Chandimal’s homage to his early maverick years as he kept the Kings in the game with a 46-ball 80.
But in the end it was Udana’s clutch innings of 34 from 12, inclusive of four monster sixes, that stole the show. When Russell holed out with 53 still needed from 19 deliveries, the Tuskers could have been forgiven for thinking the game was as good as done. But in Udana the Kings have a genuine game-changer, and really the only surprise by the end was that he was unable to finish the game off in regulation play.
n the 18th over, with Russell back in the pavilion, the Kings’ hopes were waning. Udana, new to the crease, then top-edged one to Kusal Mendis coming in from cover, only for the chance to be grassed. With 50 runs needed off 16 balls, it seemed a mistake of little consequence at the time.
The Tuskers executed their game plan almost flawlessly with the bat, but they will know that they lost the game in the field. Three catches were dropped over the course of the Kings’ chase, and while Udana’s was ultimately the most costly as noted above, it’s arguable that the Kings might not even have been in that position if Chandimal hadn’t been reprieved in just the second over of the chase.
There was also a dubious non-wide call in fourth ball of the Tuskers’ Super Over chase. With 6 needed off 3 deliveries, Udana strayed down Gurbaz’s leg side – an obvious wide. If called it would have given the Tuskers an extra delivery and brought the equation down to 5 from 3. Instead, the subsequent dot ball saw the them needing 6 off 1. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)