While the Galle Titans continue to freefall, Dambulla Aura pressed on for a third consecutive victory in the Lanka Premier League (LPL) to take over top spot in the points table, for the time being at least, with a seven-wicket win over Galle on Friday.
In tricky batting conditions, the 134-run target was hardly an easy chase, but a measured innings from Avishka Fernando ensured Dambulla got over the line, remaining unbeaten on 70 off 49 balls.
Fernando underlined his reputation as the all-time leading run scorer in the history of the LPL, notching his ninth half-century across four seasons of the tournament, but curbed his aggressive streak till much later in his innings.
He faced all of 19 deliveries before his first hit to the boundary, hammering Richard Ngarava for six over deep square leg and guiding the next ball for his first four.
He added only one more six to his tally before reaching his fifty, but so well constructed was his innings that he still managed to get there in 41 balls.
It was after that, when victory was within sight and the Titans were sufficiently ground out, that Fernando unfurled his next round of boundaries, adding a six and two fours to his count.
With Fernando scoring more than half of his team’s runs, there wasn’t much required from the rest of the Dambulla batters – the next highest contribution being Sadeera Samarawickrama’s 25.
For the Titans, it was a fourth successive loss, as the early season leaders remained rooted to the bottom of the table, needing to now win their last two matches to have any chance of making the play-offs, barring a spectacular turn of results in their favour.
If there was one bright note, it Lahiru Kumara who, playing his first game of the tournament, bowled with fire and pace on a pitch where pace off the ball appeared the preferred mode of operation, finishing with 2 for 31 in his four overs – the first three of those overs going for just 12 runs.
A new, freshly laid pitch may have been unveiled for this match, but it played out like many of the strips used in the tournament so far, an inconsistency in pace and bounce posing challenges for the batsmen.
The conditions also required adeptness from the bowlers as well, and after conceding 23 runs off the first three overs, the Dambulla bowlers produced just that.
Binura Fernando broke the opening wicket partnership of 23, deceiving Tim Seifert with a slower ball, before Shevon Daniel holed out in the next over to Dhananjaya de Silva.
The Titans were on 36 for 2 at the end of the Powerplay, and the spin pairing of Noor Ahmed and Dushan Hemantha and fast bowler Hayden Kerr, bringing his variations in pace, kept the Galle batsmen to just 64 runs off the next 10 overs, sharing four wickets.
It left Titans captain Dasun Shanaka and Lahiru Samarakoon needing to produce a late surge, but Shanaka’s dismissal in the penultimate over for 36, and Samarakoon’s run out in the final over, stunted their progress as they were restricted to 133 for 9 in their 20 overs.
Fernando ended with outstanding figures of 1 for 14 in his four overs, which, remarkably, included 15 dot balls.
Galle Titans 133/9 in 20 overs (Dasun Shanaka 36, Dushan Hemantha 2/31, Binura Fernando 1/14)
Dambulla Aura 134/4 in 17.4 overs (Avishka Fernando 70, Sadeera Samarawickrama 25, Lahiru Kumara 2/31)