The winningest franchise in the Lanka Premier League (LPL) find themselves in a position they have not been in before, after a seven-wicket defeat to the Galle Titans yesterday left the defending champions Jaffna Kings waiting till the final day of the group stage to find out if they would progress to the play-offs.
The Titans restricted the Kings to 89 and then mowed down the target with 39 balls remaining, but the contest was virtually over in the first six overs of the match when Kasun Rajitha’s stunning opening spell helped reduce the three- time champion Kings to 38 for 6 in the Powerplay.
From there the Kings stretched out their innings to the last ball, with Dunith Wellalage providing the only source of resistance scoring 22 of 31 deliveries, before the Kings were bowled out for the joint second-lowest score in LPL history.
For a franchise who have comfortably navigated the group stages on the way to winning the first three LPL tournaments, this was their fifth defeat this season, making it their worst run at this stage of the tournament.
With their group stage campaign complete, the Kings maintain third place ahead of the Titans on net run rate, but will now wait in hope that the Titans and the Strikers do not surpass them in points or net run rate, though the likelihood of them usurped by both team appears to be extremely slim.
For the Galle franchise, the win ended a streak of four defeats, culling their net run rate from -0.778 to 0-269, even if was not enough to move above the Kings.
While the Titans were ruthless with the ball, it was Rajitha who set the tone, barely erred in that first spell, having Rahmanullah Gurbaz mistime a hoick towards backward point in his opening over.
He dismissed Nishan Madushka and Shoaib Mailk – the highest run scorer for Jaffna among its active players, after Bangladesh’s Towhid Hridoy left the team after its first six matches – in his next over.
Sandwiched in between those two superb Rajitha overs was the dismissal of the dangerous Chris Lynn, who chopped a delivery from Lahiru Kumara onto his stumps.
Rajitha picked up a fourth wicket when the ball stopped on David Miller, who was so early on his shot that he lobbed an easy return catch to Rajitha.
With the spine of their batting decimated, the chances of a Kings’ recovery was further hampered when Asela Gunaratne, brought in for the under-performing Charith Asalanka, was adjudged leg before wicket on the final ball of the Powerplay.
New Zealander Tim Seifert continued his good run of form with a 41-ball half-century that saw him become the second batsman of cross the 200-run mark this season, and by the time he was dismissed, the Titans required just a further five runs to win.