By Amindha de Alwis
Half-centuries by Phil Salt and Najibullah Zadran, followed by a disciplined display of spin-bowling, saw Dambulla Giantsovercome Colombo Stars by 18 runs and record their second win of the Lanka Premier League at the R. Premadasa Stadium today.
The Dambulla spinners kept pegging back the Stars top-order in their chase of 196 whenever they looked like building a partnership. Ambidextrous spinner Tharindu Ratnayake (2 for 17), brought into the side for his first game of the tournament, was particularly impressive as he switched from right-arm to left-arm orthodox spin to keep the ball turning away from the batsman on strike, while displaying admirable control throughout
Tom Banton had given Colombo Stars a decent start courtesy a few of his trademark pick-up shots over the leg-side but was done in by Ratnayake who castled the Englishman who was looking to get down the track.
Kusal Perera, at number three, drilled four boundaries including a reverse-sweep that pinged off the bat all the way for six, but perhaps got too carried away, as he continued to go hard only to drag a tossed-up Imran Tahir delivery onto his stumps.
Sherfane Rutherford and then Naveen-Ul-Haq were promoted up the order in bid to keep up with the spiraling required run rate, but they too succumbed to spin.
Dhananjaya De Silva and Dinesh Chandimal, neither renowned for being the quickest run-scorers, managed to make a decent fist of things with a couple of twenties coming at strike rates above 160, but were unable to kick on and post fifties in the way the Salt and Zadran had earlier in the day.
Seekkuge Prasanna and Dushmantha Chameera provided a few late cheers for the Colombo fans but 196 proved a bridge too far for the chasing side.
Nuwan Pradeep ended up with three scalps but conceded 50 runs in the process, on what was a tough day for the fast-bolwers of both sides.
Dambulla Giants began the game in fine fashion as Phil Salt and Niroshan Dickwella went hammer and tongs at the Colombo Stars bowlers in a brutal powerplay assault that saw them reach fifty runs in just 3.1 overs. Salt, in particular, feasted on the Colombo quick bowlers as he clobbered his way to a half-century off just 22 balls.
While the Stars had a few sloppy moments in the field early on, they did manage to close out the powerplay well with three quick wickets even as Salt continued to find the fence with regularity.
It took the spin-duo of Seekkuge Prasanna and Akila Dananjaya to put the brakes on Salt’s rampage as a string of tight overs by the two spinners forced Salt to try and take on Dushmantha Chameera, once pace was re-introduced, only to sky a low full-toss into the hands of deep square-leg and fall for a 34-ball 62.
Najibullah Zadran (54), on the other end, ensured that the loss of Salt did not derail the innings as he employed a horizontal-bat approach to the spinners, picking out the square boundaries, to keep Dambulla going at close to 10 runs an over through the middle phase of the innings.
He was joined by skipper Dasun Shanaka (38) who played second-fiddle to start with but revved into action on the 18th over bowled by Keemo Paul; clubbing two powerful sixes over long-on and extra-cover, with a scoop for four sandwiched in between.
A pair of excellent grabs by Seekuge Prasanna in the next over bowled by Dushmantha Chameera put an end to both batsmen, leaving Chameera with 3 for 34, and ensuring that the Dambulla Giants were kept to five runs short of 200.
Prasanna was also the most economical of the Colombo bowlers with his four overs of leg-spin costing just 21 runs amidst the carnage.