By Shehan Daniel at the R. Premadasa Stadium
A largely clinical team bowling performance and economical bowling returns from Ramesh Mendis, Imran Tahir and Nuwan Pradeep ensured that the Dambulla Giants withstood a late surge from the Kandy Warriors to secure a 20-run, campaign opening win in the Lanka Premier League on Monday.
The three bowlers combined early in the innings to reduce Kandy to 29 for 3 in 3.1 overs, chasing the Giants’ score of 190 that was set up by Phil Salt’s half-century, and undoing a bright start from the Warrior’s West Indian opener Kennar Lewis.
Kandy captain Angelo Perera, who was one of three batters from the Dambulla team last year to feature in the top ten leading scorers, then stitched together a recovery partnership with Kamindu Mendis, striking three boundaries in the fifth over of the innings bowled by Dasun Shanaka.
The Warriors ended the powerplay on 52 for 3, but with just one six and no boundaries off the next three overs, the pressure was building on Kandy, the required rate spiking over 11 at that point.
Ramesh Mendis then made the most of that pressure, returning for a second spell, and accounting for the wickets of and Kamindu Mendis and Perera, both charging the off-spinner and both stumped by Niroshan Dickwella.
It left Asela Gunaratne as one of the two remaining batters, along with Rovman Powell, but the all-rounder was deceived by a slow-ball yorker from Pradeep and dismissed for 7.
The Warriors needed 100 off 40 balls when Powell ended a 31-ball boundary drought in the 14th over, with a six that landed inside the Giants’ boundary line team dug out, with the West Indian following it up immediately with a boundary and another six.
Powell cracked two more sixes in the next over, the last of South African Tahir’s four-over quota, that sullied otherwise good figures from the leg-spinner. He fell to Pradeep at the start of the 17th over, and despite some big hitting from Sachindu Colombage there was too much of a deficit to catch up for the Warriors.
Ramesh Mendis was the pick of the bowlers with 3 for 21, with Pradeep taking 3 for 13 and Tahir picking up one for 28.
The Warriors would have had an even bigger target to chase had it not been for an improved bowling performance in the second half of the Giants innings, with the Dambulla batters managing just 75 runs off the first 10 overs.
The Giants had almost as many runs in their Powerplay with Salt and Dickwella laying into some poor bowling, which erred onto either side of the right length, and easing to 74 in six overs.
Salt was particularly brutal, taking ten runs in each of the first two balls of the second and third overs to race to 26 off nine deliveries, and that approach allowed Dickwella to comfortably break into his first competitive outing in five months, after the lifting of the six-month domestic ban for his involvement in the Durham bubble breach. Dickwella showed few signs of rust though, striking four boundaries inside the first six overs, to reach 30 at the end of the powerplay, not too far behind the blazing Salt on 39.
The approach from the Welsh batter, who debuted for England earlier this year, didn’t change after the field restrictions either, with Salt smashing back to back sixes in the seventh over, bowled by Colombage, to bring up his half-century off just 21 balls. The opening wicket partnership had extended to 97 by the time Dickwella picked out the mid-on fielder, trying to hit a slow full toss over the in-field, with Salt dismissed 11 balls later for 64, but not before adding a fourth boundary and fifth six.
Shanaka then carried the burden of a fourth-wicket stand with Sacha de Alwis, a 29-year batter with just 12 T20 matches on his record – a partnership that ended when de Alwis charged Lahiru Kumara and offered an easy outside edge catch to wicket-keeper Devon Thomas.
A drop-off in the scoring, precipitated by the dismissals of Shanaka, Nadjibullah Zadran and Nuwanidu Fernando, that left the Giants on 167 for 7 in 18 overs, was papered over by Ramesh Mendis, who struck two sixes in the final over to see Dambulla to a still respectable 190.