How the teams stack up
On the surface Gall gladiators Don’t deserve to be in this finale. They only won a third of their matches in the tournament and their opponents in the semifinals suffered multiple injuries on Sunday. And yet, if you look at the attack they suddenly made towards the end of the tournament, you can’t really give them their place.
Dhananjaya Lakshan, swinging the ball significantly into his right-hander and throwing a collection of slower balls, may have been the find of the tournament. Nuwan Thushara, throwing it around his arm like Lasith Malinga, was effective with the new ball and on death. Lakshan Sandakan has come up with a T20 strategy that seems to work for him: often pushing the ball far while bowling through the air faster than before. Mohammad Amir led the attack and was delighted with the rocking conditions of the tournament over the past week. As if by magic, Gladiators have three of the top five wicket takers in the tournament, with Sandakan taking 11 wickets while Lakshan and Amir have 10 apiece.
And nevertheless Jaffna stallions I think her attack is still the best in the competition. This is largely thanks to Wanindu Hasaranga, who was the middle-overs monster of the tournament, taking 16 wickets in total and being even more impressive, maintaining a savings rate of 5.27 on his 33 overs. To put this savings rate in perspective, no other bowler who has taken a wicket in the LPL can come close to keeping up. Batsmen know that his luck is to be looked out for, and yet they have succumbed to him en masse.
There is also variety here. Usman Shinwari’s pace can be used almost anywhere in the innings. Duanne Olivier has bowled a lot slower than he can but has worked on his control over the course of the tournament. And as seen on Monday, Dhananjaya de Silva is a good supportive crank, especially in left-handed bowling (gladiators Danushka Gunathilaka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa are both left batsmen), and Shoaib Malik’s arrows can be through middle overs and even effective on death .
On the front line there is less on these sides. Gunathilaka were in scorching touch at the head of the innings for Galle, but despite fighting to their humble goal on Sunday, that middle order still seems a little weak. The stallions have had runs from Avishka Fernando and Thisara Perera over the course of the tournament but there is no one in this line-up who can be said to be in irresistible shape.
Watch out for
Gunathilaka versus stallion spinner
In the previous two games against Stallions, Gunathilaka made 56 out of 44 and 38 out of 30 and was sacked by Hasaranga on both occasions. In the final, he may have to face another weirdo before he even gets to Hasaranga. The stallions used Dhananjaya de Silva’s offspin at the head of the innings on Sunday with excellent effect and perhaps they will do so again to target Gunathilaka in particular.
Mohammad Amir versus Avishka Fernando
If there is one team that Fernando loved to play against in this tournament, it was the gladiators. He didn’t make 92 out of 63 against them in the first game and 84 out of 59 in the second. Stallions haven’t played them since Amir’s bowling came to life late in the league, and Fernando has been a nervous starter against the pace. When the air swings, this is a fascinating battle.
head to head
In spirit, this is not the same gladiator outfit Stallions used to play in the league, but for what it’s worth, Stallions got two wins to chase 176 and 171.
Gladiators are sweating on the fitness of Chadwick Walton and Thushara. Walton, who has pulled an Achilles tendon, is unlikely to play, but captain Bhanuka Rajapaksa said he would consider having Walton on the team if he was at least “75% fit”. Thushara meanwhile played the semi-finals with a twist, which may have made the injury worse. It is judged before the game.
Gall gladiators (probably): 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Ahsan Ali, 3 Bhanuka Rajapaksa (Capt.), 4 Azam Khan (week), 5 Sahan Arachchige, 6 Shehan Jayasuriya, 7 Chanaka Ruwansiri, 8 Dhananjaya Lakshan, 9 Mohammad Amir, 10 Lakshan Sandakan 11 Nuwan Thushara
It is assumed that stallions have a full roster to choose from. It is likely that they will go with the same XI.
Jaffna stallions (probably): 1 Avishka Fernando, 2 Johnson Charles (week), 3 Charith Asalanka, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Thisara Perera (Capt.), 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Chaturanga de Silva, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Usman Shinwari, 11 Duanne Olivier
Statistics and trivia
- The Gladiators of Galle took their wickets by their fifth game with a miserable average of 49.05 – by far the worst in the league. In their last four games, they have taken their gates at 6.78pm, which is for sure the best.
- Wanindu Hasaranga threw 97 point balls in his 33 LPL overs. This means that almost half of its deliveries were points or gates. He has only given eight sixes and nine fours.
- Danushka Gunathilaka’s tournament run number of 475 is 227 better than that of Avishka Fernando, the most productive batsman of the stallions.
- When the LPL franchise went on sale, Galle was the first to be bought by Nadeem Omar, the owner of Quetta Gladiators.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lankan correspondent. @afidelf