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Jaffna Stallions crowned inaugural LPL champions after stellar Malik show in final
Match Report

Jaffna Stallions crowned inaugural LPL champions after stellar Malik show in final

Shoaib Malik had just one half-century and a string of low scores heading into the final of the inaugural edition of the Lanka Premier League against Galle Gladiators.

Defying all views about his supposed waning batting prowess, Malik sculpted a fantastic innings to rescue his team from a precarious position before making an impact with the ball as well as Jaffna clinched a historic triumph.

Johnson Charles and Avishka Fernando began Jaffna's batting effort in trademark fashion with a series of sizzling hits to put pressure on the opposition.

However, Galle fought back with three quick wickets near the halfway stage of the innings to force a new pair at the crease in Malik and Dhananjaya de Silva.

Malik used all his experience to keep the scoreboard ticking along and showcased his aggression against the spinners by craftily using his feet to throw them off their line.

On the other end, Dhananjaya also grew in confidence and smacked two sixes and two boundaries in his valuable 20-ball 33.

The two were involved in a rapid 69-run stand to lift the team into a strong position, providing the foundation for Thisara Perera to cut loose in the death overs.

Malik's calm knock came to its conclusion when he tried to muscle the ball over the boundary rope but skied it in the hands of the fielder, falling four runs short of a well-deserved fifty.

His wicket did not deter Perera's charge, who continued to merrily hammer the bowlers all around the park and finished with an unbeaten 39 off just 14 deliveries.

Jaffna posted an imposing 188/6 in their 20 overs, far more than what the Gladiators would have wanted.

The momentum-shift in the innings break shifted massively towards Jaffna when Galle were reduced to 7/3 in the second over. Tournament's leading run-getter Danushka Gunathilaka fell victim to an unfortunate mid-pitch collision that resulted in his run-out dismissal for a solitary run.

Galle skipper Bhanuka Rajapaksa then launched a courageous counterattack despite having severely injured himself in the first innings amidst a fielding effort.

Rajapaksa's 17-ball blitz yielded 40 runs but he found little support from Shehan Jayasuriya and Jaffna ate away any subsequent resistance offered by Azam Khan.

The last few overs of Galle's chase were marked by a lack of enthusiasm shown by the players as the game completely evaded their grasp.