Uphill task for Leicestershire and Ruhuna
Leicestershire v Ruhuna, September 21
Start time 16.00 (10.30 GMT)
Leicestershire, the Friends Life t20 champions, were expected to do better than the comprehensive defeat they suffered at the hands of Trinidad and Tobago. Going down by 51 runs leaves them precariously placed in the qualifiers. Nothing less than a resounding victory in the clash against Ruhuna will leave them with any chance of progressing.
Ruhuna were beaten in a tight game by T&T - who are already through - and are slightly better placed, but defeats for either team will send them back home. Much hinges on the final qualifier contest between Somerset and Kolkata Knight Riders; both those teams, with a win already in hand, might qualify in the event of a close clash where the net run-rate of the losing side may end up superior to that of the winner of Leicestershire v Ruhuna.
Losing wickets in a cluster at the death and being unable to check an onslaught by Sherwin Ganga in the company of Darren Bravo were the decisive factors in Ruhuna's defeat and they can ill-afford another slip-up against a side determined to make amends for a letdown. Leicestershire might be the senior citizens in this qualifier phase - their average age is 30-plus - but are loaded with experience. Their batting failed them against T&T, and while a win won't guarantee them a place in the next round, they can still crush Ruhuna's hopes.
Leicestershire need to address their batting concerns and could be tempted to bring in Matthew Boyce or Greg Smith, who has first-class and List A experience but hasn't yet played a Twenty20.
Seamer Arosh Janoda had a poor game after a tight start to his spell. He was taken for runs at the death in T&T's chase, finishing with figures of 2.5-0-35-1. Ruhuna may consider replacing him.
Watch out for …
Paul Nixon announced his retirement from cricket during the 2011 English domestic season and had the perfect send-off when his team sneaked through to secure a thrilling win against Somerset in the t20 final. He's been playing at the first-class level for 22 years. Will tomorrow be his final appearance for Leicestershire, or can they extend his run for a little while more?
Ruhuna have Sanath Jayasuriya to bank on for an explosive start but their captain Mahela Udawatte can be reliable too. He's been a heavy run-getter in domestic cricket - he's also represented Sri Lanka in ODIs - and has a Twenty20 century to his name and a strike-rate of 125.73 in the shortest format.
Stats & trivia
- Leicestershire have been through bad times in Twenty20s before. Between July 2006 and June 2007, they suffered eight straight defeats in the format, all except one by reasonably sizable margins.
- Allrounder TM Sampath has made the most Twenty20 appearances for Ruhuna - 23 in a three-year span. Jayasuriya has played 17 games for the side, and captain Udawatte seven.
"The spinners did well for us, but defending 138 is very difficult. It's a two-paced pitch that is hard to bat on."
Mahela Udawatte's team needs a better performance with the bat
"We were chasing a good total, and for that we needed a couple of partnerships but we didn't get them. It was poor execution from the batsmen. We have our fingers crossed now and hope for rain (laughs) in the other game. "
Matthew Hoggard's sense of humour is everlasting
Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo