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Keeping an eye on the Sri Lankan players heading to India
March 9, 2010
Sri Lanka's Inter-Provincial Twenty20 tournament - which ended on Sunday with Wayamba winning for the third year running - didn't cause too many ripples outside the island but it could have an effect on the IPL, given the number of players involved in both tournaments. Kanishkaa Balachandran looks at the players most likely to make an impact in India and the big names who didn't quite meet expectations - and also a couple who could have made a name had they bagged an IPL contract.
Those who fired
Mahela Jayawardene: Wayamba's biggest name scored four fifties and finished as the tournament's second-highest run-scorer with 293 runs in six games at 48.83. While he was expected to do well, the most striking feature of his batting was his ease in a role he isn't known for - opening. His batting was carefree, without any ungainly slogs - all genuine cricketing shots - and his collaboration with Jeevantha Kulatunga was key to the team's fortunes. He began with a 34-ball 61 against Basnahira South, followed by a 40-ball 59 against Ruhuna and a 32-ball 58 in the semi-final against Basnahira South. He saved his best for the final, smashing 91 off 49 balls to power his team to 208, a target too big for Ruhuna. A Shaun Marsh-Jayawardene left-right opening combination could be Kings XI Punjab's secret weapon.
Ajantha Mendis: Mendis' tally of eight wickets was still six behind the tournament leader (Sachithra Senanayake) but four of those came in a freakish spell in the final. Chasing 209, Ruhuna rocketed away at nearly 12 an over before Mendis literally turned the match. He pocketed three in one over, reduced Ruhuna to 86 for 5 and finished with stunning figures of 4 for 9 in 3.2 overs. Kolkata Knight Riders have used him in only five matches across two seasons but that could change now.
Thissara Perera: The batting allrounder was among two new signings by the Chennai Super Kings in this year's auction. After a quiet start to the tournament, with one wicket from the first two games, he ended with nine wickets at 13.11, the highest wicket-taker among the 13 IPL-bound players and third highest for the tournament. His best was 3 for 18 in the semis. Perera recently won a one-dayer for Sri Lanka with the bat, under pressure, against India. Chennai have already stated that Justin Kemp will be their main allrounder but in Perera they have an able understudy.
Those who fizzled
With the exception of Lasith Malinga, who didn't play, and Dilshan, who played only one game, the remaining eight didn't have much to shout about. Sanath Jayasuriya scored a fifty and smashed 12 fours and eight sixes in total but it was not his usual sparkling form. However, he enjoys the big occasion could just turn on the sparks. Kumar Sangakkara too scored just one fifty and averaged 28.50 in six games. Muttiah Muralitharan was fairly economical (6.43) but didn't run through any line-up to the extent that Mendis did. Dilhara Fernando took seven wickets from five games but Thilan Thushara's returns were most disappointing - one wicket from four games. Angelo Mathews played a few cameo knocks for Basnahira North, including an unbeaten 60 off 44 balls, but strangely, he bowled just one over in the tournament.
Those eyeing a spot next year
Ironically, the top run-getter, Dinesh Chandimal, and wicket-taker aren't heading to the IPL. Chandimal is the better known of the two players, having represented his country at the Under-19 World Cup in 2008. The wicketkeeper batsman averages 52 in first-class cricket and in this tournament, he finished with 320 runs at 53.33 with three fifties. His 64 in the final was overshadowed by Mendis' spell and had he received some support from the other end, things could have been different.
The 36-year old Kulatunga has been around for several seasons but his Sri Lanka experience is restricted to two Twenty20 games. Kulatunga scored the tournament's only century - an unbeaten 104 - against Kandurata. Age may not be on his side - then again, he'd be far from the oldest in the IPL.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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