The near unbeatables face the quiet achievers
Wayamba United v Uva Next, SLPL 1st semi final
August 28, R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
But for a two-run loss when their captain and best bowler were rested, Wayamba United have seemed nigh on unbeatable during the round robin. Their attack had not promised to be one of the best in the competition before the tournament, but in six matches, only once has the opposition been able to breach 150. Mahela Jayawardene's keen eye for talent has played a role here, as Wayamba picked up two of the tournament's finds in Akila Dananjaya and Chathuranga Kumara in the local draft, while a host of allrounders and part-timers have also contributed. The batting, meanwhile, has been the strongest on show by a distance. Kamran Akmal has now left for national duty, but he and Tamim Iqbal have been prolific at the top, while Mahela Jayawardene and Dinesh Chandimal have also played big innings.
Uva Next have achieved quietly, claiming wins over each of the three weakest teams in the SLPL, but they have not made a strong statement against the other semi-finalists. Hamstrung by the withdrawal of Chris Gayle days before the tournament began, Uva Next have made do with a low-key cast who have pulled together tight performances with the ball and in the field. They've been unlucky during the tournament as well, losing their leading wicket taker, Dilhara Fernando, to injury after three games. Their record suggests they are no match for Wayamba United, but if openers Dilshan Munaweera and Upul Tharanga can consolidate on the glimpses of form they have shown so far, perhaps they can put a largely inexperienced Wayamba United bowling attack under pressure.
Round robin results
Beat: Uthura Rudras, Basnahira Cricket Dundee, Uva Next, Nagenahira Nagas, Ruhuna Royals
Lost to: Kandurata Warriors
Beat: Uthura Rudras, Basnahira Cricket Dundee, Ruhuna Royals Lost to: Nagenahira Nagas, Wayamba United
(Drew with Kandurata Warriors, when rain forced abandonment)
Watch out for
Tamim Iqbal blazed a ravishing 93 not out in Wayamba United's opener, but had since played second fiddle to the tournament's top scorer, Kamran Akmal. With Akmal gone and the less aggressive Dinesh Chandimal likely to be pushed up the order again, the job of providing the rapid starts Wayamba United have grown accustomed to in the powerplays will fall to Tamim.
Jacob Oram was not initially picked up in the draft, but has become key to Uva Next's campaign after flying in as a late overseas replacement. His economy rate of 3.93 is the best in the tournament, thanks partly to the four maidens he has bowled in five matches. If he can keep Chandimal at the striker's end during the opening overs, early breakthroughs may be in the offing.
Uva Next may be even more impaired for the semi-final, after both Andrew McDonald and Upul Tharanga left the field with injuries during the match against Nagenahira Nagas on Monday. Management could not confirm whether either would be available for the match against Wayamba, but if both miss out, it will stretch a side already running thin on big names.
Uva Next (probable) 1 Dilshan Munaweera, 2 Upul Tharanga (wk), 3 Thilina Kandamby (capt), 4 Chinthaka Jayasinghe, 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Andrew McDonald/ Fawad Alam, 7 Jacob Oram, 8 Hammad Azam, 9 Seekkuge Prasanna, 10 Sachithra Senanayake, 11 Charith Jayampathi
Wayamba United have had Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez exit the fray, but have had the local replacements to replace them, and they even chose to play their final round robin match with only three overseas players. Whether seamer Azhar Mahmood gets to play on Tuesday night may depend on the pitch.
Wayamba United 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 3 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 4 Shehan Jayasuriya, 5 Abdul Razzak, 6 Kaushalya Weeraratne/ Azhar Mahmood, 7 Milinda Siriwardana, 8 Isuru Udana, 9 Brad Hogg, 10 Chathuranga Kumara, 11 Akila Dananjaya
Stats and trivia
- Wayamba United have the two highest totals in the SLPL
- Uva Next have bowled the most maidens in the tournament with six - triple the tally of the next team
- Dilshan Munaweera is Uva Next's highest scorer, with 145 from five innings
Quotes"The crowd support we've had has been a big plus for us. It really helps us raise our game and we are hoping it will get better for the semi-finals and final."
Dinesh Chandimal on the relatively good crowds Wayamba United have enjoyed throughout the tournament.
"It's been the ideal scenario to have a month over here before the world T20 which is in these same conditions, so it really couldn't be any better."
Jacob Oram on how the SLPL has helped prepare for the World Twenty20
13.50GMT, August 28: Umar Gul has not left to join the Pakistan team in the UAE as the article originally stated
Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.