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The Preview by Andrew Fernando
August 29, 2012
Series/Tournaments: Sri Lanka Premier League
Teams: Sri Lanka
Nagenahira Nagas' four wins in the round-robin have largely followed the same blueprint: the bowling has rallied around Shaminda Eranga, whose quality of performance has closely aligned with the team's, and when batting, the Nagas have relied on strong contributions from the openers and Angelo Mathews, who has been in fine finishing touch. In the two matches where they have been forced to stray from this gameplan, however, things have come unstuck. In Pallekele, a Mahela Jayawardene special left Eranga and company in tatters, before Uthura Rudras decimated the top order in the next match in Colombo. The Nagas have been impressive despite lacking the kind of marquee players the other teams boast, but they have also been dependant on a few key performers to lift the side.
Kandurata Warriors have also relied on a strong attack to put them in the semi-finals, but will be without their player of the tournament Sohail Tanvir, who is in the UAE on national duty, along with their best spinner Saeed Ajmal. The batting is also a concern, particularly as captain Sanath Jayasuriya has been a passenger in the top order. If Thilan Samaraweera can produce another surprisingly explosive start, the Warriors will have a foundation for attacking finisher Thisara Perera to work with.
Round robin results
Beat: Ruhuna Royals, Kandurata Warriors, Basnahira Cricket Dundee, Uva Next
Lost to: Wayamba United, Uthura Rudras
Beat: Uthura Rudras, Ruhuna Royals, Wayamba United
Lost to: Nagenahira Nagas, Basnahira Cricket Dundee
Drew with: Uva Next (match abandoned without a ball being bowled)
Watch out for
Angelo Mathews has shepherded three chases so far, and with the Nagas lacking much in the way of firepower in the middle order, he will have to play a key role if his side is to win the competition. Mathews' reputation as a leader has also been enhanced through the SLPL, as he has marshalled an inexperienced attack successfully. If he can continue to mix his bowlers up effectively and chip in with economical overs of his own, Nagas' bowling will remain the strength it has been so far.
In the absence of Tanvir and Ajmal, Thisara Perera must now don the responsibility of spearheading the Warriors attack, in a tournament that is yet to see the best of him with the ball. He has been a vastly improved bowler for Sri Lanka over the past twelve months, but the steady seamers that have brought him international success have sometimes been wayward in the SLPL. He has, however, been Warriors' best batsman, and has rescued the side after an early collapse more than once.
Mushfiqur Rahim has been among the tidiest wicketkeepers in the tournament, and has contributed with the bat as well. He missed the final round-robin game through injury but the Nagas will be hoping he is fit to play on Wednesday.
Nagenahira Nagas: (probable) 1 Imran Nazir, 2 Ahmed Shehzad/ Udara Jayasundera, 3 Travis Birt, 4 Angelo Mathews (capt), 5 TM Sampath (wk)/Musfiqur Rahim (wk), 6 Colin de Grandhomme, 7 Angelo Perera, 8 Suraj Randiv, 9 Shaminda Eranga, 10 Kanishka Alvitigala, 11 Ajantha Mendis
In addition to the Pakistan players, the Warriors have also lost Scott Styris to the Friends Life Twenty20 competition in England, and if he does not return in time, the Warriors face the uncomfortable situation of only having two overseas players to field in the semi-final.
Kandurata Warriors: (probable) 1 Thilan Samaraweera, 2 Tharanga Paranavitana, 3 Sanath Jayasuriya (capt), 4 Chris Lynn, 5 Scott Styris/ Jeevantha Kulatunga, 6 Thisara Perera, 7 Kaushal Silva (wk), 8 Kaushal Lokuarachchi, 9 John Hastings, 10 Kosala Kulasekara, 11 Chanaka Welegedara
"We don't have big name players, but we play as a team and I think that's our biggest strength. We've proven that we can take on teams with the big players."
Angelo Mathews on the key to the Nagas' success
"I've worked hard to improve my power and my range of scoring shots, so it's good to see it paying off."
Thilan Samaraweera on his hitherto unsuspected repertoire of strokes
Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri LankaFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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