Colombo Kings 205 for 4 (Evans 53, Qais 50*) beat Dambulla Viikings 203 for 3 (Perera 74*, Dickwella 65) by six wickets
How the match played out
Who needs Andre Russell when you have Qais Ahmad?
Colombo Kings made an outstanding start to a chase of 204 in their near-dead rubber v Dambulla Viiking, with the in-form Laurie Evans plundering 53 off 24 to propel Kings to 72 for 1 off 6.5 overs. But when he was forced to retire hurt with what appeared to be an abdominal strain, Kings lost substantial momentum. They lost Lahiru Udara and Daniel Bell-Drummond in consecutive overs, and the run rate slowed as new batsmen set about establishing themselves through the middle overs. By the end of the 11th, the required rate had climbed to 11.44.
Ashan Priyanjan, though, kept Kings ticking through that middle period, picking up frequent legside boundaries to keep the asking rate manageable. But with Russell having been rested for this game, and Angelo Mathews in woeful batting form this tournament, Kings still needed someone to provide the big final push.
Enter Qais at No.7 at the beginning of the 14th over. He played himself in, taking only five runs off his first six deliveries, before hitting two confident consecutive fours off Malinda Pushpakumara in the 16th over. Kings needed 30 off the last 14 balls, so it looked like it was going down to the wire, but Qais made it a cakewalk. He would go on hit five sixes off the seven balls that followed, making sure he never lost the strike.
It was devastating hitting. Lahiru Kumara was launched back into the sightscreen, and next over, Anwar Ali was brutalised - a six over long off, and two in the wide long-on/cow corner region coming off his next three deliveries. There was a yorker dot-ball in between, but the next ball was back-of-a-length, and that disappeared a distance beyond the deep square leg fence to end the match. Kings won with seven balls to spare. That six also took Qais to his first ever 50 in senior competitive cricket. It had come off 22 balls.
Stars of the day
Qais had also been outstanding with the ball, earlier, taking two wickets for 23 runs, as Viiking racked up what seemed like an imposing 203 for 3. Priyanjan, the batsman who kept Kings in the hunt until Qais' finishing fireworks, made 47 not out off 24. For Viiking, Niroshan Dickwella and Angelo Perera had both struck half-centuries, the latter playing the more impressive innings, making 74 off 41.
Where does this leave the teams?
This final game of the LPL league stage didn't really matter much. Viiking and Kings are both through. Kings, though, will now top the table and play Galle Gladiators who sneaked into the semi-final with just two victories in the league stage. That semi-final is the first one up, on Sunday. Viiking will play Jaffna Stallions in the second semi, on Monday.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf