Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
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Dambulla Viiking 174 for 6 (Shinwari 46*, Perera 45) beat Galle Gladiators 168 for 7 (Gunathilaka 46) by four wickets
How the match played out
Galle Gladiators had their moments in this one. In fact, perhaps they will wonder how they managed to lose it from such positions of strength. Thanks to a rollicking 31 off 18 from Bhanuka Rajapaksa and the by-now habitual excellence from Danushka Gunathilaka, the Gladiators were 73 for 1 at the end of their Powerplay. But then the game slipped.
At one stage, the Gladiators seemed headed for 190, before Viiking's spinners Ramesh Mendis and Samit Patel tied them down. Mendis took two vital wickets - those of opposition captain Rajapaksa, whom he had caught at cover, and the dangerous Azam Khan, whom he trapped lbw next ball.
The Viiking's captain Dasun Shanaka also soon made his presence felt with the ball, having Gladiators' best batsman Gunathilaka caught behind for 46 off 31 in the 10th over. From there, the Viiking clawed themselves back into the game, taking regular wickets and allowing only 34 runs off the last four overs, which were bowled by Shanaka and Kasun Rajitha, who claimed his team's best figures of 2 for 31.
Although they made only 168 for 7, the Gladiators seemed to be in control during much of the chase, too. The Viiking lost two wickets inside the first four overs, and were marginally under the required run rate at the end of the Powerplay. By the end of the 13th over, the required rate had crept up to almost 11.3, and the Viiking seemed in real trouble. All the Gladiators needed to do was close out the game.
But they couldn't. They let catches from Samiullah Shinwari - who played the definitive innings of the match - slip through their fingers at least twice. Shinwari would punish these errors, swinging from the hip with virtually no foot movement to plunder 46 not out off 20 balls, hitting two sixes and six fours. The Viiking tied the game with three balls to spare, and Shinwari won it with a six over deep square leg off the last ball, which had been a full toss.
Stars of the day
Gunathilaka is a stare almost every time he appears in this tournament, and this innings was no exception. His 46 off 31 included eight fours, and he continues to be the LPL's most productive batsman by a distance.
Angelo Perera laid the groundwork for the Viiking's win with 45 off 31, before Shinwari finished fast. The Gladiators' bowling was led by Dhananjaya Lakshan, who took the vital wickets of Niroshan Dickwella, who was batting well, and Shanaka, who has been the Viiking's most prolific batsman in the league.
When Shinwari arrived at the crease, the Viiking neeeded 65 off 33 balls. He went on to bash two sixes and six fours, during an innings in which he struck at 230. Two fairly straightforward catches went down off his bowling, and he took the match to the last ball even though he could have settled it earlier. But before this late burst, the Gladiators seemed headed for victory.
Where does this leave the teams?
The Viiking leap ahead of Jaffna Stallions to become league leaders, with 11 points. The narrowness of the Gladiators' loss, meanwhile, means that Thursday's match against Kandy Tuskers will effectively be a quarter-final. As their net run-rate remains higher than that of the the Tuskers, the Gladiators will likely go through to the semi-finals if they win.
Over 20 • DV 174/6Viiking won by 4 wickets (with 0 balls remaining)
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