Trinidad & Tobago added to their list of happy memories in Hyderabad by taking a big stride towards qualifying for the main draw of the Champions League Twenty20 with a hard-fought win over Ruhuna. They first stifled Ruhuna by taking the pace off the ball, keeping the Sri Lankan champions to 138, but the same tactic worked for Ruhuna as well, until Sherwin Ganga clobbered 39 off 15 deliveries to seal a low-scoring game.
Ganga forged the game-winning partnership with Darren Bravo to drag T&T out of the hole they were in after 14 overs, needing another 58 runs with half the team dismissed. Bravo had played a relatively measured innings, entering in the first over and shelving the Hollywood hits that consumed several of his team-mates. He finished unbeaten on 44, leaving Ganga to play the big hits.
After a bunch of boundaries from Ganga got T&T back on course, a tight over from the previously expensive TN Sampath made it a challenging 19 to win off the final two. T&T didn't even need one full over as medium-pacer Arosh Janoda was taken apart. Ganga powered the first ball to the long-on boundary where a jumping Sampath could only palm it over for six; he then scythed a high, wide full toss for four past point before rounding off the game by launching the ball over long-on for six more.
For a man who has only made 75 runs in his 26-match Twenty20 career, it was an unexpected effort from Ganga, who had been given only two costly overs in his primary role as offspinner. A similar surprise was the performance of Ruhuna's biggest name, Sanath Jayasuriya, who got the headlines in anticipation of some cavalier batting, only to fail as an opener but shine with his left-arm spin.
Ruhuna looked in big trouble after their stuttering batting performance - that included a record-equalling five run-outs - left them with a small total to defend but Jayasuriya and offspinner Janaka Gunaratne choked the runs and scooped the wickets as the batsmen went for the big shots. Two of T&T's most talented batsmen, Adrian Barath and Lendl Simmons, were dismissed in the first three overs but the third of the exciting youngsters Bravo made sure his side stayed in the game.
It had been another young batsman of whom much is expected, Dinesh Chandimal, who gave Ruhuna's total some respectability, with a battling half-century after more experienced men in the top order flopped. Jayasuriya fell to a Samuel Badree googly in the third over, and a couple of run-outs in the next over - one a misjudged call for two, and the other a result of the bowler Ravi Rampaul barging into the non-striker's path while looking to field - left Ruhuna at 26 for 3.
Chandimal muscled a six over long-off in the sixth over but with Gunaratne lacking fluency, there were no boundaries for the next four overs. The relief was evident on Chandimal's face when he tickled a leg side ball down to fine leg for four. The pair put on 67 to stabilise the innings, though the run-rate was only hovering around six.
The introduction of Simmons into the attack kickstarted the Ruhuna innings as Sampath and Kushal Perera plundered 19 in the penultimate over. At 137 for 6 and one over to go, Ruhuna looked set to meet their captain's toss-time target of a score of around 150 but Rampaul bowled a perfect final over to deny them. Some pinpoint yorkers and three run-outs ensured only one off the over and a smaller total than they would have hoped for.