Galle Gladiators and Dambulla Viiking meet for the 12th match of LPL 2020 from two contrasting campaigns. While the Viiking side has registered 3 wins in their 4 games, Gladiators are yet to open their account.
Gladiators were trounced in their last game by 5 wickets against the Jaffna Stallions – their 4th consecutive loss. Whereas, Dasun Shanaka-led Viiking were on the other side of the ledger against Kandy Tuskers, identically hammering them with 5 wickets.
This will be the first time these two sides will cross paths in the LPL 2020. While Gladiators will look to open a clean slate against the new opponents, Viiking, who will be eager to continue the winning momentum.
This has made their already tumbling campaign even more difficult. Their batting did look slightly improved in the last game. However, the batsmen failed to capitalize on the whirlwind start by Danushka Gunathilaka and Ahsan Ali against the Stallions bowling lineup.
Afridi was certainly missed when Gladiators could only manage 17 runs of their last three overs to end with a below-par score of 170-6.
Their bowling didn’t learn from the opposition either. Stallions’ Avishka Fernando struck for the second time in LPL 2020 with his ebullient 84 off 59 balls and Viiking’s bowlers looked in all sorts against him.
Gunathilaka has been the only silver lining for the Gladiators in LPL 2020 with his 206 runs in 4 innings being the highest in the tournament so far. Much to the chagrin of Gladiators’ fans in LPL 2020, every other batsman except Afridi and Gunathilaka has not even crossed 35 runs in the four games.
🔥 @danushka_70 🔥
😎 Leading the @LPLT20
— GalleGladiators (@GalleGladiator) December 4, 2020
Gladiators will expect significant contributions from the likes of Azam Khan and Shehan Jayasuriya. But most importantly, the new captain Bhanuka Rajapaksa will have to fire in this game. Rajapaksa has been simply disappointing with scores of 21, 12 and 1 in the three innings he has played till now.
Their bowling has been even more torrid. Spinners have been too expensive and haven’t managed to pull the games back even after taking wickets. Mohammed Amir has also failed to lead the attack since he was blasted off for 46 runs in his two overs by Andre Russel in the 4th game of LPL 2020.
For Gladiators to have any chance against the Viiking juggernaut, they will need to hunt as a unit with Rajapaksa and Amir on the vanguard.
— Dambulla Viiking (@ViikingDambulla) December 4, 2020
Dambulla Viiking has been one of the best sides of LPL 2020 who have punched way above their weight. Their only defeat has come at the hands of table-toppers Stallions in their second game of LPL 2020. Viiking has done well to recover from the blip with back to back victories.
Their bowling lineup put up its best foot forward against Colombo Kings. The attack led by the ever-thrifty Malinda Pushpakumara and Kasun Rajitha defended 175 by over 28 runs by bundling the Kings for 147.
The Viiking bowlers bettered the show against the Tuskers as they proved too hot to handle for a side including Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis. Once again, Pushpakumara and Rajitha chipped in with two wickets each to fetter the run chase.
An instrumental role was also played by Angelo Perera with his anchoring 67(49).
The bowlers doing the heavy lifting till now has veiled the cracks in the Viiking batting lineup. The biggest of these pertain to the opening partnership which hasn’t crossed 25 runs since their first game. In a couple of games mentioned above, Viiking lost their first wicket for 3 and 4 runs respectively.
Captain Shanaka has been in form of his life and is currently the second-highest run-scorer in LPL 2020. Batting at the demanding number 5 position, Shanaka has restricted collapses in every game till now. By scoring no less than 30 runs in every game, Shanaka has been lifting his team to defendable targets.
For Dambulla Viiking to ride the momentum, they will need consistent performances from either side of the skipper. On top of this list will be the seasoned Sri Lankans Niroshan Dickwella and Upul Tharanga.
Both sides are not much different on paper but Afridi’s absence has led a huge hole in the Gladiators’ camp. On the flip side, Shanaka leading from the front has kept the Viiking’s morale high even without an outright win.
The distraught Galle Gladiators can certainly ping some surprises which could expose some of the Viiking’s weaknesses. However, the latter is currently too balanced and settled to be in much trouble.
Prediction: Dambulla Viiking to win