Avishka Fernando’s first century of the LPL season, along with the tournament’s second 200-plus score, pushed the Jaffna Kings to a 23-run victory over the Dambulla Giants, securing a spot in Thursday’s final against the Galle Gladiators. Chamika Karunaratne’s late attack was responsible for the Giants’ narrow defeat. Karunaratne finished undefeated on 75 off 47 deliveries, a knock that will leave them wondering what may have been.

The Giants were inefficient with both bat and ball at crucial moments. Too many of Dambulla’s batters failed to capitalise on promising starts after being handed a mammoth goal of 211. Phil Salt, the LPL’s leading run-scorer, looked dangerous but top-edged a short, slightly slower one from Suranga Lakmal; Niroshan Dickwella looked like he was about to do some serious damage but then whipped out a reverse sweep to no avail; and Najbullah Zadran had tonked two sixes in his 15-ball 25, before top-edging a heave over cover. Karunaratne’s knock could have been a match-winning one if any of them had stayed a bit longer.

Then there were a slew of misfields in the field, and Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who would go on to destroy the Dambulla bowlers en route to a 40-ball 70, was dropped twice, once on 11 and then on 32. He and Avishka would put up a 122-run opening stand, and the two would account for 170 of the Kings’ 210 runs.

Even on a Sooriyawewa surface where the ball came off the bat smoothly – a far cry from the nasty turners seen in Colombo during the group stages – a score of more than 200 was well over par. Dambulla finally perished as a result of this, as well as a failure to hold on to the opportunities they did create.