Asia Lions openers Tharanga, Dilshan’s breezy fifties blow away World Giants to emerge as LLC Masters champs

 Asia Lions openers Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan cracked breezy half-centuries to blow away the World Giants and emerge as the new champions of the Legends League Cricket (LLC) Masters.

In the final held at the Asian Town Cricket Stadium, Asia Lions, cheered by a packed stadium, scored an emphatic seven-wicket victory with 23 balls to spare.

Tharanga and Dilshan whipped the World Giants attack to put on 115 runs-opening partnership in 9.6 overs. Dilshan cracked 58 off 42 balls with eight boundaries while Tharanga scored 57 off 28 balls with five boundaries and three sixes. Tharanga, who had also scored a 50 against India Maharajas to take Asia Lions into the final, was adjudged the Player of the Series.

Earlier, Asia Lions restricted World Giants to 147 for 4 despite Jacques Kallis’ unbeaten 78 runs off 54 balls with five boundaries and three sixes. Kallis also had a 92 runs partnership in 11.1 overs for the fourth wicket with Ross Taylor, who hit 32 off 33 balls with three boundaries.

World Giants had won the toss and elected to bat with Lendl Simmons and Morne van Wyk opening the innings. Asia Lions’ left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak opened the bowling giving away just three runs. Left-arm pacer Sohail Tanvir, as usual, generated good pace off the wicket and the first boundary of the final came from Simmons, who edged through the gap in the slip region. Razzak struck with the third ball of the third over to dismiss van Wyk, who, while going for a cut, inside-edged it onto his wicket for a duck. Razzak also took the valuable wicket of skipper Shane Watson with the fifth delivery trapping him leg-before through an arm ball for a duck.

Tanvir bowled a tighter fourth over giving away just two runs. The first six of the final from Simmons was a straight hit off Razzak. Simmons, going for a quick single, was brilliantly run out by bowler Tanvir off a direct hit to the bowler’s end. Kallis picked his first boundary off Tanvir past extra cover. At the end of the powerplay, World Giants were 31 for 3.

Kallis and Ross Taylor scored singles off Mohammad Hafeez’s seventh over. Afridi, who introduced himself for the eighth over, gave away only five runs. Razzak bowled his final over brilliantly beating Kallis repeatedly, and giving away just two runs. When Afridi too bowled a tight tenth over for five runs, World Giants could muster only 49 for 3 at the halfway mark.

Although Kallis slog-swept Afridi for a six in the 12th over, runs were still hard to come. Taylor and Kallis recorded their 50-run partnership in 7.3 overs when Kallis hit Thisara Perera for a boundary to fine leg.

In the 15th over, Kallis and Taylor took one boundary each off Afridi. World Giants were still ten runs short of the 100-run mark. Kallis reached his half-century in 41 balls lifting Perera for a six to mid-wicket. Perera struck with the third ball of the 17th over to clean bowl Taylor for 32. The pair’s 92 runs in 11.1 overs literally lifted World Giants to a challenging total.

Paul Collingwood, who joined Kallis, was retired hurt for 6. Kallis then hit an effortless six to mid-wicket off Tanvir in the 19th over. In the last over bowled by Udana, Kallis hit two consecutive boundaries off the second and third deliveries to remain unconquered on 78.

Chasing the target, Asia Lions’ consistent openers Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan began to stroke smoothly. Dilshan hit Samit Patel’s second and third deliveries for boundaries while Tharanga hit the fifth ball for a six over long-on. They took 16 runs off the first over. In the second over, Tharanga pulled Brett Lee for a boundary. World Giants then replaced the costly Patel with Ricardo Powell. Tharanga chopped Powell to the third man for a boundary. Tino Best, who was introduced for the fourth over, was also hit by Dilshan through the covers for a boundary. The pair recorded their 50 runs partnership in 4.5 overs with Tharanga hitting Powell for a six.

Tharanga smashed Powell’s last ball of the fifth over too for a six to long-on. Dilshan greeted Chris Mpofu with two consecutive boundaries in the sixth over and also scored another off the fourth ball to pile up 72 runs from the powerplay.

Hoping to stop the run flow, World Giants introduced Monty Panesar. He too was not spared by Dilsan who drove him through extra cover for another boundary and took 13 runs off the over. Desperately looking for a breakthrough, Brett Lee was introduced for the eighth over. There was no impact of the bowling change. In fact, Lee was elegantly pulled for a boundary by Tharanga. In the ninth over, Tharanga reached his half-century pulling Best for a boundary. He had already hit four boundaries and three sixes. The 100-run partnership too came in 8.3 overs.

Asia Lions took the game totally away from World Giants with Dilshan too smashing Best for a boundary to mid-wicket and reaching his half-century in 32 balls with eight boundaries. The 115 runs partnership ended when Lee had Tharanga clean bowled for 57.

Asia Lions needed only 33 runs in the last ten overs. Dilshan was bowled out by Samit Patel for 58 when only 16 runs were needed for the victory in 41 balls. Mohammad Hafeez and Misbah Ul Haq steered their team to victory remaining unbeaten with nine runs each.

Brief scores: World Giants 147 for 4 in 20 overs (Jacques Kallis 78n.o, Ross Taylor 32, Abdur Razzak 2 for 14); Asia Lions 148 for 3 in 16.1 overs (Upul Tharanga 57, Tillakaratne Dilshan 58)

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