It’s no wonder the Victorian 2nd XI called upon Ruwantha Kellepotha several weeks ago.
The star all-rounder was pivotal with both bat and ball as Sri Lanka trumped Australia by 27 runs in their decisive game five clash.
With both teams tied on points heading into the game, with one win and one loss apiece, the result sees Sri Lanka progress to the Final while Australia’s tournament comes to an end.
Sri Lanka would finish with the convincing total of 148 from 19.5 overs, but yet another rocky start in the powerplay saw them battling at 3-15 early on.
Kellepotha (57 off 41 balls) and Nilochana Perera (57 off 43) superbly revived the innings which was teetering on the verge of collapse however, consolidating cautiously before expanding their game when the time was right.
The pair were a pleasure to watch, expertly fusing technical strokeplay with quick scoring as they piled on the bulk of their sides runs.
Both would fall to the bowling of left-arm orthodox Isaiah Jassal, caught on the boundary after going one shot too many.
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Australia fought back exceptionally to close out the innings, taking 5-7 off the last two overs to scupper Sri Lanka’s momentum and go into the break level pegging.
Another left-arm orthodox in Jarryd Straker (3-21 off 2.5 overs) was crucial in the fightback, taking a final over hattrick to bowl Sri Lanka out with one ball to spare.
Speaking on Sri Lanka’s innings post-game, Australia XI captain Matt Chasemore spoke glowingly of Kellepotha’s innings.
“Rooey’s a class player, I think his first drive was a big off-drive straight out of the middle, and I thought ‘look, he’ll be dangerous’,” said Chasemore.
“He gave us chances as well, some of those might’ve gone to hand, but he played out of his skin today and it’s a credit to him.
“We fought as hard as we could and to be honest, I thought they were probably 20 (runs) short of what they should’ve got.”
Australia faltered in response to the target of 148, finishing with 6-121 as Sri Lanka defended brilliantly.
Kalhan Sineth (2-26 off 4) castled Jordan Hammond early to get the Sri Lankans off to a strong start, but Australia fought back to race to 1-38 at the close of the powerplay.
Kellepotha’s (1-14 off 4) leg-spin claimed the crucial wicket of former Berwick teammate Lachlan Brown (12 off 22) in the eighth over, and his restrictive bowling was vital throughout, swinging the game back in Sri Lanka’s favour.
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Chasemore, who would finish with a 50-ball 64, had survived a watershed moment when on 20 early in his innings, having been caught on the boundary before the fielder fatefully stepped on the rope to give him a maximum.
He and Jarrad Dowling (21 off 28) constructed a valiant partnership through the middle overs, but the required run rate continued to climb.
Dowling was stumped off the bowling of Sineth in the 17th over, and soon after Australia would need 40 runs off the final two overs.
Any slim hopes Australia had of surging to victory lay squarely on the shouders of Chasemore, but Praveen Dilanka clattered the dangerman’s stumps with the very next ball to sink the final nail into Australia’s coffin.
Reflecting on his side’s batting effort, Chasemore conceded the middle overs were decisive.
“We chewed up a lot of dots through the middle there, although it was good to get some (runs) I’m a little bit disappointed,” said Chasemore.
“I’ve never played this game for me, it’s always been about my teammates and clubs.
“Disappointing but an unbelievable week, we’ve had so much fun.”