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Ruhunu beat Leicestershire by 4 runs to keep Champions League hopes alive

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Sri Lankan T20 Champions Ruhunu Elevens kept their Champions League qualification hopes alive by picking up a narrow 4 run victory against the Leicestershire Foxes in the early kick-off in Hyderabad on Wednesday. Ruhunu were outplayed for large parts of the contest, but played the last 5 overs of each innings exceptionally well to steal the unlikeliest of wins. Both teams' innings were dominated by a particular player - Dinesh Chandimal for Ruhunu and veteran Abdul Razzaq for the Foxes - with little support on offer from the rest of the side. However, some lusty blows late in the Ruhunu innings from Shalika Karunanayake, and some exceptional bowling from Gunaratne and Silva, both of whom picked up 3 wickets each, saw the Lankan side stay alive in the competition at the expense of their English opposition.

Leicestershire, looking to bounce back from the thumping they received at the hands of Trinidad and Tobago yesterday, won the toss and opted to field first despite the trend right through this tournament being quite the opposite. Undoubtedly their decision was influenced by the heavy defeat their suffered and the need to improve their appalling net run rate. They were forced into making one change with skipper Matthew Hoggard dropping out due to injury, handing over the reins to Andrew McDonald. Hoggard's place in the side was taken by spinner Jigar Naik. Ruhunu also made a change to their side with Silva coming into the playing eleven.

Leicestershire made a good start to the match, reducing Ruhunu Eleven to 17/2 inside the first four overs with Harry Gurney removing both openers early. Sri Lankan veteran Sanath Jayasuriya was the first to go, bowled by a super slower ball from the left-arm seamer before Mahela Udawatte was beaten by another slower delivery, and offered the bowler a caught and bowled chance which he gleefully accepted.

Wicketkeeper batsman Dinesh Chandimal and Kushal Perera, who was bumped up the order after showing some big hitting skills in the last game, added 30 runs for the 3rd wicket before Pakistani allrounder Abdul Razzaq landed a double blow to remove Perera for 19 and new man in Janaka Gunaratne for 1. At 67/4 in the 10th over, Ruhunu were at best looking good for a par score of around 130, and the arrival of Milinda Siriwardana did little to boost the run rate.

Chandimal and Siriwardana continued to move the innings along, bringing up the 100 in the 15th over. In the following over Siriwardana was dismissed for 17, and that's when the fireworks began. Ruhunu added 40 runs in the last 3 overs with Shalika Karunanayake scoring 28 from 15 balls including 2 fours and 2 sixes. Chandimal did well at the other end to carry his bat through, providing stability to the innings and ended with 62. Ruhunu finished with a massive 160 on the board, leaving Leicestershire with slim hopes of making it to the next round, even if they were to pick up a win.

Abdul Razzaq was the surprise opening partner for Joshua Cobb as Leicestershire went about trying to attempt the impossible. Cobb smashed two sixes in a cameo 6-ball innings of 15 before he was dismissed by Arosh Janoda. Andrew McDonald came in at no.3, and added 42 with Razzaq in just 30 balls to keep the momentum headed the Foxes' way.

McDonald chipped in 24 from 15 before Alankara Silva struck twice in succession to keep Ruhunu alive in the match. Despite losing three wickets, the last being Will Jefferson, Leicestershire were ahead of the asking rate at the half-way stage of the innings.

Partnerships proved to be elusive in the second half of their innings, despite Abdul Razzaq looking after his side with a vital 68 from 46 balls. James Taylor, who had made a half-century yesterday, fell for a run a ball 11 and was soon followed back by Razzaq, caught behind off Gunaratne. Wicketkeeper Paul Nixon also fell in the 15th over and Ruhunu were just about hanging on in the contest.

Leicestershire needed 31 from 32 balls but with only 4 wickets in hand, were in danger of being bowled out. Wayne White struggled to a 7-ball 3, and boundaries proved elusive in the absence of recognized batsmen. The equation finally came down to 10 required from the last over, but Claude Henderson and Jigar Naik, were not the kind of batsman capable of taking the English side over the finish line. They managed just 5, ending with 156/8 in their 20 overs and consecutive defeats meant a premature end to their Champions League adventure.

For Ruhunu, the dream lives on as they await the result of the Kolkata Knight Riders - Somerset Sabres match to see whether their net run rate is good enough to squeeze into the main event as the best of the second placed sides in the qualifiers.


Ruhunu Eleven: S. Jayasuriya, M. Udawatte, D. Chandimal, K. Perera, T. Sampath, G. Perera, A. Silva, T. Siriwardana, J. Gunaratne, S. Karunanayake, J. Janoda.

Leicestershire Foxes: Joshua Cobb, Will Jefferson, Jacques Du Toit, James Taylor, Jigar Naik, Wayne White, Claude Henderson, Harry Gurney, Paul Nixon, Andrew Mcdonald and Abdul Razzaq.

Mini Scorecard:

Ruhunu Eleven 160/6 (20 overs, 8.00rpo)
D Chandimal 62* (51) H Gurney 3-33
S Karunanayake 28 (15) A Razzaq 2-30

Leicestershire Foxes 156/8 (20 overs, 7.80rpo)
A Razzaq 68 (46) J Gunaratne 3-27
A McDonald 24 (15) A Silva 3-29