The two times champions Jaffna will enter this tournament hoping to make it three in a row and in this article, we shall see if they have got the team to do it.
As we did with the previous analysis, we will analyze Jaffna’s squad by looking at their powerplay, middle-over, and death-over batting, while with the ball, will look at their options during powerplay and at the death, the variations they have, and their fifth bowling option.
Since Theesan Vithushan and Theivendiram Dinoshan are rookies and little is known about them, we will not consider them in this analysis.
Jaffna’s powerplay batting is a bit of a conundrum as one of their best batsmen is also their nemesis during the powerplay. Avishka Fernando becomes a monster once he is settled but while he tries to settle down, his worm just ambles along. Jaffna will have no option but to open with him since he needs that time, which means Rahmanullah Gurbaz will have to tide him over until he gets set.
This can be frustrating considering that an elite powerplay enforcer like Tom Kohler-Cadmore will have to be pushed to number 3. However, Jaffna do not have any other option, and pushing Avishka down the order to salvage the powerplay overs would mean completely wasting him, as Sri Lanka learned the hard way during the World Cup in 2021.
However, Rahmanullah Gurbaz is an exceptional powerplay basher and he has an incredible strike rate against all types of bowling. Jaffna will have to solely rely on him to get off to fast starts. Avishka is vulnerable to spin and both batters being right-handers means that we may see a lot of slow left-arm spin during the powerplay. I will give Jaffna’s powerplay batting a rating of 40 out of 100.
Jaffna do not have an established left-handed enforcer against spin during the middle overs, but they have two players with great potential in Ashan Randika and Nipun Dhananjaya. Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s record against spin, save for wrist spin, is awe-inspiring and he along with Dhananjaya de Silva can be the propellers against spin during the middle overs. Avishka Fernando is expected to see through the powerplay and start to accelerate during the middle overs, and he along with Tom Kohler-Cadmore provide pace-hitting options during the middle overs. Jaffna also have the option of sending Thisara Perera up the order as an enforcer against spin, so this makes Jaffna’s middle-over batting a very formidable one. I will rate it 83 out of 100.
Jaffna will have to choose one of James Neesham and James Fuller to bat at 7 with the former being a better batsman and the latter being a better bowler. Since I will have Suminda Lakshan bat at 8 and he does not have the power to be successful in T20s, I would want the better batsman to bat at number 7. Neesham, although has struggled against back-of-the-length deliveries and short-pitch bowling, is a reliable striker of slot balls. He along with Thisara Perera should provide good power-hitting options at the death.
Both Thisara Perera and James Neesham also have a good record against wrist spin but both of them have been found wanting against off-spin. So, teams have the option of bowling off-spin in the first half of the death overs against these two.
Overall, I will rate Jaffna’s death-over batting 69 out of 100.
Jaffna’s bowling is light on fast bowling, but they have the best spin-bowling attack in the tournament. Dilshan Madushanka has the ability to swing the ball at pace while he showed he can be reliable at the death in the recent Asia Cup. Maheesh Theekshana has done well during the powerplay and has been proven to be a tough bowler to negotiate on turning pitches. Jaffna have also roped in Waqar Salamkheil, who is a fast left-arm wrist spinner. In addition, Jaffna also have Suminda Lakshan, who was the third-highest wicket-taker in the SLC Invitational T20 League this year, in their ranks. And let’s not forget that Jaffna also have the steady off-spin of Dhananjaya de Silva at their disposal.
Jaffna might pick just one of the wrist spinners and play one of Asitha Fernando or Binura Fernando to strengthen their pace bowling. However, with Dilshan already in the team, playing another left-arm pace bowler does not make sense and Asitha Fernando does not offer anything that Thisara Perera and James Neesham don’t. So, I will expect Jaffna to go with their strength and this will hold them in good stead when the tournament moves to Colombo.
Jaffna also have a slow left armer in Dunith Wellalage, but his slow pace and inaccuracy can be a recipe for disaster at this level. So, Jaffna are better off going without a slow left armer given the quality of the option they have.
Jaffna will also have a problem at the death as one of Perera or Neesham will have to partner Dilshan. However, the best way to save runs at the death for Jaffna will be to pick up wickets during the middle overs with their two wrist spinners.
The strong spin attack and the availability of an express left-arm pacer mean that I give Jaffna’s bowling a rating of 64 out of 100.
Jaffna’s batting is strengthened by Avishka Fernando, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, and Thisara Perera while Maheesh Theekshana, Suminda Lakshan, Waqar Salamkheil, and Dilshan Madushanka make their bowling one of the strongest in the tournament. I will give Jaffna an overall rating of 64 out of 100.
My preferred starting XI:
Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Avishka Fernando, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Ashan Randika/Nipun Dhananjaya, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, James Neesham/James Fuller, Suminda Lakshan, Waqar Salamkheil, Maheesh Theekshana, Dilshan Madushanka