Asela Gunaratne on top of the world

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The Man of the Moment Asela Gunaratne making heads turn at 31.

It required just two good knocks – both of them top drawer stuff against the Aussies to catch the attention of the cricket world… and unknown Asela Gunaratne is suddenly the most sought after cricketer today.

The good news is that Gunaratne had become a hot “buy” at the IPL auction held yesterday and was quickly snapped up by Mumbai Indians for Indian Rupees 30 lakhs. Gunaratne will be in the company of Sri Lanka’s top one-day fast bowler Lasith Malinga who also represents the same franchise. The only other Sri Lanka cricketer who was successful at yesterday’s auction was national captain Angelo Mathews who was purchased by Delhi Daredevils for Indian Rupees 2 crore. The tenth edition of IPL is slated to commence on April 5 with eight franchises in the running for the title.

Gunaratne is not a name that comes to mind when someone talks about potential big signings the IPL is renowned for but he beat some of his celebrated colleagues like Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella and Thisara Perera who all went unsold at the auction. At 31 years of age and just 17 international games under his belt, Gunaratne is a cricketer who has been pretty late for the party but nevertheless as the saying goes “it’s never too late”.

The right-hander had scored two consecutive match-winning fifties in the two T20Is against Australia. While his 37-ball 52 paved the way for a thrilling five-wicket victory in the first T20I at Melbourne, Gunaratne’s unbeaten 46-ball 84 in the second T20I at Geelong helped Sri Lanka to seal the three-match series 2-0. It was his exploits in the second T20I that arguably made him a prized-possession for any IPL franchise.

Coming to the crease at 37-3, Gunaratne looked to attack from the outset, taking a particular liking to the bowling of debutant Jhye Richardson as he kept the tourists in the run-chase despite a regular fall of wickets at the other end.

It was starting to look like mission impossible for Sri Lanka when the equation was 48 runs needed off 18 balls, but Gunaratne launched at exactly the right moment, striking two boundaries off the 18th over before launching at Moises Henriques with the next, blasting 22 runs in the form of three sixes and a four. Suddenly, Sri Lanka needed just 14 off 6, and boy, did the soldier from the Sri Lanka Army polish it off in style, finishing the match with a cracking four off the last delivery.

Gunaratne smashed five sixes and six fours in his breath-taking innings. Thanks to his blitz, Sri Lanka secured their third successive T20 series win in Australia.

Gets picked by Mumbai Indians for his maiden IPL

THE POWER OF GUNARATNE

Gunaratne’s amazing scoring rate for his unbeaten 84 not out was as follows:

•24•11•211•11114212•16412•1•11••2111•666•446144.

He scored 47 off his first 37 balls and 37 off his last 11.

Praise From The Greats

Amongst the top cricketers showering praise on Gunaratne’s fairytale knock were former Sri Lanka skippers Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Sanath Jayasuriya and Michael Vaughan of England.

Here are their comments and of others that appeared on Twitter:

Mahela Jayawardene:

Wow… Asela Gunaratne. Take a bow! Amazing finish. Well done boys.

Kumar Sangakkara:

The best t20 ever played by Sri Lanka. What a win. Take a bow Asela. Probably the best knock under pressure. So proud.

Sanath Jayasuriya:

Congrats Upul & boys on a stunning victory & series win. what an absolute beauty of an inns from Asela. You boys made me so happy

Michael Vaughan:

That was a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning ….. The Aussies being Walloped …. #AusvSL #Gunaratne is my new hero….

Dinesh Chandimal:

Very weldone team srilanka what a victory. Asela you beauty what an inning it was top class buddy

Thilan Samaraweera:

What a phenomenal innings!! Great knock Asela Gunarathna

Angelo Mathews:

What a knock !!absolute genius. One of the best knocks in t20. Asela u beauty. kapu played a good hand too. congratulations boys

Rangana Herath:

Very well played Asela, one of the great T20 innings, congratulations to the boys for winning the tournament

Farveez Maharoof:

What a win special mention to asela for the unbelievable knock.. congratulations all involved! Another series win in Australia

Dhammika Prasad:

Unbelievable knock from asela. Wat a game boys. Congrats. Wel done.

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