Premier League Tournament 2012-13
Samaraweera, Mendis shine in opening round
Andrew Fidel Fernando
February 6, 2013
Each of the ten first round matches in Sri Lanka's Premier League Tournament produced results, with Nondescripts Cricket Club (NCC), Badureliya Sports Club, Moors Sports Club and Sri Lanka Army each winning by an innings, and taking the most points in either group. Panadura Cricket Club, Colts Cricket Club (CCC) and Bloomfield Cricket Club were the other winners in group A, while Sinhalese Sports Club, Tamil Union Cricket Club, and Colombo Cricket Club were the remaining victors in group B.
Three young cricketers earmarked for future national duty were particularly impressive for NCC, having also had successful limited-overs tournaments earlier in the season. Reigning schoolboy cricketer of the year, 19-year-old wicketkeeper batsman Niroshan Dickwella made a bruising 146 off 142 deliveries against Kurunegala Youth on debut, setting up a mammoth first-innings total of 560, after Kurunegala had been skittled for 60 at NCC. The innings featured 16 fours, and was his fourth century in all formats, in his first season of professional cricket. He had also scored a century in his last match, where he helped set up victory for Wayamba in the provincial List A final.
Offspinner Tharindu Kaushal, also 19, had been picked for the Test squad for New Zealand's tour of Sri Lanka, and he continued to show why he was being closely watched, as he took seven wickets for 78 in what was also his first-class debut. Already earning renown as a big turner of the ball, unafraid to throw it up, Kaushal had taken 22 wickets at 18.63 in List A cricket so far this season. Twenty-seven-year old left-arm spinner Sohan Boralessa was the most successful bowler in the match, taking 9 for 85.
Angelo Perera, 22, has been one of the most consistent batsmen in domestic cricket since 2009, and he began his 2013 first class season with a blistering hundred as well, clobbering 120 in 88 balls, having replaced Dickwella at the crease at 281 for four. Perera is chief among the young batsmen vying for a Test place in 2013, and if he can improve on a first-class average of 45.34 in the coming weeks against more skilful opposition than Kurunegala, the selectors may be forced to consider him for the Bangladesh tour of Sri Lanka in March. Providing his form doesn't dip, he should also earn a place in the A Team for their sole tour this year, in May and June.
On the other end of the age scale, Thilan Samaraweera also began the season with a hundred, as he begins making a case for retention in the Test side. Samaraweera was Sri Lanka's worst batsman during the Tests in Australia, and has the least secure place in the side, as the selectors look to give the likes of Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne a regular place. His first-innings 134 helped SSC set up a ten-wicket win over Chilaw Marians at SSC, after he put on 175 for the third wicket alongside Kaushal Silva, who top-scored with 141. Opener Dimuth Karunaratne also played himself into some form with a measured 70 from 116, after he had had a disappointing finish to the provincial List A tournament.
Tamil Union, who have the best domestic wicket in the country, at the P Sara Oval, is now the home of Sri Lanka's Test attack, with Rangana Herath, Shaminda Eranga and Chanaka Welegedara having recently moved to join Suranga Lakmal there. Unsurprisingly Tamil Union registered an eight-wicket victory over Sri Lanka Ports Authority that was achieved through a strong first-innings performance with the ball. Eranga's stunning 6 for 21 from 11.1 overs helped dismiss Ports Authority for 136 after Tamil Union had made 353, and the follow-on was enforced. Ports Authority batted with more resolve in the second dig, but were unable to mount sufficient resistance to escape with a draw, as Welegedara and Lakmal shared five wickets. Allrounder Sachithra Serasinghe, 25, who is also on the national selectors' radar, also made an impact for Tamil Union, making 65 in his only innings and taking 4 wickets for 81.
Nuwan Pradeep's first innings 5 for 71 helped set up Bloomfield's 171-run victory against Burgher Recreation Club at the Bloomfield ground. Bloomfield dismissed BRC for 184 to take a 52-run first-innings lead, as Suraj Randiv backed up Pradeep's five-for with two top-order scalps of his own. Randiv took three more wickets in the second innings, as he attempts to keep his place as Sri Lanka's second Test spinner after having had an indifferent home series against New Zealand.
Ajantha Mendis took 9 wickets for 47 for Army at Panagoda, having just returned from national duty in Australia. Legspinner Seekkuge Prasanna had been Army's prime-destroyer in the first innings, as he took 5 for 35, but Mendis bettered that haul on day two, taking 6 for 47 in the second innings, to end the match in two days. Akila Dananjaya also had a decent first class debut in Colts' win over Ragama Cricket Club, when he rebounded from 0 for 29 in five overs in the first innings, to take 4 for 44 in the second.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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