Ajantha Mendis takes 11 in innings win for Army
Army Sports Club strengthened their position atop the Group A ladder, while Tamil Union and Sinhalese Sports Club moved to the top of the Group B table, after the third round of the Premier League Tournament. Army recorded their second innings victory on-the-trot ,against the Lankan Cricket Club, while SSC took first innings points in their clash with NCC. Tamil Union won by eight wickets for the third time, defeating Galle Cricket Club at the Galle International Stadium. Most of Sri Lanka's Test cricketers had returned to their club teams for this round. Six of the ten matches yielded outright results.
Army's spin duo have been in outstanding form during the tournament, and they were once again the architects of victory, sharing all but one of the 20 wickets between them in Panagoda. Ajantha Mendis was named in Sri Lanka's preliminary Test squad for the Bangladesh series this week, and he celebrated by taking seven first innings wickets for 67, to dismiss Lankan Cricket Club for 200, after they chose to bat first. Only Lakshan Edirisinghe passed fifty for Army, but enough batsmen got starts to hand them a 131-run lead, before they unleashed the spinners on the opposition again. It was legspinner Seekkuge Prasanna's turn to get a big haul in the second innings, as he took 6 for 36 while Mendis got 4 for 38. Mendis is now the top wicket-taker in the league, and Prasanna is third. LCC fell for 107, and lost by an innings and 24 runs.
The big clash of round three was between Sinhalese Sports Club and Nondescripts Cricket Club at the SSC ground, and first innings tons from Dimuth Karunaratne and Thilan Samaraweera helped SSC to 511, after being sent in, before Sachithra Senanayake secured first innings points with the ball. Karunaratne and Samaraweera both made their second first-class centuries in the season, but while Karunaratne is tuning up for the Bangladesh series, in which he is almost guaranteed to open for Sri Lanka, Samaraweera's 136-ball 111 came in a week when he was dropped from Sri Lanka's Test side. Senanayake then took four wickets, and Dhammika Prasad took three, as the hosts dismissed NCC for 232, with Dinesh Chandimal being the only batsman to put up significant resistance, making 89. SSC opted not to enforce the follow on and made 232 in the third innings, which effectively made an outright victory impossible. Offspinner Tharindu Kaushal was also picked for Sri Lanka last week, and had arrived at SSC with an average under 9. But his incredible first-class figures were dented slightly in his third match, as he collected 5 for 154.
Sri Lanka's selectors will be pleased at the nature of Tamil Union's victory over Galle Cricket Club in Galle, as the players they have chosen for the Bangladesh series were largely responsible for the result, at the venue at which they will play their first Test, in three weeks. Suranga Lakmal nabbed five wickets in the first innings and Shaminda Eranga took three, as Tamil Union skittled Galle for 137, before Ashen Silva and Jeevan Mendis - who have both been picked in the Test squad for the first time - made the only first innings fifties in seemingly difficult batting conditions. If it's Galle, it usually means a Rangana Herath five-wicket haul, and he obliged with 5 for 20 in the second innings, while Eranga took four more. Galle were dismissed for 131 in the second dig, and Tamil Union waltzed to victory, having been in the lead by 89 after the first innings.
Panadura Sports Club defeated Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club by 101 runs in a big group A clash in Panadura, thanks largely to the efforts of Prasanna Jayawardene, Dilruwan Perera and Chamara Silva. Jayawardene is still recovering from the broken thumb he suffered during the Boxing Day Test, and has not resumed keeping wickets, but held Panadura's first innings together, with a 94-ball 77. In response to the hosts' 214, Bloomfield could only score 131 as Perera and Chathura Peiris took seven wickets between them. An unbeaten 104 from 105 balls from Chamara Silva then made the match safe for Panadura, who declared at 285 for 5 in the second dig, then dismissed the opposition 102 runs from their target. Suraj Randiv took three wickets in each innings for Bloomfield, and made a fifty as well, but he travelled at over five an over.
Elsewhere, a 333-run opening stand between Udara Jayasundera and Ian Daniel helped Ragama Cricket Club take first innings points in their match against Burgher Recreation Club in Colombo. Jayasundera made 222 and Daniel 172, after BRC had made 367 in their first innings. Malinga Bandara took 6 for 90 for Ragama in the first innings.
Another exceptional partnership helped Moors defeat the Colts Cricket Club by six wickets, after the Colts seemed to be heading towards victory. Isham Ghouse and Janaka Gunaratne put on an unconquered 260 together in the fourth innings, after their side had slipped to 53 for 4 in pursuit of 308. Neither team had managed 150 in the first innings, though Colts took a handy 46-run lead, but the pitch settled down as the match wore on, making the steep fourth-innings chase possible. Akila Dananjaya bowled 16 overs in the match for Colts and took 2 for 61. Dilhara Lokuhettige, Sajeewa Weerakoon and Chaturanga de Silva all took five wicket hauls.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here