Chilaw Marians, NCC, SCC and Colts reach semis
Three of the four teams that qualified for the semi-finals last season have made it to the last four of the 2010-11 Premier Limited Over Tournament Tier A.
Three wins and two losses from five games was not sufficient to propel defending champions Tamil Union and Athletic Club to the top two places in their group and they lost out to Nondescripts Cricket Club who qualified for the semi-finals from Group A along with last season's runner-up Chilaw Marians Cricket Club. From the other group, Singhalese Sports Club and Colts Cricket Club went through.
Aravinda de Silva, Sri Lanka's chairman of selectors, had stated, when the 30 probables for the World Cup were picked, that the selectors would give more weightage to performances against international sides rather than in domestic tournaments. But it will be hard to ignore some notable batting performances by some of the men in the 30-man squad.
Former captain Mahela Jayawardene set the pace with a blistering 163 not out off 138 balls as SSC chased down Bloomfield's tall score of 285 to win by eight wickets with 20 balls to spare at the SSC in Colombo. In that game, Jayawardene opened the batting and played freely, displaying a wide array of shots, reaching the boundary on 22 occasions and clearing it twice. His score remains the highest in the competition for the season. Although Jayawardene is likely to fill a middle-order slot during the World Cup, his form as opener gives the selectors the option of also using him as a stop-gap opener if the need arises.
Sri Lanka opener Upul Tharanga also showed pleasing form, scoring a well-paced 118 in NCC's 106-run win over Badureliya CC at the NCC ground in Colombo. His opening partner in the Sri Lanka side, Tillakaratne Dilshan, was also in outstanding form after switching clubs from Bloomfield to Tamil Union. Dilshan made back to back hundreds against Lankan CC at the P Sara Oval in Colombo, and Badureliya CC at the same ground. The latter innings saw him reach three figures off just 60 balls.
Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara guided unbeaten NCC to their fifth successive win with a 133 off 140 balls against Lankan CC at the NCC ground. Chamara Kapugedera, who is fighting for a middle-order slot in the World Cup, struck a timely 108 off 120 balls for his new club NCC against Chilaw Marians, also at the NCC ground. Chamara Silva (Bloomfield) and Thilan Samaraweera (SSC), both in contention for middle-order places, were also in good form for their respective clubs.
The biggest disappointment was the form of Sanath Jayasuriya, who at the age of 41 was still making an attempt to play in his last World Cup. Jayasuriya played a key role in Sri Lanka winning the World Cup in 1996, but he was only a pale shadow of his former self in the tournament, scoring a scrappy 88 runs from four matches for Bloomfield at an average of 22. His only notable contribution with the bat was a half-century off 89 balls against SSC at the SSC in Colombo. However, with his left -arm spin he picked up six wickets at a tidy cost of 19.50 and an economy rate of 3.9, but it was not enough for Bloomfield to make it to the last four of the competition.
Another former Sri Lanka Test cricketer pressing for a place in the World Cup squad, Chaminda Vaas, kept his hopes alive by steering Colts into the semi-finals with seven wickets. He was, however, outshone by 21-year-old fast-bowling allrounder Thisara Perera, who took ten wickets at 12.30 and performed well with the bat making 112 runs with a top score of 59.
At the end of the preliminary round matches former Sri Lanka one-day opener Mahela Udawatte of Chilaw Marians finished as the leading run getter accumulating 312 runs and left-arm spinner Sachith Pathirana the top wicket-taker with 12 wickets.
In the Premier Limited Over Tournament Tier B, Army SC, spearheaded by Sri Lanka spinner Ajantha Mendis, who took 16 wickets at 7.62, qualified for the semi-finals along with Police SC, Burgher RC and Moors SC. Mendis formed an ideal combination with his spin partner in the Army side, Seekuge Prasanna, who took 10 wickets at 8.20.