All-round Basnahira South qualify for final
It all points to a final between two high-scoring teams after Basnahira South ran up the highest total in the tournament, 720, to trounce Ruhuna by a massive margin of 449 runs at the Colombo Colts grounds and qualify to meet Basnahira North for the Inter-provincial four-day title beginning at the SSC on May 13.
In their run up to the final, Basnahira North had passed the 500-run mark on three of their four outings, which enabled them to post two wins and top the table. Basnahira South, despite losing two matches still managed to finish ahead of the other three contenders when they too managed to win two games out of four.
The final weekend in the league stage was interestingly poised with second placed Ruhuna and Basnahira North both with an opportunity to qualify for the final. But after being asked to bat first by Ruhuna captain Upul Tharanga, Basnahira South completely shut the door on their opponents by hammering 440 for 6 off 90 overs on the opening day and eventually reaching a massive 720, despite losing both openers for 21. They rubbed it in further by not enforcing the follow-on despite dismissing Ruhuna for 180 in the first innings and batting a second time and leaving their opponents an improbable target of 709. Needless to say, the task proved too overwhelming for Ruhuna, as they could reach only 259, falling to the legspinner Malinga Bandara, who picked up five wickets, increasing his tally to 22 and making him the leading wicket-taker in the competition. He produced an excellent all-round performance, scoring a maiden hundred in his 144th first-class match.
Basnahira South's total comprised four centurions and four big partnerships. Lahiru Thirimanne and Janaka Gunaratne helped them recover from their early loss by figuring in a double- century stand of 208 for the third wicket. Thirimanne went on to score his career-best innings of 148 off 243 balls. Gunaratne, the dominant partner in the stand, scored 130 off 131 balls. Thirimanne was then involved in another stand of 146 with Sri Lanka's Test wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene, who also went on to make a big hundred (155 off 220 balls). The run onslaught continued when Charith Jayampathi joined Jayawardene and paired off to add 115 for the seventh wicket and a further 148 for the eighth wicket with Bandara who scored 108 off 94 balls with five fours and seven sixes. Jayampathi was unfortunate to miss out on a hundred, when he edged a catch behind the wicket at 96. Ruhuna's batting was rocked by the pace of Amil Prasad and Suranga Lakmal, and after being set a stiff target the batting succumbed to the spin of Bandara with only Tharanga, the Sri Lankan opener, making any worthwhile contribution with 83 off 70 balls.
In a game which had no bearing on the league standings, Wayamba and Kandurata played out a listless draw at the Asgiriya Stadium, with rain washing out play on the final day. In reply to Wayamba's first innings of 258, Kandurata were strongly placed at 322 for 3, but bad weather prevented them from pushing further ahead for a win. The batting of Jeevan Mendis and Sanjaya Gangodawila was the feature of the innings. Both batsmen made unbeaten centuries, putting together an unfinished fourth-wicket partnership of 202.