SSC edge ahead with remarkable win
Defending champions Sinhalese SC clung on to their lead in the Premier League Tier A competition with a stunning victory, coming from behind to beat Moors SC by eight wickets at Maitland Place. The game was described by SSC coach Avishka Gunawardene as a 'must win' if they were to retain the championship title.
SSC looked likely to concede the top position to Colombo Colts CC, who are not far behind after a four-wicket win against Bloomfield at Havelock Park. At the end of the penultimate day, SSC were in no position to win after being shot out for 126 in the first innings, trailing Moors by 275 runs. However, on a dramatic final day, SSC captured the remaining five Moors wickets for 31 runs, with offspinner Sachithra Senanayake taking 6 for 84. However, SSC's task - a target of 307 off 71 overs - was still difficult to achieve. Their chase was not helped by a poor start: they lost their first two wickets for 25. However, captain Tharanga Paranavitana and Sri Lanka Test batsman Thilan Samaraweera came together for a massive match-winning partnership of 283 and steered their team home.
"In the end, we won comfortably with nearly 15 overs to spare," said Gunawardene, the former Sri Lanka opening batsman. "We had to score those runs in two sessions and it was not easy. But knowing the history of the SSC track, once you get settled, you have a very good chance of making runs. That is what Thilan and Tharanga did." Both batsmen completed unbeaten centuries - Samaraweera finished on 154 and in the process completed 10,000 runs in first-class cricket, and Paranavitana ended with 123, his second hundred in successive matches. The win kept SSC seven points ahead of Colts, who still have a game to play.
The architect of Colts' two-day victory was left-arm spinner Sajeewa Weerakoon who became the first bowler this season to take 12 wickets in the match. His 12 for 70 on an under-prepared pitch (including a career best 7 for 40 in the second innings) helped rout Bloomfield for 159 and 119. However, Colts also faltered, falling for 87 in the first innings, but managed chase down a target of 192.
Bathiya Perera's century coupled with Sachith Pathirana's all-round contribution (40 runs and 5 for 41) enabled Colombo CC to record their second win of the season. They beat Ragama CC by ten wickets at the Maitland Crescent and moved to third spot in the standings. Left-hand batsman Hemantha Wickremaratne, a former SSC cricketer now with Ragama, also completed 10,000 first-class runs during the match, and became the third batsman to reach that landmark this season after Lanka de Silva and Thilan Samaraweera.
Nondescripts CC managed to avoid relegation when they picked up first-innings points against Sri Lanka Army at Panagoda. Kanchana Gunawardene and Sahan Wijeratne contributed 103 and 94 respectively to help nullify the spin threat of Seekkuge Prasanna (5 for 162). Nalaka Kaluarachchi's century was in vain for Army fell short by 129 runs in the first innings.
Jeewan Mendis' all-round effort, 125 and six wickets in the match, ensured Tamil Union picked up first-innings points in their drawn game against Chilaw Marians at the Saravanamuttu Stadium.
The search for the winner of Premier Tier B had to be put on hold after the crucial match between second-placed Panadura SC and Sebastianites, who are fighting to avoid relegation, had to be abandoned because of a poor pitch. The umpires called off the game after the pitch at the De Zoysa Stadium at Moratuwa broke up.
A huge chunk of the pitch - about four and a half feet - came off at one end making it impossible to continue the match. At that stage, Sebastianites were 24 for 1 replying to Panadura's first-innings score of 175. The tournament committee will fix another date for the match. Table leaders Saracens and Panadura are vying for the Tier B title which would earn them promotion to Tier A next season. At the bottom of Tier B, Sebastianites were fighting hard to avoid relegation to the Sara Trophy competition. They need first-innings points at least against Panadura to avoid that embarrassment.
Third placed Seeduwa Raddoluwa lost a great chance to finish runner-up in the Premier Tier B competition when they were beaten by five wickets by Air Force in their final match of the season. The match, which was abandoned due to a terrorist bomb explosion on January 4, was continued at the same venue.
Player of the Week - Tharanga Paranavithana
One of the inspirations behind Sinhalese SC's bid to retain the Premier Tier A championship has been the leadership of their top-order batsman Tharanga Paranavitana. He had his first experience of leading a top club at the SSC last season when, as a result of circumstances, he was left to captain the team - the third player to do so during the season. The extra responsibility brought out the best of Paranavitana's batting. He began in grand style, scoring 177 in the penultimate match against Bloomfield and then following it up with a career best 236 against Colombo CC - an innings which won them the title. He was the season's leading run-scorer with 893 runs. Paranavitana, the regular captain, once again led from the front this season with back-to-back hundreds against CCC and Moors SC. "What is so unique about him is that he has a good cricket brain and a near-perfect batting technique. He may not look so elegant at the crease but he is very effective with his run-making," Gunawardene said.