Premier League Tournament 2012-13 February 6, 2013

Samaraweera, Mendis shine in opening round

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 here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 8, 2013, 4:16 GMT

    NCC is having a merry time, since they are in Tier B this year.

  • Anil on February 7, 2013, 14:50 GMT

    Mr. Fernando, I regularly follow your articles with appreciation and interest, and trust that you will treat this comment in the spirit with which it is given. You command respect and are known for your impartiality. Hence, it was troubling for me to see that your treatment of the "three young cricketers" from NCC was unbalanced. Surely, Boralessa deserved more than a single sentence at the end, when both his statistics and his performance in the match under consideration was superior to Kaushal's? You wield much influence, and I know that you seek to exercise this responsibility for the benefit of Sri Lanka cricket, and through this for cricket in general. The implication of your relegation of Boralessa to the rump of your analysis of the NCC, was that somehow his performance was less significant than the others. I hold that this is untrue and misleadinga and may affect his chances for selection, given the fulsome praise you've heaped on Kaushal. Please give Boralessa a break too.

  • Milroy on February 7, 2013, 14:24 GMT

    As an experienced batsman the selectors expect experienced players to step up in their game, especially in Australia where there were enough opportunities for the failing batsman's to cement a place in the team regardless of their age.

    Scoring a century in domestic cricket shouldn't allow instant return for these senior players, instead they must show consistency and runs in "A" team against tough foreign opponents

    Since our senior players near to retiring age, we must not discourage the youngsters (Chandimal, Thirimanne, Kushal) after their successful tours. In addition there are so many young payers knocking the door to get in...we should expect "SUPER FORM" from our senior players to make a return to the national side.

    @Prem, I totally agree with you about Samaraweera's bowling and sometimes I get frustrated to watch for not using Dilshan in some critical situations and when we need variation to break's captain's call..but??? Arjuna used all his tools in 1996

  • Nimmie on February 7, 2013, 2:06 GMT

    There are no 2 words about his (S'weera) capabilities; he has been proving his class since the age of 15 finally winning the Best schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award in 94 & 95. However he was 1st brought to the Side as a replacement for Murali and sent to bat No 11 by the Jokers. There after he hasn't been allowed to bowl beside Murali though his 1st Cla: Bow: Ave: 23+ with 360 odd 1st Cla: wkts at present. If he was allowed to do so Murali's tally of Wkts would have been lessened, therefore they got Jayasuriya or Dilshan to partner Murali. They never allowed genuine 2nd spinner in the Side (Jayantha Silva, Sajeewa Weerakone, Malinga Bandara…). Now the same thing happening with a another henchman (spinner), that is the main reason why Ajantha, Sachithra, Malinda Pushpakumara, Dulanjana Mendis have been continuously over looked by the Jokers; e.g. though the whole Cricketing World knows the value of these two remarkable players, the Jokers & local hired correspondents (2 B CNTD)

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