Under-23 Youth Tournament Division 1 September 24, 2008

Rivals SSC-NCC clash in final

Main rivals Sinhalese Sports Club and Nondescripts Cricket Club qualified to meet in the Under-23 Division 1 final starting September 26 when they secured victories in their respective semi-final matches over the weekend.

SSC brought to an end the successful run of the Schools Under-20 side when they won by eight wickets at the Nondescripts Cricket Club. Both sides were shot out for low totals in the first innings, Schools Under-20 scoring 115 and SSC 146. The Schools, however, put up a better showing in their second innings. They made 243 thanks largely to half-centuries from Dimuth Karunaratne (82 off 107 balls) and captain Ashan Priyanjan (50 off 49 balls).

SSC, left to chase 213 with more than a day, did it in 51 overs. Hans Fernando, the captain, led the run chase with an unbeaten 117 off 130 balls. He was well supported by Navin Perera (80 off 157 balls) in a second-wicket stand of 188 that sealed the match.

Coach of the SSC Under-23 side, Avishka Gunawardene, the former Sri Lanka opener, said that was a timely comeback for Fernando. "It's good to have the captain back in form. He batted brilliantly which is a good morale booster for the team."

Gunawardene felt his bowling line up, comprising three seamers and two spinners, was in good shape and capable of turning the game. "It's not necessary to depend on a single bowler as all five of them are at their peak," he said. "At the moment we are more focused on our fielding. We are not up to the mark in that area. We want to polish our fielding before the final.

"The venue of the final, the SSC, is a good batting track. We have a good middle order and we should make maximum advantage of home conditions. The way the SSC track has been behaving in the past three years or so, a full three days of play is guaranteed. You can expect a high-scoring final."

SSC are defending the title which they won last season beating Chilaw Marians.

NCC used their second innings of a drawn encounter against Colombo Colts at the SSC to gain valuable batting practice ahead of the final. NCC's first-innings recovery from 39 for 5 to 376 owed plenty to 249-run sixth-wicket stand between Eranga Gangoda (114 off 190 balls) and Kosela Kulasekera (133 of 187 balls). It proved too big a task for Colts, who were shot out for 234.

Gangoda continued to torment them by grabbing four wickets with his off-breaks. Having ensured their entry into the final by virtue of the first-innings lead, NCC used the final day to give their batsmen plenty of opportunities to play themselves in by totaling 426 for 8. Although no batsmen scored a hundred six crossed the fifty-run mark, including the two first-innings heroes.

NCC coach Sampath Perera, a former player on his final assignment before taking up as coach of one of Kandy's leading schools, Trinity College, is confident of signing off with a win. "Team effort will certainly make a huge impact in a crucial game like the final. The team spirit is high and we are looking out for a championship win," he said. "We have a strong batting line up. If you take our last six matches we have scored over 300 runs in the first innings. Our top and middle order batsmen have struck well in these outings. Facing SSC in a final would be very exciting. I hope we will be able to grab the championship this year."

This is the first time NCC are playing in an Under-23 Division I final.