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November 19, 2008
Badureliya Sports Club, who nearly brought the 2008-09 Premier League Tournament to a standstill, began the season by defeating Nondescripts Cricket Club by an innings and two runs at Maitland Place.
Badureliya's decision to contest their relegation to Tier B saw 18 clubs sign a letter threatening to boycott the tournament. With time running out, the clubs eventually backed down, allowing a majority of their cricketers to play a minimum of five first-class matches to qualify for next season's leagues in England. About 100 Sri Lankan cricketers divide their time during the year playing six months of cricket in England and the remaining months in Sri Lanka.
Had the clubs continued with their protest, Sri Lanka Cricket was planning to scrap the Premier League and limited-overs tournament and instead start the provincial tournament, which they are keen to promote as the main domestic competition. The Premier Limited-Overs Tournament, which will run parallel to the league this season, commenced on November 19.
The upshot of the stand-off was that the season began on November 14 with 11 teams in Tier A and 10 in Tier B; Badureliya, who finished bottom of Tier A in 2007-08, remained in the top tier along with Sri Lanka Army, the Tier B winners.
Nondescripts CC, minus Kumar Sangakkara, Upul Tharanga, Farveez Maharoof (all touring Zimbabwe with the national team) and Lasith Malinga (injured), were no match for an experienced Badureliya, led by former Sri Lanka left-arm spinner Niroshan Bandaratilleke. They were shot out for disappointing totals of 141 and 176 in reply 319. There wasn't any outstanding individual performance, barring former Colts Cricket Club fast bowler Amil Prasad, who marked his first appearance for Badureliya with match figures of 6 for 92.
Colts, meanwhile, thrashed Moors Sports Club by an innings and 73 runs at Havelock Park in a thoroughly professional performance. They declared on 502 for 7, with 403 off 90 overs on the first day. Dhanuka Pathirana led the run-fest with the season's first century, a 229-ball innings of 150 (17 fours, one six) and put up 143 for the fifth wicket with Dilruwan Perera (94). Test opener Malinda Warnapura, who's leading Colts this season, also chipped in with a useful half-century. Moors were undone by former Sri Lanka left-arm spinner Sajeewa Weerakoon who picked up a match haul of ten wickets as Moors, following on after scoring 212, made 222.
Romesh Kaluwitharana, the Colts CC coach, was quite pleased with his team's performance. "We have the right blend of players and a fine balance to win the championship," he said. "In the recent past we've had good combinations but somewhere down the line we failed to deliver. It is high time we won a title and it is a good way to start the season." Colts have a combination of youth and experience in their line-up, and Kaluwitharana welcomed the presence of Sri Lanka fast bowler Chaminda Vaas.
A hat-trick for left-arm fast bowler Sujeewa de Silva failed to win it for Colombo Cricket Club against Bloomfield at Reid Avenue. de Silva's hat-trick - his victims were Chinthaka Jayasinghe, Shanuka Dissanayake and Suraj Mohamed - came in the second innings, when he gave away 53 runs. He also contributed with the bat, making 25 in each innings.Colombo's batting let them down - they were shot out for 135 and 141.
The other two games in Tier A for the weekend ended in draws for defending champions Sinhalese Sports Club against Chilaw Marians Cricket Club, and for Tamil Union Cricket against Ragama Cricket Club. Former Bloomfield batsman Ian Daniel compiled the season's highest score when he carved out a stylish 165 (23 fours, two sixes) for Ragama CC. There were centuries for two Sinhalese batsmen - A team wicketkeeper-batsman Kaushal Silva, who missed twin centuries (133 and 74) and Test cricketer Thilan Samaraweera (111) - but Suresh Niroshan's 112 prevented them from pulling off a win.
Tier B produced four victories from five matches on the opening weekend. Panadura Sports Club won inside two days defeating Sri Lanka Air Force by an innings and 160 runs. There were also wins for Burgher Recreation Club, over Saracens Sports Club by six wickets. Offspinner Dilshan Wimaladarma returned the bowling figures with 7 for 34 (match figures of 10 for 69) for Moratuwa Sports Club over Police Sports Club. In a nail-biting finish, Police SC, chasing 228 for victory, lost their last three wickets for one run, falling short of their target by three runs. At Thurstan College Ground, Seeduwa Raddoluwa Cricket Club beat Singha Sports Club by seven wickets.
Player of the Week - Dhanuka Pathirana
Dhanuka Pathirana is best remembered for scoring a remarkable double century (272) off 72 balls in a Twenty20 match for Austerlands against Droylsden in Lancashire's Saddleworth League in 2007. Batting with a borrowed bat (he had left his at home) he hit 29 sixes and 18 fours. However, Pathirana had been unable to carry that form into the domestic season at home and had a rather ordinary run for Colts in 2007-08.
He is no longer the big hitter but a batsman who can occupy the crease and play a workmanlike innings. This was quite evident during Colts' opening fixture of the 2008-09 season against Moors SC, where he scored a career-best 150 off 229 balls at No. 4. "Dhanuka had a few technical problems with his batting. He had a problem with his back lift and his confidence level was also low ahead of the season," Kaluwitharana said. "The two months we worked together has brought forth stunning results. He is an aggressive batsman who can also occupy the crease for long periods depending on the situation. He is a batsman who can change the state of the game because of his ability to adapt to situations quickly."
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