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Gunaratne wins big at SLC's annual awards

Asela Gunaratne is all smiles after bringing up his maiden Test century AFP

Asela Gunaratne's haul of four trophies at SLC's Annual Cricket Awards provided a timely reminder of the calibre of talent that has been sidelined by injury in recent months, while Rangana Herath took home the night's biggest award when he was feted as cricketer of the year.

The 39-year-old left-arm spinner was also - unsurprisingly - named Test bowler of the year. The period under consideration, from June 2016 to June 2017, saw Herath play 11 Tests and pick up 73 wickets at an average of 18.68. Herath's spin partner Dilruwan Perera was named Test allrounder of the year, after taking 31 wickets at 27.19 and scoring 319 runs at 24.53 during the same period.

It was Gunaratne, though, who scooped up most of the limited-overs prizes, as he was named the best batsman in T20Is as well as the best allrounder in both T20Is and ODIs. He also claimed the country's most promising cricketer award.

Between February 2016, when he made his international debut, and July 2017, when he sustained a thumb fracture, Gunaratne had been one of Sri Lanka's most in-form batsmen: scoring 455 runs in Tests at an average of 56.87, 472 runs at 36.30 in ODIs, and 181 runs 30.83 in T20Is. His slow-medium bowling - especially in white-ball cricket, where he has picked up 23 wickets in 30 matches - also brought considerable balance to the side.

Meanwhile. wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella, who has fast become a mainstay in the national side, was named the Emerging Cricketer of the Year after scoring 1603 runs in 37 international matches in 2017, with two hundreds and 11 fifties.

In ODIs, pace spearhead Suranga Lakmal was named bowler of the year, while Kusal Mendis capped off a fine freshman year with the award for best batsman. Mendis, who debuted during last year's tour of England, has been part of an inconsistent batting unit but has nevertheless managed to amass 1156 runs at 32.11 in 39 ODIs.

The awards night also threw up some forgotten faces, with Dhananjaya de Silva picking up the award for best Test batsman and Lasith Malinga being named best T20I bowler.

De Silva had debuted and top-scored in Sri Lanka's series win last year over Australia before underwhelming series against South Africa and Bangladesh saw him dropped from the one-off Test against Zimbabwe. He was drafted back in for Sri Lanka's second Test against India, but was then quickly shifted to the A team, where he has since impressed. De Silva's brief but fruitful Test career has seen him score 726 runs at 38.21, including two hundreds and two fifties, in 10 Tests.

Malinga, meanwhile, was dropped ahead of the start of the ODI series against Pakistan due to a lack of form, but a look at his T20I performances since returning from injury earlier this year - 12 wickets in six matches at 16.50 apiece - indicates that, while he may not be as consistent as before, he can still be an asset in the shortest format.

On the women's side Chamari Atapattu cemented a record-breaking year as she was named women's cricketer of the year, and also took home the award for best batswoman in both ODIs and T20Is. Atapattu provided one of the highlights of the Women's World Cup this year when she smashed an unbeaten 143-ball 178 not out against Australia, which eventually led to her becoming the first Sri Lankan woman to sign with a franchise T20 league. Women's ODI Captain Inoka Ranaweera, meanwhile, was named women's bowler of the year, while Sugandika Kumari took home the award for T20Is.

In the domestic awards, recent national team debutants Malinda Pushpakumara, of Chilaw Marians CC, and Sadeera Samarawickrama, of Colts CC, were named best bowler and batsman respectively. Slow left-arm spinner Pushpakumara picked up 77 wickets in nine first-class matches at 13.79 in the 2016/2017 season, while right-hand bat Samarawickrama scored 1016 runs at 59.76 in the same period.

Sri Lanka Ports Authority's Wanindu Hasaranga, who made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe earlier this year, was rewarded for a blistering start to his first-class career as he was named the most promising domestic cricketer. The fiery 20-year-old has played just 15 first-class matches but has already scored 877 runs at 41.76, while his legspin has scalped 16 wickets at 26.00. The Colombo Cricket Club's Ron Chandraguptha, who scored 837 runs at 59.79 and has also impressed with the Sri Lanka A team, was named the emerging domestic player of the year. NCC's Chathuranga de Silva, who recently earned a national recall for the T20I series against Pakistan, was named best allrounder.

The guest of honour at the ceremony was former Indian World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev, while several other former cricketers were also in attendance to hand out awards.