Premier League Tier A
Nondescript Cricket Club (NCC) will celebrate their 125th year in 2013 by playing in Tier B of the Premier League Tournament for the first time in their history, after finishing at the bottom of the Tier A tournament for 2011-12, which concluded last weekend. Never has the club, which was founded in 1888 and has produced several national cricketers, been so badly humiliated.
NCC failed to win a single match out of their nine and, of the seven drawn encounters, they managed to gain first-innings points from only their match against Moors SC. This was insufficient to lift them from the bottom of the table where they had been languishing for a greater part of the season. This was the club's worst season in their history and next year they face a gigantic task of trying to retain their top players, who may look for other avenues.
The irony of it is that NCC this season won the Premier Limited Overs title, defeating traditional rivals Sinhalese SC by 32 runs in the final and it was against the very same opponents that their relegation chances hinged when they met in the final round of the first-class competition. As it turned out, SSC gained sweet revenge for that defeat, beating NCC by 26 runs in Colombo to end runner-up to champions Colombo Colts CC. NCC only needed first-innings points to lift themselves from the bottom of the table but it was not to be.
"The key factor to NCC's dismal performance this season is that they have been losing players consistently and have not been able to find suitable replacements," former Sri Lanka cricketer and NCC stalwart Ranjith Fernando said.
"We have been losing players sometimes in the middle of matches and with an imbalanced pool the club has found it difficult to find 11 players to play in a match," he said.
NCC's situation got so desperate that they had to bring their former Sri Lanka legspinning allrounder Upul Chandana out of retirement in the match against SSC. Chandana, at 39, showed that he still hadn't lost his skills by capturing eight wickets and scoring 24 and 20. NCC also grabbed former CCC and Sri Lanka opening batsman Michael van Dort as soon as he had arrived after playing cricket in Australia.
During the season NCC lost the services of captain Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Lasith Malinga, Dinesh Chandimal, Farveez Maharoof, Chamara Kapugedera and Kosala Kulasekara to the national team.
"My fear is that NCC playing in Tier B could result in a big blow to the development of Sri Lanka cricket. For it is around clubs like NCC and SSC that the other senior clubs revolve their cricket," Fernando said.
In a low-scoring game NCC did well to keep SSC down to a first-innings total of 209, of which Sri Lanka Test batsman Thilan Samaraweera made 102. But their own batting crumbled for a disappointing 138 to the part-time offbreaks of Sri Lanka Test opener Tharanga Paranavitana, who finished with figures of 3 for 25. NCC's bowlers again performed well to dismiss SSC for 186 in the second innings to give themselves a target of 258 to chase and avoid relegation. But from 182 for 4, courtesy half-centuries from Van Dort and acting captain Jehan Mubarak, they folded tamely for 231, falling to the spin of Samaraweera and Kaushal Lokuarachchi, who shared eight wickets between them.
A double-century opening partnership between Udara Jayasundera and Ian Daniel, who both made hundreds, enabled Ragama CC to run up the highest total of the season - 601 for 9 declared and beat Tamil Union by an innings in Colombo. They finished in third spot, the highest position they have attained in Premier Tier A since being promoted 12 years ago. Tamil Union's batting failed to match Ragama's score and were bowled out for scores of 308 and 200. The main damage was done by the offspin of 21-year-old Rushan Jaleel, who ended up with career-best figures of 11 for 164, playing in only his fifth first-class match. The star performer for Tamil Union was Sri Lanka ODI player Jeevan Mendis who was captaining the club in the absence of Sachitra Serasinghe (representing SLC XI in the three-day practice game against England). Mendis took five wickets and scored 63 and 39 in the match.
Chilaw Marians ended up in the fourth place after thrashing Lankan CC by 255 runs in Colombo. Chilaw Marians recovered from a bad start of 48 for 4 to raise a respectable total of 302. Lankan CC were bundled out for 150 and Marians batted a second time and set Lankan's a target of 400. Lankans hardly had a chance to get a start as their batting was destroyed for 144 by the left-arm spin of Malinda Pushpakumara who took a career-best 9 for 46 to complete a match-haul of 13 for 107.
Defending champions Bloomfield had to be content with fifth place when they grabbed a narrow 11 runs first-innings lead over Moors SC in Colombo. The match was notable for former Sri Lanka batsman Chamara Silva becoming the first batsman to reach 1000 runs this season when he scored 86 in the first innings and celebrated the occasion with a century in the second innings. Sri Lanka offspinner Suraj Randiv once again gave the national selectors a reminder with a haul of eight wickets in the match but conceded 263 runs off 52.1 overs.
Colombo Colts CC, who won the Premier League Tier A with a weekend to spare, finished the season on a high note taking first innings-points against Badureliya SC at the Surrey Village Ground. After bowling out their opponents for 235, Colts built their total of 338 around Shihan Kamileen's knock of 97.
Premier Tier B
Champions Sri Lanka Army completed a highly successful season by posting their seventh win in nine matches to finish on top of the Premier League Tier B standings with a clear 36 points gap from second-placed Sri Lanka Navy SC. The other two forces' clubs didn't fare all that well. Sri Lanka Air Force finished seventh out of ten and Police SC finished at the bottom of the table to be relegated to the 2-day Sara trophy tournament. Police's chances of avoiding relegation hinged on the outcome of their final match against Burgher RC which they lost by an innings. The win boosted BRC to finish the season in third place with Andy Solomons scoring his maiden first-class hundred (166).