Paranavitana guides Sinhalese SC to title

Sinhalese SC clinched the 2007-08 Premier League Tier A title when they drew their final match of the season against defending champions Colombo CC at Maitland Crescent. The win gave SSC a rare triple for the season - they had earlier won the Premier limited-over and the Under 23 tournaments.

SSC who went into the match needing only a draw to win the championship made certain they achieved that objective when they piled up an imposing 513 in the first innings. This total was achieved largely due to the batting exploits of 25-year-old left-handed opener Tharanga Paranavitana, who captained the side in the absence of Thilan Samaraweera, currently with the national side in the Caribbean.

Paranavitana scored a career-best 236 (off 392 balls) which laid the foundation for SSC's big first innings total. It was a gutsy innings by some standards because he took a blow on the 'box' in the second over and had to retire hurt when on 5. He resumed his innings at the fall of the second wicket with the team total on 44.

CCC were then bundled out for 286 before SSC, choosing not to enforce the follow-on, batted again and put up 343. Jeevan Mendis starred with a century and Paranavitana contributed an unbeaten 80 from No.6. The CCC spinners shouldered most of the responsibility, with offspinner Sachitra Senanayake continuing a fine season by taking three wickets. It took his season's wicket tally to 50 and made him the second-highest wicket-taker after Army SC's Ajantha Mendis (68 wickets). But it was 23-year-old left-arm spinner Dunil Abeydeera who stole the show with his ninth five-wicket haul.

CCC had to be content with fourth place after Tamil Union pipped them to the third spot with a creditable six-wicket win over Moors SC, the runners-up in their Centenary Year. A Tamil Union victory looked unlikely after they fell 29 runs short of the Moors first-innings total of 396. But some disciplined bowling by the Tamil Union bowlers allowed them to dismiss Moors for 180 in their second innings, leaving them with a target of 210 in the final innings before a half-century from Ian Daniel, the former Sri Lankan wicketkeeper, sealed the victory. It was Daniel's seventh fifty of the season - the most among batsmen.

Gayan Wijekoon rounded off another wonderful season by guiding Chilaw Marians to a stunning four-wicket win over Nondescripts CC. Left with a target of 301 to chase in the fourth innings Chilaw Marians began badly slipping to 123 for 5 (which was 40 for 4 at one point) before Wijekoon and skipper Janaka Gunaratne (57) put on 109 for the sixth wicket. Gunaratne's wicket didn't faze Wijekoon and he displayed his fighting qualities and, along with the lower order, carried the Marians past the finish line. Wijekoon was undefeated on 114 off 142 balls. The match was also a special one for Farveez Maharoof, the allrounder, who scored his maiden first-class hundred (104 off 187 balls) in the NCC second innings.

Colombo Colts rounded off a rather disappointing season by thrashing Badureliya by an innings, a win that was set up by their spinners. Left-armer Sajeewa Weerakoon and offspinner Dilruwan Perera took 16 wickets between them. This came after the Colts amassed 504, thanks largely to Angelo Mathews, the former Sri Lankan U-19 World Cup, notching up a career best 157 off 364 balls.

Left-handers Thilina Masmulla and Yohan de Silva scored their second first-class hundreds in Bloomfield's drawn game against Ragama CC. De Silva's knock of 164 not out off 274 balls was the highest of his short career.

Player of the Week - Tharanga Paranavitana

By ending the 2007-08 season as the leading run-getter with 893 runs from nine matches (avg. 74.41) and leading Sinhalese SC to the Premier League Tier A championship, Tharanga Paranavitana only vindicated the faith that Anura Tennakoon, the former Sri Lankan captain, showed in him.

Tennakoon, a technically-correct batsman who represented SSC and Sri Lanka in the pre-Test era, predicted a great future for Paranavitana at the start of 2007 and said he had all the ingredients to make it to the Sri Lanka side as a Test opener.

"He is a good opening bat with the ability to know where his off stump is. That is most important for a batsman," said Tennekoon, who manages the Sri Lanka A team. "This boy has the patience to play long innings and is an ideal long game player. But he needs to improve his footwork especially against spinners."

Paranavitana proved that he has the capacity to bat for long periods and build big innings when he scored two whopping hundreds in successive weekends - 177 off 219 balls against Bloomfield and a career best 236 off 392 balls against CCC. He is part of the Sri Lanka A squad and with Tennekoon to guide him it won't be long before should be giving Sri Lanka Test openers, Michael Vandort and Malinda Warnapura, a few sleepless nights.