The cat, the saying goes, has nine lives - but it appears nine has become a dreaded figure for Colombo Colts. After going down to Tamil Union by nine runs last weekend, this time around Colts lost by the same margin to Nondescripts at the Colts Cricket Ground.
The game was well within Colts' grasp when they bowled out Nondescripts for 186 in the second innings and set themselves a moderate target of 207. But Colts began their run chase badly, losing their first four wickets for 52 runs. A stand of 62 between Asela Jayasinghe and Jeevantha Kulatunga stemmed he rot to some extent and Colts looked to be back on course for victory at 150 for 5.
But when Kulatunga, who had held the innings together with 71 off 66 balls, was eighth out at 186 the gates were opened again. Colts could only muster a further 11 runs to their total before pace bowler Tharaka Kottehewa knocked back the stumps of Ruchira Perera and Amila Prasad with the first two balls of the 59th over to give Nondrescripts a thrilling win.
Romesh Kaluwitharana, the former Sri Lanka international who is coaching Colts for the third season, blamed some poor batting for the defeat. "Of late our batting has not been clicking the way it should. We have a very good line up and it will be only a matter of time before the batsmen play to their potential," he said. "Overall we did not bat as well as we should have. The senior players are not putting up the big scores that are expected from them and that has become a concern. We have also been unlucky with the toss and have found ourselves batting on difficult tracks."
Kaluwitharana admitted that the club was feeling the loss of experienced all-rounder Sajith Fernando, who moved to Tamil Union for the 2007-08 season. Fernando, 35, a prolific left-handed batsman and a Colts stalwart for 15 years, scored over 8000 runs and captured more than 250 wickets with his offspin.
Pace-setters Singhalese, the only unbeaten club in Tier A, extended their lead at the top with their third win of the season, defeating Badureliya by an innings and 123 runs at home. Sinhalese's strength has been their batting, as indicated by totals in excess of 400 in their last three games. Against Badureliya they ran up 514 for 8 through centuries from Tharanga Paranavitana and Thilina Kandamby and a maiden first-class hundred from Shalika Karunanayake. Sinhalese had to return for just two balls on the fourth and final day to capture the last Badureliya wicket and complete victory as bad light denied them a three-day finish.
Moors, on the other hand, were lucky to record their second straight victory inside three days when they beat Bloomfield by six wickets at the Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club Ground. In a low-scoring game where no side crossed 161, the Bloomfield batting was rattled by veteran left-arm fast bowler Nandika Ranjith, who returned career and season's best figures of 8 for 48 in the second innings.
Colombo became the latest challenger to the top position held by Sinhalese when they beat Tamil Union by 196 runs at the Colombo Cricket Ground. It was a disappointing performance on the part of Tamil Union to lose the contest so tamely after their magnificent fightback to turn the tables on Colts the previous weekend. An unbeaten century in the first innings by wicketkeeper-batsman Lanka de Silva against his former club was Tamil Union's only redeeming feature of the match as the rest of their batting fell to Colombo's three-pronged pace trio of Ishan Ratnayake, Amila Wettasinghe and Chandra Kumara, who took 15 among them.
After three defeats Ragama finally got their act together to run up the highest total of the season , 562 for 8, to beat Chilaw Marians by an innings and 87 runs at the Moors Sports Club Ground. Ragama gave no indication that they were heading for such a big score when they lost half their side for 93 and looked like being bowled out for a low total, which has been the trend for them this season. But a captain'ss knock of 156 off 204 balls from Indika de Saram, who figured in a massive partnerships of 267 with Kaushal Weeraratne (135) and a further stand of 188 between wicketkeeper Suren Perera (79), and Saman Jeewantha, who went onto complete a maiden first-class century, saw Ragama to their total over the best part of two days. Batting out the remaining two days proved a difficult task for Marians.
Army held onto their position at the top of Tier B with an eight-wicket win over Sebastianites at the De Zoysa Stadium in Moratuwa. The match-winner for them was right-arm pace bowler Navantha Ratnayake, who took nine wickets. In hot pursuit was Panadura, whose 170-run win over Singha at Panadura Esplanade saw them reduce the gap to less than five points from Army.
The most eye-catching performance however came from Saracens pair Kasun Bodhisha and Sachithra Serasinghe, who figured in a fifth wicket stand of 226 against Lankan in a draw at the Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club Ground Left-handed opener Bodisha went onto make 226 off 351 balls, his maiden first-class century, and Serasinghe scored 113. Although Saracens hit up an impressive 503 for 8 declared they were unable to force a win as Lankan held out for a draw after following-on.
Player of the Week: Indika de Saram
Indika de Saram could be rated as one of the unluckiest cricketers not to have won a permanent place in the Sri Lankan team. With an outstanding school career behind him, the highlight of which was scoring a triple century for St. Thomas' College, Matara against Sri Devananda College, Ambalanagoda, de Saram was looked up as a bright prospect for the national side with his sound technique coupled with a wide range of shots which enabled him to score rapidly to suit the occasion. He broke into the national side in 1999/2000 on the tour to Zimbabwe but never gave got the opportunity to express his full potential. Instead he was left to languish at numbers six and seven. He played in only four Tests and 15 ODIs and sadly was ignored for selection to the senior side from 2001, instead appearing for Sri Lanka A teams and last year leading his country to win their first Hong Kong Sixes title in Kowloon. At 34, de Saram may not be a prime candidate in the national selectors' short list, but Ragama president Roshan Abeysinghe considers him good enough to make it at least to the Twenty20 or ODI teams.
"Indika makes batting so simple that one would consider him to be very unfortunate not to be playing for his country," he said. "It requires a player with special talent to lift a team from a position of 93 for 5 to a total of 500 plus and Indika has that talent, without a doubt."