Premier Limited Over Tournament
An eight-wicket loss to SSC after being bowled out for 96 at on Saturday shut the door for defending champs NCC to secure a semi-final place. Although they defeated Chilaw Marians by 74 runs the following day, it was not sufficient to lift them to within the top four in the Tier A table. Even in that game NCC lost their first seven wickets for 84 before recovering to 193 for 9. Allrounder Gayan Wijekoon caused the early slump taking five of the seven wickets to finish with figures of 5 for 39.
The four teams that came through to the semi-finals after the completion of the qualifying round of matches were Bloomfield, SSC, Colts and Moors. The Tier A semi-final draw for December 19 is: Bloomfield v Moors and SSC v Colts.
Table leaders Bloomfield also faltered against Chilaw Marians, losing by eight wickets, but recovered sufficiently the next day to beat Ragama by six wickets. Bloomfield's prolific run-getter Tillakaratne Dilshan, who has been in tremendous form during the tournament, hit a sparkling 70 off 41 balls with five sixes and six fours to steer Bloomfield to victory in 30 overs.
The week witnessed two thrilling contests. Tamil Union, chasing a tall Colts total of 278, had their target revised to 217 off 41 when the D/L method was imposed due to rain, but were home with five wickets to spare. In the other close encounter, CCC defended their small score of 160 by reducing Ragama to 88-5, before resistance from the tail saw Ragama reach 151-7. However, CCC fought back strongly, capturing the final wicket through a run-out to win by five runs.
Moors SC ,similarly placed like NCC before the weekend, secured fourth spot with two consecutive five-wicket wins over Badureliya and Tamil Union. Sri Lanka's 26-year-old fast-bowling prospect Chanaka Welegedara was Moors' match-winner in both games taking 4 for 42 and 5 for 56.
SSC also scored two convincing victories by similar margins - eight wickets - against NCC and CCC to finish within the first four of Tier A. The most interesting part of the qualifying stage was that the top four teams all finished with similar records - six wins and three losses.
From Tier B, Lankan CC, Burgher RC, Army SC and Panadura SC qualified for the semi-finals. The BRC's left-arm fast-medium bowler Romesh Eranga came close to improving on Tharaka Kottehewa's best bowling figures for the season when he took 8 for 30 against Army SC. By virtue of his excellent haul, Eranga finished jointly with the Army's Ajantha Mendis as the leading wicket-taker with 22 wickets at the completion of the qualifying round.
Player of the week - Tillakaratne Dilshan
Tillakaratne Dilshan has been the reason behind Bloomfield's qualification to the semi-finals. The Sri Lankan middle-order batsman has single-handedly carried the Bloomfield batting on his shoulders. Promoting himself to open the batting, Dilshan, fighting hard to earn a recall to the national team after a series of poor scores in Tests, began the tournament in outstanding fashion. He scored the season's highest score with a staggering 188 off 135 balls against Colts and has maintained that form throughout the season to end up as the leading run-getter with 467 runs at an average of 58.37.
It is not so much of the scores that he has made that separates Dilshan from the rest of the batsmen in the tournament but the manner in which he got it. He has hit 47 fours and 25 sixes of which 14 fours and 12 sixes were scored in the game against Colts.
Aravinda de Silva, writing in his regular column for a leading Sri Lankan weekend paper, reckons that Sri Lanka should recall Dilshan into the team and promote him as an opener to replace Sanath Jayasuriya, who retired from Test cricket after the Kandy game.
De Silva wrote: "I actually would have liked if we had tried out someone like Dilshan to open the batting as we did with Roshan [Mahanama] at one time. Dilshan is a good player of fast bowling and a fighter. He is useful cricketer and we should use him wherever possible. He is a very flexible sort of cricketer. He will keep wickets and bowl. Very rarely do you find talent like that. These kinds of players will be useful in difficult situations when you want to get the balance right in Test matches."
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Sri Lanka (and Ceylon)
Premier Limited Over Tournament
Sri Lanka Domestic Season