North Central Province 175 all out (K. Dharmasena 42, U. Chandana 37, Ruchira Perera 5 for 64) and 165 for 8 (M. Jayawardene 57, Ruchira Perera 4 for 54) versus Central Province 202 all out (Paranavitana 57, Hasantha Fernando 47, Nuwan Kulasekera 6-71)


Skipper Mahela Jayawardene top scored with a skillful 57 but North Central struggled again © AFP

Central Province look poised to win their second consecutive Provincial Tournament after another day of tumbling wickets in Dambulla. North Central Province led by just 138 runs with two second innings wickets remaining at stumps on day two after Central Province had earlier scored 202.

In a low scoring game the 27-run lead was useful and could well prove vital. But while Mahela Jayawardene was at the crease, finding the boundary with ease during a skillful and brisk 57, North Central had high hopes of setting a testing target. At one stage, after a 51-run stand for the fifth with Jeevantha Kulatunga, they almost reclaimed the initiative.

Once again it was Ruchira Perera who starred with the ball. Filled with confidence after his first innings five-for, he snapped up four more second innings scalps and then struck Nuwan Kulasekera painfully on the head, a blow that forced Kulasekera off to hospital for urgent treatment. Perera will now be gunning for a ten-wicket haul tomorrow morning.

Earlier, Nishad Paranvitana and Hasantha Fernando had extended their fifth wicket partnership to 91, frustrating the North Central bowlers during the morning. But, finally, Kulasekera had Fernando caught behind by Tillakaratne Dilshan, who has been brushing up on his wicket-keeping skills during the tournament.

Kulasekera picked up Paranvitana too, also caught behind by Dilshan, to finish with 6 for 71 - a performance that will probably be enough to confirm his place for the New Zealand tour, especially with Nuwan Zoysa injured. Paranavitana, a 22-year-old from SSC, finished with 57 from 174 balls. Dilhara Lokuhettige chipped in with 33 not out before a brace of run outs ended the innings.