Chilaw Marians CC were crowned as the new Premier Tier A league champs when they took first innings points against Moors SC in their final match of the season which ended in a draw at the Moors Sports Club ground, Colombo. Those points were sufficient for Chilaw Marians to oust Nondescripts CC from the top of the table and finish four points clear of their rivals in the final standings.
Chilaw Marians had to wait until the third and final day to start the celebrations when rain threatened to interrupt proceedings and nearly spoil their chances of a maiden league triumph. The decision by skipper Mahela Udawatte to field first seemed to backfire initially when Moors managed a respectable 260 on a rain-restricted first day. Heavy overnight rain delayed the start of the second day and only 39 overs were possible during which period Marians progressed to 197 for 5. The final day was full of drama as Marians lost both overnight batsmen to slide to 238 for 7, still 23 runs adrift of the vital first innings lead. However the eighth wicket pair of Suresh Niroshan and Dinuka Hettiarachchi steered them through the anxious moments with an unbroken partnership of 27.
Chilaw Marians coach Mahesh Weerasinghe said that it was luck that saw them win the title. "The game of cricket needs luck and it certainly was with us in our final match and throughout the season," he said.
"We were badly placed at 157 for 5 and it was a vital 75-run stand for the sixth wicket between Janaka Gunaratne and Lahiru Weragala that brought us into the game."
Marians declared soon after passing the Moors total and pressed for a win, but Moors held on to reach 257 for 9 at stumps despite a valiant effort by Hettiarachchi whose sixth five-for in an innings made him the leading wicket-taker of the season with 66 wickets (avg. 18.96) from 11 matches.
Udawatte attributed the success was to the team's blend of experience and youth in the side. "Apart from Hettiarachchi and all-rounder Gayan Wijekoon, the rest of the side is full of youngsters. Our success is that we were able to use their individual talents properly," Udawatte said.
"We had three batsmen with over 500 runs this season and three others with over 400 runs. In the bowling Dinuka was our main strike bowler while the others chipped in around him."
Although this was their first triumph in the Premier league championship, Chilaw Marians' best season was in 2004-05. Then they had finished runner-up in the Premier league, were joint champions with Tamil Union in the Premier limited-overs tournament and won the Under-23 Tier A title. In addition, they were also crowned Premier Twenty20 champions which enabled them to qualify for the International Club Twenty20 championships in Leicester where they finished runner-up to Pakistan's Faisalabad Wolves.
General secretary and manager of the team, Godfrey Dabare stated that the crying need for the 34-year-old club was practice wickets and a club house. "This is the biggest drawback we have. Despite these obstacles we have produced a champion team and been among the top contenders for several seasons," he said.
Colombo Colts CC captained by former Sri Lanka fast bowler Chaminda Vaas finished in third spot despite conceding first-innings points to Badureliya CC in their drawn match played at the Colts Cricket Club Ground. The highlight of the match was the knock played by Tillakaratne Sampath, younger brother of Sri Lanka's famed opener Tillakaratne Dilshan for Badureliya. Sampath hit a career-best 158 to steer Badureliya to a first innings total of 372 for 9 declared. Colts stumbled to 89 for 5 before recovering to 294 largely through their lower order after medium-pacer Duncan Arnolda wrecked the top order with career-best figures of 5/64.
Ragama CChad every reason to be pleased with their dominant performance in a drawn encounter with Saracens SC at the Nondescripts Cricket Club Ground. Opener Lahiru Thirimanne and leg-spinner Malinga Bandara celebrated their inclusion in the Sri Lanka one-day squad to Bangladesh with outstanding performances. Thirimanne, a former member of the Sri Lanka Under-19 World Cup side, scored 144 and 74 not out while Bandara picked up seven wickets to dismiss Saracens for 231 in reply to Ragama's first innings effort of 375-7 declared.
Army SC and Moors SC finished at the bottom of the table and face relegation to Tier B next season. Meanwhile Tier 'B' champs Lankan CC will be promoted to play in Tier A next season.
What a season it has been for Lahiru Thirimanne who has been rewarded for his consistency with the bat for Ragama CC with a spot in the Bangladesh-bound Sri Lanka team for the one-day tri-series in January 2010. Thirimanne was the third highest run-getter for the 2009-10 season accumulating 709 runs (average 59.08) from 8 matches inclusive of two centuries and five fifties. He rounded off the season with a fine show against Saracens CC, scoring 144 and 74 not out. Fatherless since the age of 12, his career has been supported by his guardian and uncle Viraj Thirimanne, a life member of Ragama CCr. According to the club's president Roshan Abeysinghe, Thirimanne is the first thoroughbred cricketer produced by the club for since the age of 15 he has been a member. What impressed the national selectors was Thirimanne's ability to finish matches, a skill that the national team lacks at the moment. He has been picked to fulfill that role. Thirimanne is considered the best young all-round batsman in the country today equally good in defence and attack. "I am thrilled to be selected to represent my country so early in my career. I knew I had a good opportunity having scored heavily this season but the call up came as a surprise. I hope to make the most of it," said Thirimanne.