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Crushed by table leaders Sinhalese Sport Club in their last game a fortnight ago, Tamil Union caused one of the biggest shocks of the season when they fought back well to pull off a thrilling nine-run win over Colombo Colts at the Colts Cricket Club Ground.
Chasing a target of 247, Colts were cruising at 135 for 3 by the end of day three and required only 111 on the final day with seven wickets intact to record a win and move to the top of the table. But the early dismissal of Malinda Warnapura, the captain, turned the match Tamil Union's way and from there on they fought tooth and nail to clinch the match, eventually dismissing the opposition for 237.
Tamil Union's match winner was Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, who came up with an excellent all-round performance of 53, 102 and a match bag of six wickets against his former club.
Brendon Kuruppu, the former Test and ODI wicketkeeper-batsman and current head coach of Tamil Union, was over the moon with the victory. "It was a fantastic team effort by the boys," he said. "The turning point was the wicket of Warnapura early in the morning of the fourth day. All seven bowlers bowled a very good line and shared the wickets.
"We bowled badly against SSC and we paid the price. There were a few internal issues in the team when I took over this season. But they have been sorted out and the team has now settled down to play as a unit and is jelling very well."
According to Kuruppu, the next two games against Colombo and Chilaw Marians are vital. "SSC are at the moment runaway leaders but other teams are bound to catch up as the season goes."
Strangely enough, Sinhalese were the only club that failed to win when they were held to a draw by Nondescripts at home. In reply to Nondescripts' 273, Sinhalese amassed 444 courtesy Thilan Samaraweera's century and going into the final day needed eight wickets to secure victory. However their efforts were stalled by young opener Kanchana Gunawardene, who hit a career-best 185 as Nondescripts finished on 393 in their second innings.
Colombo and Moors both recorded victories inside three days, trouncing Ragama and Badureliya respectively. At the Colombo Cricket Ground, the host club brushed aside Ragama by nine wickets thanks to some disciplined medium-pace bowling and Anushka Polonowita's first-innings century.
Badureliya, who caused the season's biggest upset by defeating Nondescripts, were shot out for the lowest score of the season, 49, from which they could not recover at the Moors Sports Club.
Young left-handed opener Mahela Udawatte, spoken of as a successor to Sanath Jayasuriya, hit a career-best 168 to enable Chilaw Marians record a 285-run win over Bloomfield at the Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club Ground.
Player of the Week: Muthumudalige Pushpakumara
When he burst into the Sri Lanka Under-19 team eight years ago he was looked up as a future prospect for the national team, a potential allrounder whose strengths were his left-hand batting and offbreaks. But the succeeding years saw Pushpakumara hardly making the grade with performances being so sporadic that the selectors hardly took notice of him. Joining Tamil Union for the 2007-08 season changed Pushpakumara's outlook, and he is now blossoming into the allrounder everyone thought he was made out to be.
His excellent all-round performance against Colts last weekend (53, 102 and six wickets) is proof that he is enjoying the responsibilities entrusted upon him by coach Brendon Kuruppu, hwo this to say about him: "Pushpakumara has been hiding behind other cricketers not allowing his natural talent to flow. We have given him the responsibility and he has responded very well.
"As a left-hand bat and a genuine offspinner he has the potential to make the grade. It's just that his talents have not been exploited to the full. If you look at the offspinners this season some are bowling with dodgy actions and taking a lot of wickets."