By beating Singha SC outright by two wickets in a closely fought out game at the Welagedera Stadium, Kurunegala YCC registered their third successive win of the season in as many matches. Their previous wins were over Kalutara TC and BRC, both promoted teams to Segment 'A' from this season.
Kurunegala YCC's victories have enabled them to open up a useful 17.5 points lead over their nearest rivals, SSC who had the better of exchanges in their key encounter with Bloomfield.
Pre-Christmas leaders, NCC lost their hold, following the suspension of CCC, which resulted in the points they gained from that game (22.0) being withdrawn. NCC thus slipped to third place despite beating Sebastianites outright.
NCC LOSE THEIR HOLD
Former Sri Lanka off-spinner Ranjith Madurasinghe had a hand in guiding the destiny of his club with a match haul of 7 for 82. The game was a low scoring affair where only two fifties were recorded - both by batsmen from the losing side. It was also the losing team that contributed a fine all-round performance by Ase- la Wewelwala (53 and 5 for 40) which went wasted. Em]SSC took full advantage of some loose batting by Bloomfield to obtain first innings points. Bloomfield sent in by SSC, folded up tamely for 161, a total from which they had no chance of making a come- back. SSC rubbed it in by declaring at 352 for 9 of which Mahela Jayawardena and Hemantha Wickremaratne made constrasting half- centuries.
Bloomfield were left to bat out the whole of the final day. They showed the resoluteness that was lacking in the first innings by batting through 102 overs to make 300 for 5. Sri Lanka's 'Master Blaster' Sanath Jayasuriya led the way with a dogged innings of 89 occupying nearly 4 1/2 hours, which was totally uncharacteristic for him, but invaluable to his team. Similar contributions from Sampath Perera, who completed a fine century in seven minutes under six hours and, skipper Roshan Mahanama (157 minutes for 42) ensured Bloomfield did not concede anything more than first innings points.
TOO HOT TO HANDLE
The pace of Sri Lanka fast bowler Ravindra Pushpakumara proved too hot to handle for Sebastianites, who succumbed to defeat by an innings on a helpful pitch. Pushpakumara's figures of 11 for 90 which was easily his career best, coupled with left-hander Russel Arnold's century were the contributory factors to NCC's win.
Tamil Union and Galle CC finally had fortune smiling on them when they recorded their maiden wins of the season.
Tamil Union, who lost their first three matches of the season, proved their transformation into a winning unit during the division I and II limited-over competition (of which they ended as runner-up to Bloomfield) was no fluke, by dumping Panadura SC rather unceremoniously by 10 wickets.
After Sri Lanka off-spinner Muthiah Muralitharan had spun out Panadura in the first innings for 144 with a tantalysing spell of 5 for 28 off 21.3 overs, Tamil Union suffered a few hiccups sliding to 100 for 5 before being rescued by two promising youngsters - Asela Jayasinghe and Gayan Wijekoon, both of whom missed out on well deserved centuries. Em]Left-hander Jayasinghe, a product of Thebuwana MV and Thurstan College and Wijekoon, formerly of Gurukula MV, Kelaniya shared a sixth wicket partnership of 135 to lift Tamil Union to 310 - giving them a useful first innings lead of 166.
Jayasinghe dominated the stand scoring 95 runs off 86 balls inclusive of two sixes and 13 fours, while Wijekoon played the role of sheet anchor batting four hours for an undefeated 92. Panadura proved they were equally susceptible to pace as well when they fell prey to fast-medium bowler Chaminda Hathurusuingha (6 for 72) in the second innings.
Galle CC's maiden victory of the season was carved out by their captain Duminda Wickremasinghe and left-arm spinner Malaka de Silva. Wickremasinghe made a useful 81 in Galle CC's moderate first innings total of 235. Then, De Silva took a match bag of eight wickets (6 for 27 off 15.3 overs in the first innings) to contrive Kalutara TC's downfall.
Trailing by 123 runs on the first innings, Kalutara TC were left with the whole of the final day to score 341 runs off 95 runs for victory - a task which proved beyond them when they were dismissed for 218 in the 76th over.
In a low scoring game at Police Park, Antonian SC edged out Police SC by seven runs on the first innings, but failed to gain any batting bonus points due to poor planning. Left with the task of scooring 293 for victory off 69 overs, Antonians played out time to finish on 156 for 6, a figure which left them 19 runs short of gaining the minimum of batting bonus points - 1.0. Police's left-arm leg-spinner P.K. Serasinghe took six wickets in the Antonian first innings and C. Liyanage contributed 61 and 47 with the bat.
Moors SC began their quest to win the Segment 'B' title and gain promotion to Segment 'A' in emphatic manner, by recording the only outright win of the weekend in their group. A 139-run liaison between Riyaz Farouk (75) and C. Srimal (46) gave them a commanding 129-run first innings lead over Old Dharmapalians -a position from which they never looked back, despite the visitors strong second innings reply of 287. Aruna Hettiarachchi put the final touches to Moors' win with an unbeaten 86. Fast bowlers Im- ran Thahir and A. Susantha shared 14 wickets between them to round off a good weekend.
Thilak Fernando's all-round capabilities brought Air Force a first innings win over Old Cambrians. Fernando made 138 and 56 and took a match bag of six wickets. However, Negombo CC's Shaun Mackay had no such luck against Kandy CC. He hit a century in each innings (108 and 101) but yet finished on the losing side.
Schoolboy Sanjay Rajapakse (6 for 40) was responsible for Rio SC beating Kandy YCC on first innings in a low scoring game at Peradeniya, while D. Kottachchi's match bag of eight wickets gave Kalutara PCC first innings points over Kurunegala SC.