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Mendis and Samaraweera: Two Sri Lankans on opposite sides at Aussie series

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Thilan Samaraweera

Sri Lanka’s exciting four-run over Australia in the fourth ODI on Tuesday gave them a winning 3-1 lead in the five-match series. The architect of that memorable win was former Observer SLT Mobitel Schools Cricketer Charith Asalanka.

Asalanka who made a match winning maiden ODI century was back to back Observer SLT Mobitel Schools Cricketer wins in 2015 and 2016.

Earlier in the series, another former Observer Schoolboy Cricketer Kusal Mendis made a stunning 87.Sri Lanka’s 26-run win in last Friday’s second ODI enabled them to level the series one-all before winning the third match as well.

Another youngster to blossom in the second ODI was Dunith Wellalage who made his ODI debut after leading the Sri Lanka Under-19 team.

It is a great pleasure to see Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year progressing to its 44th year.

Ex-Sri Lanka cricketer Thilan Samaraweera was one of those few elite cricketers who had won the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title twice almost three decades ago.

Interestingly, Samaraweera functions as Assistant Coach of the Australia ‘A’ team currently touring Sri Lanka.

He was in peak form in the mid 90s and won the prestigious title in 1995 and 1996. Samaraweera is only the second Anandian to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer award twice.

Thilan Samaraweera winning the top award

Heading that elite band of winners is Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga (1980 and 1982). Besides Samaraweera and Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama (Nalanda -1983 and 1984), Lahiru Peiris (St. Peter’s – 2004 and 2005), Bhanuka Rajapakse (Royal – 2010 and 2011), Charith Asalanka (Richmond – 2015 and 2016) and Navod Paranawithana (Mahida) have won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title twice each.

Samaraweera, a proud product of Ananda College, was born on September 22, 1976 in Colombo. After his superlative innings in school cricket, he later played for SSC and Sri Lanka with distinction.

Samaraweera was in the side primarily for his rock solid right-hand batting and later excelled as the batting coach of the national team.

“I’m happy about my Test average. Among the Sri Lankan batsmen I am on top behind two of our greatest batsmen,” Samaraweera was quoted as saying.

Asked about his most challenging innings, Samaraweera said it was at the World Cup in front of a home crowd. “The highest-pressure match I ever played in was the World Cup semi-final at the Premadasa Stadium. There were over 35,000 spectators who came to support us. Nevertheless, we lost some quick wickets and the response from spectators was unacceptable.

“When I looked up at the dressing room, I saw tail-enders Rangana Herath, Lasith Malinga, Mendis and Murali. To get them all out you only need an over at times. Thankfully Angelo (Mathews) and I remained unbeaten to turn the game in our favour,” he said.

Samaraweera paid an extraordinary tribute to former captain and Observer Schoolboy Cricketer (1980 and 1982) Arjuna Ranatunga. “His presence was a great help for me in my first years at SSC. He was a huge personality in international cricket and he guided us in every difficult situation. He gets to the venue early, plays the game with intensity,” Samaraweera said.

“Only two players avoided getting an earful from him as captain at that time in the SSC team – that’s Marvan Atapattu and me,” he was quoted as saying.

Samaraweera’s Test debut in both Test and ODI had been against India. He made a Test century on debut in Sri Lanka’s third Test against India at the SSC ground in August/September 2001.

Batting at number eight, Samaraweera made 103 not out on his debut facing 175 balls in a 201-minute stay, hitting ten fours. Samaraweera was the fourth Sri Lanka batsman to score a century in the home team’s first innings total of 610 for 6 declared with Marvan Atapattu (108), Mahela Jayawardena (139) and Hashan Tillakaratne (136 not out) giving a torrid time to the Indian bowlers.

Debutant Samaraweera showed the class of a seasoned batsman and was associated in an unfinished 194-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Tillakaratne as Sri Lanka emerged victorious by an innings and 77 runs. Samaraweera’s rock-solid batting and tantalizing off spin bowling enabled him to cement his place in the Test team.

In 81 Tests for Sri Lanka, Samaraweera aggregated 5,462 runs with 14 centuries and 30 fifties.

He is among the top Sri Lankan batsmen who had maintained an impressive Test average of 48.76. Although Samaraweera was better known as a Test batsman, he had also represented Sri Lanka in 53 ODIs with a career-best knock of 105 not out.

He had been working with some Australian Test players ahead of their 2016 tour to Sri Lanka too, in his brief consulting stint at Australia’s National Cricket Centre in Brisbane. In 2013, he had a successful season with Worcestershire in the English county championship and made a top score of 144 not out against Leicestershire at Leicester on August 28, 2013.


Thursday, June 23, 2022 – 01:00

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