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Premier League Cricket begins today

The new inter club cricket season for 2008/09 conducted by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) will commence today with the launching of the Premier League Tier A and Tier B three day tournaments in Colombo.

The focus no doubt will be on the important Tier A first class tournament which will see the cream of Sri Lankan talent vying for honours over a period of eight week's which promises to be quite enthralling and exciting. In fact the defending champions SSC will be under pressure straight away as they will be up against the giant killers Chilaw Marians SC in their opening fixture on their home grounds at Maitland Place.

SSC of course had a memorable season last year where they completed a unique treble by winning the Premier League, Premier limited overs and the under 23 tournaments.

Now they are faced with a daunting task of maintaining their reputation and to regain the title for the second successive year, a feat which no team have been able to perform since the tournaments inception in 1998. SSC will be fielding a star studded line up this year too captained by Sri Lanka A cap and stylish opening batsman Tharanga Paranavithana. However the team has been hampered with the absence of three of their promising players Chaminda Vidanapathirana, Jeewan Mendis and Dunil Abeydeera.

The good news for SSC is that the side has been bolstered following the entry of three outstanding schoolboy cricketers Dimuth Karunaratne (St. Joseph's), Milan Fernando (S. Thomas') and Rayan Kern (Wesley).

Chilaw Marians SC too will have a new captain in the form Gayan Wijekoon a dynamic all rounder who has turned out to be a genuine potential match winner. They will of course miss the services of dashing opening batsman Mahela Udawatte who is currently on national duty.

However the Chilaw Marians SC batting have been strengthened with the entry of former Tamil Union opening batsman Nimesh Perera and solid middle order batsman Roy Silva who has shifted from Moors Sports Club. In addition they have retained the services of Sri Lanka A player Milinda Siriwardena, Dinuk Hettiarachchi and Janaka Gunaratne who are all key players in the side.

Moors v Colts

Meanwhile the last year's runners up Moors Sports Club will also have a tough opening assignment when they take on Colts CC in their encounter at Havelock Park.

The two teams of course had an awful experience last year where controversy surrounded that resulted in the game been awarded to Moors SC with penalty points.

Moors SC will be captained by brilliant all rounder Anil Rideegammanagedera and will also have the services of last years skipper Dilhara Lokuhettige, Rangana Herath and Chanaka Welagedera.

The disappointment for Moors SC is that they have also lost three of their regular players Bathiya Perera (CCC), Ruwin Peiris and Hemantha Boteju (Sebastianites SC). But the side has been boosted with the entry of Chilaw Marians SC all rounder Hasantha Fernando and opening batsman Damitha Hunukumbura from Baduraliya CC. Colts CC will be led by elegant batsman Malintha Warnapura who in fact took over the reigns during the latter stages of last years season due to the absence of Shantha Kalawitigoda. They have also recruited NCC's wicket keeper batsman Ishan Muthaliph who could be a key player for the Havelock Park team.

Colts CC will have an experienced line up with players in the calibre of Chaminda Vaas, Ruchira Perera, Angelo Mathews, Nuwan Kulasekera, Ishara Amarasinghe and Jeewantha Kulatunga available for duties. In addition they have two other promising schoolboy cricketers Thisara Perera and Roshane Silva who are fresh after a successful school cricket career.

Bloomfield v CCC

The game between Bloomfield and CCC at Reid Avenue should turn out to be a close contest with both teams determined to make a good start to the new season. Bloomfield in particular will be hoping for an improved performance after having failed to make an impact during last years competition.

Bloomfield will have three new faces in their line up with paceman Ranga Dias (Tamil Union), batsman Shantha Kalawitigoda (Colts CC) and spinner Suraj Mohamed (NCC) deciding to join the Reid Avenue club in search of a better career.

The team will be captained by test player Tillekeratne Dilshan with Shanuka Dissanayake as the vice captain and will have services of all their senior players Prasanna Jayawardena, Chamara Silva, Chinthaka Jayasinghe and Tharanga Lakshitha.

CCC of course will have a new captain in the form of Jehan Mubarak who has taken over the duties from last years skipper Tharindu Mendis. They will certainly welcome three of their new players fast bowler Chaminda Vianapathirana (SSC), wicket keeper batsman Charith Sylvester (Chilaw Marians SC) and Bathiya Perera from Moors SC.

Tamil Union v Ragama

Tamil Union who were placed third in last years tournament will launch their campaign with a match against Ragama CC on their home grounds at the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium.

Tamil Union will be captained by all rounder Muthumudalige Pushpakumara with Sri Lanka A player Gihan de Silva as his deputy. This year they will be banking heavily on the youngsters and a couple of under 23 players who will be playing in a first class tournament for the first time.

Among them are Sri Lanka youth players Sachith Pathirana and Ashan Priyanjan who will join a couple of Sri Lanka A players Suranga Lakmal, Gihan Rupasinghe, Sachithra Serasinghe and Umesh Wijesiriwardena to form a match winning combination.

In contrast Ragama CC will go in for their curtain raiser match with a better frame of mind having recruited the services of three quality players Ian Daniel from Tamil Union, Hemantha Wickremaratne from Baduraliya CC and Charitha Buddhika from Panadura SC.

Ragama CC have been further boosted with the re entry of former Ananda College and SSC fast bowler Charith Jayaweera who is certain to provide few surprises to the opposition. The team will be captained by Duminda Perera and will be backed up by an experienced line up comprising of Indika de Saram, Malinga Bandara, Kaushalya Weeraratne, Sameera Soysa and Dharshana Gamage.

NCC v Baduraliya

Two teams that failed to live upto expectations last year, NCC and Baduraliya CC will battle it out in their opening encounter at Maitland Place. Even then NCC will go in with more confidence having already clinched the SLC under 23 Tournament.

They will be hoping that their main strike bowler Lasith Malinga will recover soon to spearhead their attack together with Farveez Maharoof who will miss the opening three matches along with Kumar Sangakkara and Upul Tharanga.

NCC will be led by opening bowler Akalanka Ganegama and will have few experienced players in the side including Kanchana Gunawardena, Upul Chandana, Malintha Gajanayake, Lasith Fernando, Chanaka Wijesinghe, Chanaka Komasaru and Damith Mapa.

Baduraliya CC certainly will face an acid test as they continue to play in the Tier A tournament for the second successive year. The team is hoping for an improved performance this year having already recruited three new players into their line up.

Opening bowler Amila Prasad and Alankara Asanka both from Colts CC and paceman Pradeep Jayaprakash from Tamil Union will make their first appearance for Baduraliya CC during the current season. In addition Dhammika Vaz Gunawardena, Rasika Priyadarhana and Upul Fernando all from Lankan CC have shifted to Baduraliya CC and the only absentee from last years team is Lassana Dias. They will be captained by spinner Niroshan Bandaratilleke with T. M. Sampath as the vice captain.

Sri Lanka Army Sports Club who gained promotion following their success in the Tier B tournament last year will have a free weekend and will come out for the first time on November 21.

This week's fixtures: Bloomfield v CCC at Reid Avenue, Chilaw Marians SC v SSC at Maitland Place, Moors SC v Colts CC at Havelock Park, NCC v Baduraliya CC at Maitland Place, Tamil Union v Ragama CC at P. Saravanamuttu Stadium.

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