Sydney University has been eliminated from the 2017 Red Bull Campus Cricket tournament overnight after a gripping, fluctuating semi-final in Galle.
After winning the toss, University invited the home-side favourites, Sri Lanka's Business Management School, to bat first. Sydney's pace attack has been a distinct strength in this year's Red Bull campaign, and Joe Kershaw broke through in his first over, when he jagged a ball back off the seam and bowled opener Manoj Sarathchandra. BMS was 2 for 3 when Hayden Kerr plucked out Lahiru Milantha's middle stump with the first ball of the second over. In the fourth over of the innings, Hashan Dumindu top-edged a hook at Kerr through to keeper Sam Brandwood, and Brandwood was back in the action when Kieran Elley lured BMS captain Dinuk Wikramanayake into a loose drive from the first ball of the net over. After 4.1 overs, BMS was deep in trouble at 4 for 14.
But every member of the BMS side is an experienced first-class cricketer, and Sri Lanka A all-rounder Chamika Karunaratne and Supeshala Jayathilaka rebuilt the innings with a brisk stand of 54. Kershaw returned to end the partnership when Karunaratne heaved the ball to Henry Hunt at mid-wicket, but Tilaksha Sumanasiri then played a vital innings, cracking an unbeaten 40 from only 22 balls. Kerr (2-19), Kershaw (2-22) and Elley (2-29) bowled exceptionally well, but the BMS total of 6 for 163 was a tough one to chase.
Left arm spinner Amila Aponso, who has played several One Day Internationals for Sri Lanka, opened the attack with a tidy over that allowed only three runs. But Hayden Kerr attacked seamer Vikum Sanjaya in the next over, whipping the first ball over mid-wicket to the fence, swatting the fourth high over mid-off for another boundary, and swinging the last ball over long-on for six. Kerr plundered another six and three boundaries from left-armer Jayathilaka's first over, and brought up a blistering half-century from only 25 balls in the sixth over of the innings. Kerr welcomed seamer Karunaratne into the attack with a fierce square drive for 4, but edged the next ball to the keeper, after hitting 54 from 27 balls.
The Sri Lankan bowlers worked their way back into the game with some tight middle overs, and when Henry Hunt fell for 18, Sydney was 5 for 105, needing 59 runs from 29 balls. But there was another twist to come, as Joe Kershaw and Will Lawrance added 48 runs from the next 4.1 overs. Kershaw in particular hit powerfully and selectively, cracking two sixes. University needed 13 from the last over, bowled by the experienced Karumaratne. Lawrance cracked the first ball for a single, but was run out backing up from the next (a wide). Kershaw's bunt to cover produced overthrows and a misfield, and yielded three runs; now eight runs were needed from four balls. But Karunaratne recovered his nerve, and bowled a series of rapid yorkers. Four runs were needed from the final delivery, but Karunaratne produced another pinpoint yorker, and BMS claimed victory in a dramatic finish.
Sydney University leaves the competition, but can take pride in a hard-fought campaign, and in playing a full part in the most memorable match of the tournament,