IF this is to finally be the year that Sandhurst snaps its Bendigo District Cricket Association premiership drought, the Dragons will have a pair of Sri Lankan recruits to thank for their strong contributions.
The Dragons are enduring the longest first XI premiership drought in the BDCA, having not won a flag since 1979.
And they have only played finals once since 1987, but they are shaping as a formidable proposition come March – just ask Bendigo, who the Dragons have already beaten on day one of round 11 that continues on Saturday.
The Dragons are proving to be the most potent batting line-up in the competition this season, with Sri Lankan recruits Nayana Palamandadidge and Sam de Silva both proving impressive acquisitions.
Palamandadidge in particular is making his mark on the BDCA as the competition’s leading run-scorer with 614 at an average of 68.2 that includes three centuries in his past four innings.
And with de Silva having compiled 313, the pair have combined for 927 runs from their 19 innings.
de Silva has moved to Bendigo from Perth, where he has played sub-district cricket over the past seven years, while Palamandadige previously played four seasons with Glenroy in the Victorian Turf Cricket Association.
The pair previously played cricket together in Sri Lanka and are both relishing the move to Bendigo – and the opportunity to be part of the Dragons’ long-awaited flag push.
“We’re enjoying our time at Sandhurst… it’s a good club with a good bunch of people and we feel very lucky to play here,” de Silva said.
“The club hasn’t played finals for a while, but we have a really good side this year with a strong batting line-up and hopefully, we can win it this year.”
Palamandadidge has not only been a run machine at the top of the order opening the batting, but he is also wicket-keeping – not an easy job in a side stacked with spinners, one of which is de Silva, who has also held down the No.3 slot.
We’re enjoying our time at Sandhurst… it’s a good club with a good bunch of people and we feel very lucky to play hereSam de Silva
Palamandadidge’s run of red-hot form began in the drawn game against Golden Square in round six when he cracked an unbeaten 70, followed by 114 in a one-day game against Kangaroo Flat in the final round before the mid-season break.
He was dismissed cheaply for 10 against Strathfieldsaye in the first game back after the break, before smashing back-to-back tons against Bendigo United (132) and Bendigo (104).
There was also a Twenty20 score of 51 against Bendigo United during that hot form.
With 614 runs already and more innings still to come, Palamandidge has joined Nick Scullie (845 in 2006-07) as the only Sandhurst players to score at least 600 runs in a season during the 2000s.
“He has been really consistent and you can see when he bats just how hard and clean he hits the ball… everyone is enjoying watching him bat,” de Silva said.
As well as their contributions on the field for the Dragons, de Silva and Palamandadidge are also heavily involved off it with Sandhurst’s under-18s.
de Silva is coaching the under-18s – who are third on the ladder – with assistance from Palamandadidge, who played first-class cricket in Sri Lanka with Ragama.
While with the Dragons the pair are living with Sandhurst coach Taylor Beard, who says both are proving tremendous assets for the club.
“They both bring something different. Nayana is very aggressive and when he gets off the leash he gives us some real firepower and lets the rest of the batting order play with some real freedom,” Beard said.
“And with Sammy, when we’ve been in trouble he has really dug in and stuck it out and played some really important innings.
“Normally one of them gets a score for us. One of the things we identified after last season was we need to improve our batting and they have both certainly helped with that.”
The Dragons will resume their game against Bendigo on Saturday at 3-158 after skittling the Goers for 121 at Weeroona Oval last week.