RUSSELLS Creek batsman Jayaweera Bandara is like a fine bottle of wine — he just gets better with age.
Four days after celebrating his 43rd birthday, Bandara fell agonisingly short of a ton as he helped rescue Creek and possibly his side’s finals hopes in the season-defining match against Nestles at Jetty Flat.
After his side slumped to 4-43 and then 5-78, Bandara, batting at number seven, and opener Riley Owen (39) combined for a 67-run stand that swung the momentum of the innings in their favour as Creek posted 213 by stumps.
Bandara, or Bundy as he is affectionately known, made 95, his fifth half-century of the season and second in consecutive games. He has scored 479 runs at an average of 79.83.
He attributes an intensive fitness campaign over the past eight months that has seen him drop several kilograms to helping him remain in division one and have an impact.
Bandara said working until 1pm each Saturday as a chef had seen him drop down the order to a preferred middle-order spot.
“I was a little bit disappointed I couldn’t get the three figures,” he said.
“I was trying to get one. I didn’t mean to hit it that well.”
Bandara mused that had he tried to hit the ball harder it would have gone for six, rather than falling into the hands of the fielder.
He had about three overs remaining in the day’s play when he tried to manipulate the strike for the start of the next over.
He was chasing his first top grade ton in “about three years”. It is the second time in the past “six or seven” years he has fallen in the 90s against Nestles.
While a century would have been nice, he was pleased for fifth-placed Creek, which has to make up 11 points on fourth-placed Merrivale in the final two games of the season.
“I’m happy with the score for the team. We were struggling a bit at tea but if you can put the runs on the board, you can put the pressure on the other side,” he said. “We know we have to win the last two games if we are going to be in the finals.
“We still have to bowl well and take their wickets. If you put the ball in the right area, you will get wickets.”
He said Nestles star Brett Eldridge, who finished with five wickets, had hit the right spots.
Nestles, which sits eighth, has to win to keep its slim finals hopes alive when play resumes on Saturday.