ANTONIANS BEAT NALANDA AFTER 62 YEARS

by Afzal Laphir

The Antonians defeated Nalanda College Colombo convincingly by 10 wickets at Campbell Place, Colombo, to register their fifth outright win in 2024 1st XI Cricket season, adding to their successes against Dharmaraja College, Ananda College, St Sebastian’s College, and St Benedict’s College.

This was the Antonians’ first win against the Nalandians since 1962, thus breaking a 62-year hoodoo and only the second win in history against the Colombo school. This also marks their maiden win on ‘Nalandian’ soil and also the only occasion where they have managed to beat the Ananda-Nalanda combo in the same season.

A superb all-round performance by skipper Thisara Ekanayake paved the way for this elusive win against Nalanda. He scored a patient unbeaten 102 (214 balls, 9 fours), and in the process carried his bat through the innings which is a rare feat in our cricket history. With the ball, Thisara took crucial wickets (2/16 & 3/21), including the last wicket that broke a stubborn 10th wicket partnership that realized 20 runs, but most frustratingly occupied the crease for nearly 18 overs. Opening bowler, Bimash Samarasinghe (5/46 and 2/31) was the visitors’ best performer with the ball.

Antonian skipper – Thisara Ekanayake

Thisara’s knock was only the fifth century scored by an Antonian against Nalanda, following the efforts of SW Seneviratne (147 in 1957), Charlie Joseph (123 in 1960), Sajith Fernando (113 in 1992) and Kaniskha Uggalpaya (127 in 2014)

The Antonians only previous win against Nalanda was registered at Katugastota back in 1962, by a margin of 4 wickets. Bunny Steven (52) and Franklyn Burke (65*) helped the hosts chase down a victory target of 187. Burke top scored in the first innings too with 57. (Nalanda 144 & 187; SACK 145/9d & 187/6). In the same year, the Kandy boys were soundly beaten by Ananda by an innings.

Looking back at the history, the two schools started their encounters relatively late, in 1957 at Katugastota. Two brilliant centuries showcased this drawn game, one by Antonian S.W Seneviratne (147) and the other by C. Weerasinghe (135*) of Nalanda. (SACK 320 & 81/2d; Nalanda 328/8d & 46/2). The encounters were played regularly until 2007 but since then the two teams had met only on three occasions (2014, 2015 and 2023) until this year.

Following the latest game, the tally now reads SACK = 2 wins (1962 & 2024), Nalanda = 5 wins (1967, 1970, 1971, 1983 and 1989)

The last Antonian team to beat Nalanda College was in 1962 under Nissanka Dunuwille.

NALANDA’S WINS

Nalanda then registered their first win in 1967 by a resounding margin of an innings and 119 runs at Campbell Place in Colombo. The Antonians were shot out for only 31 in their second innings with opening bowlers Nalin Perera (5/15) and Anura de Silva (5/14) sharing the destruction. Perera took the first five wickets and de Silva then ran through the tail finishing off with a hat-trick dismissing J Weerasekera, N Basnayake, and R. Balraj (controversially given out LBW), off the last three balls of the innings with his left-arm swingers. Lakshman Denepitiya held out gamely while wickets were tumbling all around him and remained unbeaten on 23 out of his side’s total of 31, which included six ‘ducks’.The visitors didn’t do that well in the first innings either, with Anura de Silva (4/30 and match bag of 9/44) and Lalith Kaluperuma (4/21) doing the damage. (Nalanda 230/7d; SACK 80 & 31).

In the following year at Katugastota, Antonians had the better of the exchanges by piling up an impressive 326 to take a 74-run first-innings lead and reduced the visitors to 57/5 when rain curtailed play. Anura de Silva scored an aggressive 131 for Nalanda and for the home side, Mahesh Gunathileke (82) and Randy Simms (64) scored half-centuries. Anura de Silva couldn’t repeat his previous year’s dominance with the ball and finished with 4/132. (Nalanda 252/8d & 57/5; SACK 326). The 1969 encounter was evenly contested at Campbell Park. In the Nalanda second innings, openers Palitha Seneviratne (64) and Bandula Warnapura (47*) put on a rapid 103-run opening stand to set up a declaration. Antonians finished at 57/5, chasing 153 to win. (Nalanda 147 & 150/2d; SACK 145 & 57/5).

Two more innings wins by Nalanda followed in 1970 and 1971, during a dominant period for the Colombo school. In 1970, they registered their first and only “away” win of the series by a margin of an innings and 92 runs at Katugastota, which was incidentally the first defeat for the home side on their newly laid turf. Electing to bat on a placid wicket, Bandula Warnapura, skipper Palitha Seneviratne, his brother Jayantha Seneviratne and Daya Sirisena scored heavily to set up the win. (Nalanda 327/4d; SACK 128 & 107). In the subsequent year at Campbell Place, although the victory margin might have remained the same, the Antonians valiantly resisted defeat, falling short by only 15 minutes. After being bowled out for 47 in the first innings, the Antonians were asked to follow on with a deficit of 219 runs. They resisted fiercely, led by skipper Mahesh Gunathileke, who batted for 242 minutes to score 88 runs. With support from his dogged batters, the team managed to survive 121 overs, 54 of which were maidens. (Nalanda 266/6d; SACK 47 & 180).

Nalandians fourth win, in 1983, was also by a margin of an inning at Campbell Place. The main architects of this victory were Roshan Mahanama (100*) and Imal Boteju (3/13 & 4/30). Mahanama, who was dropped twice before he had scored and then again at 20, batted for 140 minutes, 111 balls, and scored 9 fours. (SACK 94 & 161, 275/3d). Their last win was registered in 1989, by a margin of four wickets at Campbell place, helped by Kumara Dharmasena’s match bag of 9/72. (SACK 138 & 114, 168/9 & 85/6).

14-year-old Mahela at Katugastota in 1992

In the drawn encounter in 1992, 14-year-old Mahela Jayawardena played a monumental innings of 171 not out to help Nalanda save the game at Katugastota after conceding a 107-run first innings lead. Sajith Fernando scored 113 for the Antonians. Mahela repeated the dose two years later when he notched up a classy 100 in another drawn game, to achieve the rare feat of scoring two centuries at Katugastota.

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