THE HISTORY OF MURALI-VAAS TROPHY AND BEYOND

THE HISTORY OF MURALI-VAAS TROPHY AND BEYOND

by AFZAL LAPHIR

When St Joseph’s College (SJC) Colombo host St Anthony’s College Kandy (SACK) on Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th February at Darley Road, the two Saints schools will meet for the 110th occasion, spreading across three centuries. This year, they will be playing not just for prestige but also for points, as they compete for a top four position in their group to progress to the Quarter Finals of the U19 Division One 2-Day Tournament 2023/24 (Tier A).

From the time the first game was played in 1899 when St Joseph’s came out victorious by 90 runs, this encounter has continued to maintain its rich traditions of fair play and great sportsmanship.

Lahiru Amarasekera (SJC) and Thisara Ekanayake (SACK) are the respective captains this year. Last year’s game ended in a tame draw at Katugastota.

The two schools have produced cricketers of the highest class with several going on to represent Sri Lanka. The most legendary of them all, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas are proud products of SACK and SJC respectively. They had the distinction of ‘carrying’ the Sri Lankan attack in over 100 tests and 300 ODIs, with a combined wicket tally of 1155 in Tests and 934 in ODIs. It was only fitting, when brothers Theo and Pradeep Fernando (both from SACK) came forward in 2007 to donate an impressive trophy named after the two Lankan legends in memory of their father, Bede Fernando, who was an old Josephian. To ensure the two schools received an equal share from the Fernando family, Pradeep’s son Viresh was educated at St Joseph’s College. Ironically, Muralitharan’s son Naren represented the Joes last year and sat in the opposite camp to his illustrious father’s school.

The inaugural Murali-Vaas trophy coincided with the 95th encounter between the two schools on 23rd and 24th February 2007 at Katugastota, under the captaincy of Selwyn Jamion (SACK) and Rajeeva Weerasinghe(SJC). The game ended in an entertaining fashion thanks to a quick century (110 in 81 balls with 21 fours, 1 six) by Antonian Gimhan Dissanayake, helping his side to a fighting draw. In the Josephian innings, Angelo Mathews scored a polished 110. (SACK 122 and 340/8, SJC 242/4d). It is noteworthy to mention that four ‘future internationals” represented St Joseph’s in this game, namely Mathews, the current Test skipper Dimuth Karunaratne, Thisara Perera and Roshen Silva. For the record, both Dimuth and Roshen scored centuries in the 2006 encounter at Darley Rd.

Interestingly, the introduction of the Murali-Vaas trophy not only injected added fame to the contest but also brought about results. It took only a year for the hoodoo of 18 consecutive draws to be broken when the Joes registered a win in 2008.

The inaugural Murali-Vass Trophy flyer
The inaugural Murali-Vass Trophy flyer

The Joes have had the better of the exchanges in the 14 games since, winning six that included four in a row between 2013 and 2016. During this time, the Antonian batting was somewhat in disarray as they went down tamely on more than one occasion. The ignominy of being shot for 35 in 2013, their lowest total in the series, was the worst of all, followed by totals of 76 and 96 in 2014. Preceding this period, the prolific Hiran Wickremasekera was indeed a shining light for the Antonians with his consistent performances. He scored 60 in 2009, 83 in 2010 and 110 in 2011, on his way to scoring 1000 runs in each of these three years.

The Josephians, on the other hand, enjoyed several outstanding performances, notably Sameera Weerasinghe (11/109 and 118 n.o in 2009), Chathuranga Kumara (133 in 2010) and Vimukthi Pieris (141 in 146 balls in 2015),

The solitary Antonian win since the inauguration of the Murali-Vaas trophy came in 2019 under Theeksha Gunasinghe. Two years prior, they got within two wickets of defeating the Josephians under Mohammed Alfar.

Across 120 years of history and after several thrilling games, St Joseph’s has come out on top more frequently than the Kandy school. The record stands at 44 wins for SJC, 9 wins for SACK with 56 draws. The wins for SJC were registered in 1909-1911,1914, 1916, 1918-1921, 1923-1925, 1927-1929, 1932, 1934, 1936-1939, 1941, 1943, 1944, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1951, 1952, 1959, 1963, 1964, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1980, 1984, 2008, 2013-2016 & 2020. For SACK, the wins came in 1913, 1915, 1917, 1922, 1926, 1930, 1956, 1991 & 2019.

The last Josephian win was achieved in 2020 at Darley Rd under Johanne de Zilva, who scored a powerful century in the second innings to set up the win. Johanne and his opening partner Sheran Fonseka scored an unbeaten 188 runs for the first wicket in just 21 overs. 2022 Josephian skipper Dunith Wellalage captured a match-bag of 11/72, with 7/53 in the second innings to bundle the visitors out late on the second day. (SJC 209 and 188-0, SACK 144 and 169). The most recent Antonian win was in 2019 when the Josephians travelled to Katugastota. Their first win in 28 years was built around centuries from skipper Theeksha (142) and Kalhara Senaratne (106) and a 12-wicket bag from Nimnaka Jayathilake (5/66 and 7/43). (SJC 218 and 119, SACK 354).

Six of the nine Antonians wins were registered between 1913 and 1930, against formidable Josephian outfits. Around this period, the Colombo school’s strength was exemplified when they secured 14 wins in 19 games (1910 to 1929) and continued to win consistently until 1974 as illustrated in the curve below.

The Curve on Cumulative Wins illustrates the Josephian dominance from 1910 to 1970 decades

Since then, and up until the Murali-Vaas trophy was inaugurated, Joes went through a barren run by winning only two games in 34 years, a far cry from their previous domination.

DOWN MEMORY LANE

Now let us trace back the history of Anto-Joes games and reminisce on the memorable moments from the time they started in earnest 9th October 1909 (1910 season), although history has recorded a solitary game previously in 1899.

The inaugural game in 1909 was won by St Joseph’s by a margin of an innings and 72 runs. A fine all-round performance by Abeywickrema (94 & 6/17 in the second innings) was instrumental in the Joes win. For the Antonians, Wijegoonewardena (7/86) bowled his heart out in the only inning. (SACK 122 & 40, SJC 234)

In 1911 at Bogambara, the Joes were too strong once again defeating the hosts by an innings and 72 runs. J.A.B Peiris (6/36) and S.Silva (5/11) took the bowling honours in each innings for the Joes, and L Ratnayake (85) top-scored for the victors. (SACK 90 & 82; SJC 250/6d)

The names Jack Anderson (SACK) and Oswin Wright (SJC) are very much entrenched in the history of the respective schools. They had the distinction of scoring the first century for each school, with Oswin reaching the mark first in 1914 when he scored 132 out of 172/1 declared in a “whole-day” game against SACK at Darley Rd. The game started at 8.30 in the morning and ended with the Antonians tottering at 32/8 in their second innings. Jack top scored for the Kandy school with 50 in the first innings. (SJC 132 and 172/1d, SACK 124 and 32/8). In the same year, Oswin also registered St Joseph’s maiden centuries against Royal College and Wesley College. Antonians won the encounter in 1915 by 8 wickets with Jack (58) and Stephens (59) being unbeaten at the end. Earlier J.Carter (6/22) and V.Rosayro (4/23) routed the Joes for 49 in the first innings (SJC 49 & 195, SACK 122 & 127/2). In 1916, Bertie Hillman hit an unbeaten 167 to take his team to a win, an inning that is yet to be emulated by a Josephian.

Jack Anderson’s turn came in 1917 when he blasted a stunning 184 at Bogambara, which remains to date as the highest individual innings between the two sides. His innings carried the Antonians, led by James Ferguson, to an easy win by an inning and 162 runs. R.A.D Joseph (5/22) and J Cater (4/26) complemented Anderson’s innings with the ball in the two innings. (SJC 100 & 95, SACK 357/7d). This was their first win in a 2-day encounter.

Much was expected from Jack in the following year, when he broke numerous batting records that included 1000 runs in a single month, five consecutive centuries and a monumental inning of 291 against S Thomas ML. Unfortunately, in a close 49-run defeat, Jack was dismissed for 22 and 5 in the two innings against the Joes, which was the only failure during this memorable year of 1918. D. Pompeus (56n.o) and R.A de Silva (59) took the batting honours for SJC and SACK respectively. In the bowling department, L Jayawardena (3/59 & 4/37) and Robert Wright (4/44 & 3/34) contributed usefully for the two sides.  (SJC 140 & 147, SACK 146 & 92).

The two sides fought out an exciting encounter in 1919 at Bogambara with Joes coming out victorious by 3 wickets. RA de Silva (54) for SACK and AF Peries (53) for SJC scored the only half-centuries in the game. (SACK 127 & 123, SJC 170 & 81/7)

1920 – 1940 decades

During the three decades between 1920 and 1940, the Joes were simply irresistible. They won 20 games to 3 during this period, and it gets more convincing to note that the Joes remained unbeaten between 1931 to 1955, winning 14 games.

Dismal batting performance by the Antonians handed the Joes a comfortable win by 144 runs at Bogambara in 1920. The top score for the home side in either innings was a meagre 13 by P.Chelliah as C Ponniah (7/30 & 2/20) and L Rajapakse (2/10 & 4/19) ran through the batting. G Herman (3/31 & 4/39) and LV Jayaweera (4/33 & 5/45) bowled their hearts out in a losing cause. (SJC 100 & 161, SACK 61 & 56)

In 1922, the Antonians put a halt to a streak of four consecutive defeats when they overcame the Joes by a thrilling 3 runs at Bogambara. A fine spell of bowling by George Macky (5/23) in the second innings, including the final wicket, ensured the win. (SACK 130 & 152; SJC 134 & 145)

An innings of 122 by skipper Abeyasekera and 68 from Mayo helped the Josephians to a comfortable win in 1924. (SJC 108 & 244/5d; SACK 120 & 61) And then in 1926, an Antonian side led by GRS Baie thrashed the Joes by an innings and 43 runs at Bogambara and in the process the visitors collapsed to 23 all out in the second innings, which remains as the lowest total by either side in the series. V Henley (3/07) and skipper GRS Baie (4/10) were the chief destroyers in the second innings. (SJC 60 and 23, SACK 136)

Joes went on another winning spree, three in a row, starting off with a convincing win in 1927 by 9 wickets in Colombo (SACK 72 & 149; SJC 181 & 41/1) and following up with a 7 wicket win at Bogambara in 1928 (SACK 160 & 82; SJC 159 & 83/3). The main destroyers for the visitors were Visvanathan (6/25) in the first innings and CM Fernando (4/11) in the second that included a hatrick, dismissing Henley, Bolling and Ratnapala in three consecutive balls. Rodrigo batted best for the Joes with 51 and 34.

Visvanathan was again the tormentor with 6/15 in the first innings as the Antonians were put on the back foot from the outset at Darley Road in 1929. The visitors were eventually thrashed by an innings and 147 runs with K de Silva (5/18) being the chief destroyer in the second innings. The Joes innings was built around three half-centuries from R Fernando, Devanayagam and Abeysekera.  (SACK 100 & 52; SJC 299).

Antonians under D.H Weerasinghe played with grit and resilience to defeat a strong Josephian outfit by one run at Bogambara in 1930. In a low scoring affair, K.C Visvanathan (7/30) and Gautamadasa (6/28) bowled brilliantly for St Joseph’s and SACK respectively, in the second innings. Chasing 96, Joes collapsed to 46/6 after being 32/1 and then recovered to 91/7 before losing their last three wickets for 3 runs to lose by a solitary run. (SACK 59 and 108, SJC 72 and 94). During the early thirties, it often became a battle for supremacy between the two outstanding Jayasunderas, Harry from SACK and the speed merchant, DS from SJC.

Joes won four games in a row between 1936 and 1939 despite the Antonians putting up a good fight in a couple of the games. The 1936 encounter was a one-sided affair though, as the Colombo boys condemned the Antonians to a comprehensive defeat, by an innings and 149 runs at Bogambara. A Powell (65), Outschoorn (79) and N.Spittel (58) scored freely to set up a huge first innings total and then Spittel showing his all-round prowess captured a match bag of 9/18 (4/09 and 5/09) to seal the fate on the hosts. (SACK 114 and 85, SJC 348/9d)

The two teams played out another thrilling game in 1938 where the outcome was decided off the last ball of the day when the Antonian batting collapsed in a heap. Josephian D Ranasinghe bowled outstandingly well to capture 13/100 (6/77 and 7/23) to take his team home. For the Antonians, the highlights were the contributions from Ralph Harris (60) and F.P Rode (5/30).

The 1939 encounter was also a hard-fought affair, with the Joes winning by 4 wickets. Perera (53, 4/29) and Spittel (5/34) played crucial roles in the win. (SACK 113 and 148, SJC 151 and 111/6). The Antonians continued their improvement with another fine performance in 1940. Chasing 223 to win, the Kandy boys were 173/7 when stumps were drawn. B Samarasinghe (56) and V Joseph (35) batted bravely in the run chase. Fine bowling by Mendis (8/20) restricted the Antonians to 79 in the first innings which effectively quelled their momentum after they managed to dismiss the strong Joes outfit for 126 on the first day. (SJC 126 and 176, SACK 79 and 176/7)

In 1941 at Darley Rd, the home side smashed the Antonian bowling to the tune of 504/8 in a day, which broke the previous record total by the Joes that realised 478 against Ananda in 1930. Makkim Salih (122) and H Muller (123) rattled up centuries and F Dalpathado (53), T Mathysz (59) and Victor Perera (52) also joined the run-spree. The hosts went on to win by an innings and 243 runs, with A.B Weerakoon (59) providing the only resistance for the visitors. (SJC 504/8d, SACK 168 and 93)

The two sides next met at Katugastota in 1943 after the previous year’s game was not played. Two scores of 90s were the feature of this encounter which the Joes won comfortably by 8 wickets. F Dalpathado (94) for SJC and G Alston (92) for SACK were unlucky to miss their respective centuries.

Despite conceding a first innings lead of 44 runs, the Joes managed to come back from behind and chase down 174 to win by six wickets in 1944 at Mount Mary. After D Wickremasinghe (5/27) and M de Costa (5/28) kept the visitors in check in each innings, half-centuries from F. Mathysz (59) and C de Mel (51) took the Joes home. D Wijesinghe (5/25) bowled best for the Antonians in the first innings. (SACK 136 & 123: SJC 92 & 174/4)

In 1945, the Antonian last wicket pair held on to secure a draw. Half-centuries from H Bagot, Sinnathamby and C de Mel along with D Wickremasinghe (4/15 & 3/15) performed well for the Joes. (SJC 327/7d, SACK 130 & 108/9)

It was a case of another year and another exciting encounter when the two teams locked horns in 1948 at Darley Rd. When stumps were drawn, the Josephians were a mere 3 runs from victory, finishing at 120/7 chasing 123 for an outright win. (SACK 160 & 157; SJC 195 & 120/7)

1950 – 1970

The visiting Antonians were saved by rain in 1950 after the home side, captained by Billy Balthazaar, rattled up 310 in even time. Having failed to avert the follow-on, the Antonians went in but the rain soaked the matting wicket and restricted play. (SJC 310, SACK 204 & 31/4). As an interesting fact, Billy’s sons, Shane and Kevin Balthazaar, represented St Anthony’s in the 1970s.

The 1951 encounter was played on a make-shift turf wicket at Katugastota and Josephian paceman Ken Serpanchy took an immediate liking with an outstanding 8/18, returning the best individual bowling performance of the 109-game series between the two schools. Joes went on to win the game by innings. (SACK 48 and 198, SJC 297). The Antonians tasted the same medicine in the following year, going down by an inning at Darley Rd.

Two years later, in 1954, the same grounds earned an entry into cricketing folklore thanks to Tom Deen’s colossal sixes, including one on the Bonjean Tower. The game itself had its thrills and spills with the Antonian last-wicket pair batting out over 20 minutes to stave off defeat. (SJC 199 & 155, SACK 221 & 110/9). The following year showcased another thrilling spectacle with the Joes taking on the challenge of chasing 247 runs in 150 mins, only to fall short by 13 runs. (SACK 181 and 255/9, SJC 189 and 234/6).

After a lapse of 26 years, the Antonians led by Wijepala Premaratne experienced a rare win in 1956 at Darley Rd. Paceman Adrian Berenger was the architect of this win capturing 11/94 (5/28 and 6/66) for the match. After being skittled for 51 in the first innings, the home side fought back strongly but some resilient batting by the visitors took them home. (SJC 51 & 221, SACK 149 & 124/7).

Skipper Ranjith Dorenagama scored an elusive century (113 n.o) in 1957, the first Antonian century against SJC since the famous 184 by Jack Anderson in 1917.  Antonians escaped defeat narrowly in 1958 when the Joes fell short by a mere 3 runs, chasing 48 in 20 mins. (SACK 212 and 176, SJC 250/7 and 45/2).

The 1960 game at Darley Rd was not without its excitement and when stumps were drawn, the Antonians needed just one wicket and the Josephians 7 runs. Chasing 88 to win, the Joes were sitting pretty at 50/1 before they lost 8/30. In a low scoring game, Antonian skipper, Charlie Joseph’s innings of 74 shone like a beacon (SACK 134 and 88, SJC 135 and 80/9)

The trend of nail-biting finishes continued in 1967 at Katugastota. When the time was called, both sides had an opportunity to win with the Josephian last-wicket pair at the wickets needing 15 further runs for victory. (SACK 164 and 69, SJC 132 and 86/9).

In the following year, the best spirits of sportsmanship was on display when Antonian skipper Randy Simms was given a resounding ovation by the Josephian team under Lalith de S Wijeratne and the spectators at Darley Rd for the dour battle he staged to save his side. Unfortunately, Randy’s innings of 36 out of a total of 74 couldn’t prevent the Josephians from registering an easy 9 wicket win. (SACK 169 and 74, SJC 223/8 and 22/1)

The 1969 game between the two sides at Katugastota was marked by a brilliant unbeaten inning of 134 by Meri Guneratne which helped the home side to force a draw after being asked to follow-on. This was only the third century scored by an Antonian against SJC in over 60 years. Josephian paceman Hakel captured 8 wickets for the match. (SJC 319/7 dec, SACK 171 and 245/4)

1970 and beyond

The Antonians were shot out for a meagre 40 at Darley Rd in 1970, to hand the Josephians an easy innings win and two years later, the visitors suffered another defeat, by 7 wickets, orchestrated by an opening partnership of 164 by Josephian pair, skipper Rohan Fernando (76) and R Martin (111). Antonians skipper Jayantha Monnekulame (7/74) bowled his heart out in a losing cause. Another thrilling game was played at Darley Rd in 1974 and on this occasion, the hosts defeated a fighting Antonian unit by 3 wickets off the last over of the game. This game was marred by a rare dismissal of ‘hitting the ball twice’ meted out to Bernard Perera of SACK. (SACK 123 and 109, SJC 122 and 111/7).

In 1976, Antonian Zareen Hameed claimed a match-bag of 10-123 to take the honours in the drawn game. It was later reported that the Josephian vice-captain Trevor Croner had sacrificed his wicket in the last over of the game to allow Zareen to claim his tenth wicket. This gesture by Trevor paid further testament to the friendly rivalry the two schools had demonstrated over their longstanding history.

The Josephians won the 1980 encounter by 7 wickets under Rohan Wijesinghe Jnr, following two sensational batting collapses by SACK. After being 136/1 at one stage, the Antonians lost 9 for 46 in the first innings and were shot out 70 in the second innings, losing their last 19 wickets for 116 runs.

In 1981, Pradeep Fernando (7 for 47 in the second innings) almost carried SACK to an outright win, but for a defiant 37 run-last wicket stand that occupied the crease for 52 crucial minutes. Chasing 164 to win in 40 mins plus 20 overs, SACK finished at 110 for 2. In the following year, Ashley de Silva’s 134 took Joes to the brink of victory with the Antonians holding on with two wickets to spare. A 15-year-old Rienzie Perera stunned the Joes with outstanding figures of 6 for 26 (17 overs) at Katugastota in 1983 after skipper Marlon Von Hagt (81 and 99) dominated Antonians modest totals of 106 and 200, scoring almost 60% of the team’s collective total in the match. After three consecutive years of nail-biting games, Jeevaka Candappa’s Josephians registered a comfortable innings win in 1984 at Darley Rd after the Antonians were shot out for 80.

In 1991 under the captaincy of Nuwan Kalpage, the Antonians registered their first win since 1956, after a lapse of 35 years. Both Murali and Vaas played in this game, but it was the spin wizard who came out trumps with a match-bag of 12 for 97 (6/33 and 6/64) to help SACK win easily by 10 wickets at Katugastota. This game finished in an enterprising manner with the hosts reaching the 62-run target in just 5.5 overs. Opener Sapumal Herathge went berserk with an unbeaten inning of 47 in 14 balls, taking the Joes’ opening attack of Vaas and Harsha de Silva to the cleaners.

Nilantha Sirisena (135 for SACK) and Previn Fernando (133 for SJC) scored centuries in a high-scoring draw in 1993. Five years later, skipper Mahesh Palihakkara (112) notched up the first and to-date the only Antonian century at Darley Rd. An unbroken partnership of 142 between Prasad Ranawake and Samson Burke saved the Antonians from a certain defeat in 2000. Being asked to follow on with a deficit of 136, the pair came together at 98/4 and remained unbeaten till the end. In the following year, the two sides played out an exciting draw with the Antonians finishing on 151/8 chasing a victory target of 189 in 43 overs. The 2003 game registered the highest Antonian total in this series when a rollicking inning of 116 from Tyrone de Silva helped his side amass 468 in only 112 overs. This is still a ground record for Katugastota against all comers.

This year’s Murali-Vaas encounter is expected to be a keenly contested affair, with both teams comprising some outstanding players. Whether the game is won or lost, rest assured it will be played in the right spirits!

The two teams that played in the inaugural Murali-Vass Trophy (courtesy– Selwyn Jamion)

Editor’s Note:

This article was first published on 20th April 2021 for the 109th 1st XI Cricket encounter which was to be played on 30th April & 1st May 2021 between the two schools, led by Gihan Ebert (SACK) and Dunith Wellalage (SJC). Unfortunately due to Covid 19 pandemic, the match was postponed and then could not be played. Also, the encounter could not be continued in 2022 due to the economic and fuel crisis that prevailed in the country when it was scheduled to be played in April’2022 at Katugastota. As this traditional fixture was finally played in 2023 and now is scheduled to be played in 2024, as requested by the writer Afzal Laphir, we have edited the original article (in 2023 and for 2024). 

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4 comments

  1. Great interesting read about the history of the two schools games with so much detail. Thank you Afzal for keeping these records and giving us the opportunity to know about this 100 year old encounter. I wish both teams good luck and enjoy the cricket while want the Antonian’s to win todays match.

  2. Joe Paiva ( old Peterite)

    Well researched excellently crafted narrative.

  3. History of cricket encounters results and statistics over the past 100 years between these 2 schools that have produced some of the Nations finest crickters over the years.
    Afzal covers this with great detail highlighting the outstanding performances by individuals who have made this encounter such a spectacle.
    Good luck to both teams!

  4. Afzal covers the history of cricket encounters between these 2 great institutions in great detail. The results over the past 120 years including the notable performances by individuals that have deserved appreciation from their supporters some of who have gone on further to gain recognition by representing their country. Another well written article by Afzal.

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