85th JOSEPHIAN-PETERITE BATTLE OF THE SAINTS (2019)
Beyond the Boundary Lines
By Algi Wijewickrema
The press has done its reporting on the 85th Battle of the Saints within the normal bounds of reporting on a cricket match but there’s a lot more that can be written beyond those boundaries about this encounter that concluded on the 2nd of March 2019. A whole lot more because of one young Peterite cricketer, Santhush Gunathilake. The writer believes that this match will be remembered and referred to in the future as Santhush Gunathilake’s match.
Call it the “Battle of the Saints” or the “Josephian-Peterite” or shorten it to the “Joe-Pete” or simply call it the “Big Match”, though this 85th encounter in the series was another drawn game, it was an exciting one.
Let me begin with a pre-match scenario. While the organising committee was busy with making the arrangements for this 85th encounter in the series, a friend from down under inquired from the writer if his cousin, the 1969 Peterite captain, Denham Juriansz and two team mates who were to come to Sri Lanka to witness the Big Match, which was the 50th anniversary match for him and his team mates, whether I could arrange for them to watch the match. When this was put to the organising committee members, they not only helped facilitate the visitors’ attendance at the match but graciously invited Juriansz as one of the Guests of Honour at the match along with his opposite number, Brian Obeyesekere from the Josephian camp. That was not all, since his teammate Edward Wise was joining him on this visit to Sri Lanka (the other traveler was to be David Stewart but he could not travel as he was convalescing after surgery), they ensured that Wise was a Match Adjudicator at the Big Match.
As for the match itself, as mentioned, it was a drawn game but it will be long remembered for the heroics of a Peterite who was responsible for several records broken and established at this match.
Before going into details of the record breaker and derring dos, let me state the scores briefly.
St. Peter’s put into bat scored 219 all out in the allotted 60 overs for the 1st inning (a special rule agreed between the two schools since 2000 to facilitate a result). The Josephians in their turn did better reaching 189 for 3 at stumps on the first day. Having resumed their innings on the second day, at the end of their 60 overs the Joes were 286 for 8, earning a valuable 67 run lead.
In their second essay (on the 2nd day – also the last day), the Peterites lost early wickets and even at the fall of the 5th wicket they had not erased the deficit. A Josephian victory was on the horizon by tea, however, the day ended with the Peterites on 317 for 6 and the match was drawn.
And now for the memories and records. The young Peterite who made this a memorable match was, by name, Santhush Gunathilake. Being a six-footer, it can literally be said that he stood tall for the Peterites and stood between the Josephians and victory, ably assisted by diminutive, Kanishka Maduwantha.
In scoring the unbeaten 161 for St. Peter’s in their 2nd inning, Gunathilake became the second highest run getter behind their all-time legend Clive Inman who had 204 ret. hurt in 1954. Coincidentally, the record that Gunathilake beat was that of Malinda Warnapura’s who is the current Peterite coach.
There is also another story to be told here. When Gunathilake scored his century and when his partner, Maduwantha scored his half century, crowds invaded the field and the umpires had to temporarily halt the match on both occasions and there was the real possibility of the match being prematurely called off if there was another invasion of the field when Gunathilake got his 150.
Several of the organisers who had been advised of the record to be broken and the danger of that not being a reality if spectators ran to the field of play again, were seen advising fans not to disturb the match and the heartening scene was seeing Malinda Warnapura himself coming out and pleading with supporters and sending word to the Josephian supporters also, not to invade the field of play and so help his young prodigy, Gunathilake to break his (Warnapura’s) record. Such magnanimity must be admired and commended by one and all.
With all that done, to the relief of the Peterites who knew about the record at stake, not a single spectator ran to the filed and from personal knowledge, having spoken to Gunathilake, I can confirm that the absence of spectators on the field, took the players by surprise for they had told the umpire that they’d grab stumps as souvenirs and dash to the pavilion when the crowd invaded at Gunathilake’s 150. But no crowd invasion took place and he did go on to get 161 and become the 2nd highest run getter in the Josephian-Peterite Big Match series, behind Clive Inman.
So, now the highest scores in the Joe-Pete series stand as:
Clive Inman – 204 ret. hurt (1954) }
Santhush Gunathilake – 161* (2019) } St. Peter’s
Shehan Fernando – 159* (2011) }
Malinda Warnapura – 159 (1998) }
Hareen Silva – 141* (2009) – St. Joseph’s
* Not out
There are 30 other centurions in the series from both schools.
That said about the first record, let’s see what the second is.
In 1979, Peterite Rohan Buultjens had scored a total of 209 runs (109* and 100*) in the Big match which stood as the highest aggregate of runs in a single Joe-Pete match. But Gunathilake’s 72 in the 1st inning and 161* in the 2nd inning, a total of 233 runs in this year’s match eclipsed that 209 and Santhush Gunathilake becomes now the batsman who has the highest aggregate in the Joe-Pete series.
Any more records? Yes, there’s more.
When Gunathilake’s partner in the heroic 7th wicket stand in the Peterite second inning, Kanishka Maduwantha came in to bat at the fall of the 6th wicket, the score stood at 106 and the Peterites had only 39 runs as a lead with almost 50 more overs to be bowled for the day. This meant that if either batsman got out cheaply, the Peterites were in danger of setting a low target for the Josephians to wrap up the game with plenty of overs to do it in.
But the young allrounder, Maduwantha had a good senior partner to guide him. What the spectators then witnessed was nothing short of a miraculous recovery by the Peterites. With both Gunathilake and Maduwantha stroking the ball without difficulty, defending the good deliveries but punishing the bad, slowly but surely they brought the score first to 200, which also saw Gunathilake reaching his century and then to 217, at which point the pair broke an 83 year old record of 110 runs for the 7th wicket, established in 1936 by the Josephian pair of Fred Perera (105) and Denzil Outschoorn (42 n.o.).
Maduwantha soon reached his reached his half century when the score had reached 220, but they were not done yet. They carried on until Gunathilake reached 161 n.o. at which point the Peterite total stood at 317 for 6 and the players decided to share souvenirs in the form of wickets and dash off the field. The unbroken partnership between Gunathilake and Mduwantha at this point stood at 211, ahead of the second highest stand of 197 established in 1952 by another Josephian pair, Maurice Wanigaratne (97) and Wilson Wimalaratne (105) but short of 8 runs short of the all-time highest partnership between yet another Josephian pair, Fred Perera (114 n.o.) and David Arndt (110).
So, this unbroken partnership of 211 between Santhush Gunathilake and Kanishka Maduwantha is now the 2nd highest partnership for any wicket, in the series.
That’s still not the complete picture.
In the souvenir published for the Big Match, one set of records shown is the aggregate of over 200 runs scored by different batsmen from both schools. Santhush Gunathilake, representing St. Peter’s in 2017, 2018 and 2019, has a total of 336 runs at an average of 84.0 (10 & 52 n.o. in 2017; 2 & 39 in 2018 and 72 & 161 n.o. in 2019). He thus has the 4th highest aggregate behind three other illustrious Peterite batsmen, Rohan Buultjens (491), Clive Inman (451) and Joe Misso (408).
While these five were records involves directly the Josephian-Peterite Big Match series, there are least two more records that Gunathilake has broken where St. Peter’s College is concerned.
Angelo Perera, currently representing Sri Lanka in the limited overs series against South Africa, had amassed 1567 runs for the 2008/09 season (this information was obtained from a souvenir published for a Saints Quadrangular T20 Tournament played for the Archbishop of Colombo trophy on 28th March 2009). In comparison, ten seasons later, Santhush Gunathilake has scored 1572 runs for the 2018/19 season and accordingly, Gunathilake now has the highest aggregate of runs scored by a Peterite in one season.
It is also a fact that Gunathilake is now the second highest run getter in a season with only Cambrian, Hemal Mendis ahead of him who has had an aggregate of 1625 runs scored in 1974 in 16 matches. However, Gunathilake steals a march over Mendis in one respect and that is while Mendis scored 8 hundreds, Gunathilake has scored 1 undefeated double century and 7 hundreds for this season (2018/19).
Speaking of seasonal aggregates, Gunathilake’s 1572 runs will be the highest achieved by a school cricketer in the current season of 2018/19 in the Div. I under 19 schools’ cricket tournament conducted by the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association.
There is still one last record created by this prolific run getter, Santhush Gunathilake to be savoured by the Peterites and that is his 252 (n.o.) against Ananda this season which is the highest individual score by a Peterite in the 92 year history of Peterite cricket, beating the previous best of 239 by, once again, Angelo Perera, now doing duty for Sri Lanka against South Africa.
At the Big Match, for his heroics, Santhush Gunathilake, who scored 72 and 161 not out, received the Best Batsman’s trophy presented by Bernard Wijetunga and the Man of the Match trophy presented by the Old Boys’ Union Sports Committee while his partner in that unbroken 211 run stand for the 7th wicket, Kanishka Maduwantha who scored 89 not out and for his bowling efforts (12-1-51-2), was awarded the Best Allrounder Trophy, the Capt. George A Perera Memorial trophy presented by Malcolm de Costa.
No doubt young Santhush Gunathilake deserves all the accolades he has received to date and will surely continue to receive, the writer wishes to offer his best wishes to this talented young cricketer who should be a bright prospect for Sri Lanka in the not too distant future.
I wish to acknowledge the assistance of M/s. Ayantha Panditharatne, our statistician at Quadrangle Lohit Ranasinghe and editor Sujith Silva in gathering statistics for this article.