138th Battle of the Blues
Royal College, thanks to a spirited batting display by the lower middle-order batsmen and with the help of rain, forced a draw against S. Thomas’ College at the S.S.C Grounds in Colombo in their 138th Battle of the Blues played for Rt.Hon. D.S. Senanayake Shield.
It was almost like what took place last year, when the Thomians succumbed to a defeat with an unexpected collapse on the afternoon of the third day, after dominating first two days of the game. However, this time around, Royal did not dominate the game but after conceding a 102-run lead on the first inning, and with weather spoiling the game on the first two days, had to fight for their survival on the third day till the heavens opened.
The Thomians, under Romesh Nallaperuma, came to the big match brimming with confidence, with the aim of avenging last year’s painful defeat. They had one of their best seasons of the recent past, and were the firm favourites to take back the coveted D.S. Senanayake Shield. They had an unbeaten record with five outright wins from the 18 matches, including a thrilling win against the Trinitians just before the big match that boosted their chances. Whereas the Royalists, a young side under Helitha Vithanage, did not have anything to boast about apart from his individual brilliance and a few others. They could not record any outright wins but were beaten by Prince of Wales College Moratuwa. Royalists were the underdogs, like last year, and they were expected to spring a surprise.
Thomas’ well knitted and all-round side were expecting their front-line batsmen such as Ravindu Kodituwakku with 800 plus runs, Manthila Wijeratne and skipper Romesh Nallaperuma, both having scored over 650 runs, to come good on the big stage. They also had Dinura Gunawardena, Ishen Perera, Sithara Hapuhinna and Dellon Peiris all who made contributions during the season with the bat. Then when it came to bowling, left-arm spinner Pavith Ratnayake, who reached the 100-wicket milestone soon after the big match, and Dellon Peiris were expected to trouble the Royal batting line-up. Also, Kalana Perera, Dinura Gunawardena and Ravindu Kodituwakku were capable bowlers who could chip in when the need arose.
The Royal batting line-up was strengthened by skipper Vithanage, the top-scorer of the side agonisingly stranded at the doorstep of magical 1000-rus mark, fresher Kavindu Madarasinghe with more than 900 runs and last year’s hero Pasindu Sooriyabandara with 650 runs, Ronuka Jayawardena with 550 runs and Ganith Sandeepa over 550 runs. Former Sri Lankan fast bowler Champaka Ramanayake’s son Himesh Ramanayake, with 750 runs to his name and with a sound bowling arm, was expected to perform the all-rounder’s job along with Ganith Sandeepa. Further, skipper Vithanage and Manula Perera were the other recognised bowlers in the side.
Royalists were heading the tally with 35 wins against 34 wins for Thomians. S. Thomas’ skipper Romesh Nallaperuma after winning the toss asked his counterpart Helitha Vithanage to take the first lease of the wicket. Royalists couldn’t make a steady start as they lost the first wicket at 16 runs and then Pasindu Sooriyabandara (35) and Ronuka Jayawardena (32) stabilised the inning with a 69-run partnership for the second wicket. However, with their departure, wickets kept tumbling at regular interval. Kavindu Madarasinghe (38), Ganith Sandeepa (42), Himesh Ratnayake (41) made contributions but none could go on to make a big hundred. Ganith and Himesh were involved in a gritty 83-run partnership for the eighth, and Royal compiled 255 runs.
Thomian left-arm fast bowler Kalana Perera caused bulk of the damage with 5 for 47.
The Thomians started off steadily and their openers Kavindu Kodituwakku and Dulith Gunarathne putting on a 127-run partnership. Kavindu who was in top form went on piling runs after Dulith departed (35) but was unfortunately dismissed on 98 runs. It was heartening to note how Kavindu was consoled and congratulated for his excellent inning by the Royal fielders displaying sportsmanship. Then later Thomian skipper Romesh Nallapperuma and Sithara Hapuhinna added 81 runs for the fifth wicket before the second day’s play was halted due to bad light with S. Thomas’ reaching 255 runs for 4.
On the third morning, the partnership was stretched to 91 runs before Hapuhinna was dismissed for 59. Skipper Nallapperuma went on to compile an elegant half century but at the same time, he did not get much support from the other batsmen as wickets kept on falling. When the Thomians were on 357 for 8, Nallapperuma was dismissed with a deserving century up for grabs for 92 runs. With his dismissal, S. Thomas’ closed their first inning before lunch and the Royalists had a mountain to climb to erase a deficit of 102 runs on a wearing pitch.
The Royal second innings started off disastrously and went on to lunch at 23 for 2. The post-lunch session saw a dramatic collapse, with the Thomians bowling a tight line, and the Royalists were 61 for 5. Then came Thevindu Senaratne (50) and Ahan Wickramasinghe (31) who managed to put on 86 runs in an invaluable match-saving partnership for the sixth wicket. Though the pair fell before tea, Royal went on to tea at 147 for 8. Only 3.2 overs were bowled after tea as bad light and rain stopped play, with Royal 154 for 8.
Royal College 1st innings; 255 (Ganith Sandeepa 42, Himesh Ramanayake 41, Kavindu Madarasinghe 38, Pasindu Sooriyabandara 35, Ronuka Jayawardena 32: Kalana Perera 5 for 47, Pavith Ratnayake 2 for 69)
- Thomas’ College 1st innings; 357 for 9 declared (Ravindu Kodituwakku 98, Dulith Gunaratne 35, Dinura Gunawardena 16, Sithara Hapuhinna 59, Romesh Nallapperuma 92, Ishen Perera 17 and Himesh Ramanayake 4 for 103, Helitha Vithanage 2 for 81, Manula Perera 2 for 56)
Royal College 2nd innings; 154 for 8 at close (Kavindu Madarasinghe 25, Ahan Wickramasinghe 31, Thevindu Senaratne 50, Himesh Ramanayake not out 10 and Kalana Perera 2 for 60, Thevin Eriyagama 3 for 46, Pavith Ratnayake 2 for 11)