By M. Shamil Amit
All roads for the young and old boys of St. Joseph’s and St. Peter’s Colleges on March 2 and 3, will lead to the P. Sara Stadium, as their two teams take the field for their 84th Annual “Battle of the Saints” encounter.
The Josephians lead the series with 12 wins, with their last win in 2008, under the leadership of Ruwantha Fernandopulle, while the Peterites have 19 wins having last won in 2016, under Vinu Mohottti, thanks to the sportsmanship of St Joseph’s Rector Rev Fr Travis Gabriel, who awarded the win to St Peter’s, due to ground invasions by Josephian supporters, when the Peterites were on the verge of victory.
However, this time around, a keen tussle could be witnessed, even though the Josephians have the edge, as they are unbeaten. Even though the Peterites will come into the game as underdogs, nothing can be taken for granted, as history has shown, more often than not, the underdogs have come out on top.
According to form this season, the Peterites led by Sri Lanka youth player Santhush Gunatileke cannot be satisfied with their performance. Having played 18 matches, they recorded 4 outright wins against Gurukula MV Kelaniya, Richmond, St. Servatius Matara and Dharmaraja, while losing to Maris Stella, St. Sebastian’s and Prince of Wales.
On the other hand, the Josephians led by another Sri Lanka youth player Jehan Daniel, has had a successful season. Of the 16 matches they have played, they have 4 outright wins against St. Patrick’s Jaffna, DSSenanayake, De Mazenod and Zahira Colombo and remained unbeaten.
The Josephian batting will revolve around their leading run-getter and Sri Lanka youth player Revan Kelly, who has the honour of being the first player to reach 1000 runs this season, which includes 3 tons and 5 half-tons.
To support him there is Nipun Sumanasinghe the other centurion in the side who has made over 600 runs which also includes 2 half-tons, and Lakshan Gamage who has also scored over 600 runs with 3 half-tons.
Skipper Jehan Daniel has not been able to play many matches due to national duty and he, along with Jehan Fernandopulle, Sachindu Ravindu, Dunith Wellalage and Johanne de Silva, will be the other batsmen the Peterites will have to take note of.
The Josephian bowling attack has been in the hands of opening bowlers, right arm spinner Ashian Daniel, right arm paceman Lakshan Gamage, and left-arm spinner Dunith Wellalage.
The trio have been their most successful bowlers, with Ashain being their top wicket-taker, with over 60 scalps, followed by Dunith (60) and Lakshan (40). So the Josephians will be relying on them to put the brakes on their rivals.
For the Peterites, skipper Santhush, though unavailable due to national duties, he is the only centurion in the side, and in the 9 matches he has played, he has scored over 600 runs, inclusive of 4 half-tons. In fact, he missed out on reaching the 1000-runs mark last season 84th Battle of the Saints: Joes go out favourites, Petes capable of upset too. So he is going to be one batsman that the Josephians will have to keep an eye on.
Apart from him, the Peterites will bank on 3 other batsmen in Shalith Fernando, Ranmith Jayasena and Shannon Fernando. Shalith and Ranmith both have over 600 runs, while Shannon has made over 550 runs. Sulakshana Fernando, Sachin Silva and Nipunaka Fonseka are also capable of chipping in with useful contributions to bolster the Peterites score.
Left-arm spinner Mohamed Ameen Miflal will be the cynosure of all eyes in the bowling department, as he will be the Peterite trump card. He has been among the wickets on a regular basis, having had the honour of being the first to achieve the magical 100 wickets for two successive years (2017 and 2018).
Right arm spinner Sachin Silva with over 65 wickets to his credit, is no doubt going to be a thorn in the Josephian batsmen, with support from skipper Santhush, Ruwin Seneviratne and Tariq Saboor to add venom to the Peterite attack.
The Chief Guest at the 84th “Battle of the Saints” will be Viran Perera who led the Josephians in 1991. The ‘Big Match’ will be followed by the 44th limited-overs encounter played for the Fr. Peter A. Pillai trophy, scheduled for March 24 at the SSC grounds. In this segment too, the Josephians are leading with 21 wins to the 20 by the Peterites, who won last year, while 2 matches were washed out.