By M. Shamil Amit
The 140th ‘Battle of the Blues’ encounter will get underway tomorrow (7) at the SSC grounds, with S. Thomas’ holding a slight edge over their traditional rivals Royal College.
The second oldest schools cricket encounter, the ‘Battle of the Blues’ is one of only three big matches that are played over three days.
Of the 139 previous encounters, 69 have produced a winner, with Royal winning 35 and the Thomians right behind, with 34 wins.
Royal last won the encounter in 2012, under the leadership of Geeshanth Panditharatne, while the Thomians will hope that their good performances this season will translate into a big match win, ending a more than a decade long drought since Ashan Peiris led them to victory in 2007.
Captained by Sithara Hapuhinna, the Thomians have enjoyed a fruitful season, remaining unbeaten, with six outright wins – against St. Aloysius’ College Galle, St. Mary’s College Kegalle, Prince of Wales Moratuwa, Ananda College, Mahanama College Colombo and St. Benedict’s College.
Hapuhinna has been his side’s leading scorer this season, with 824 runs, with Shalin de Mel, Ravindu de Silva, Kalana Perera and Umayanga Suwaris all having been among the runs.
The Thomians carry a potent bowling attack, spearheaded by Perera, who has almost 75 wickets to his name this season, with a best of 8 for 1 against St. Mary’s College – a match he ended with a 16-wicket haul.
Dellon Peiris has also taken over 70 wickets and will be expected to provide support while Dilmin Ratnayake (39 wickets) and Shannon Fernando (38 wickets) the two other bowlers from whom the Thomians will rely on.
Royal, meanwhile, led by Kavindu Madurapperuma on the other hand have been able to chalk up five outright wins in all.
Most of their runs have come off the bat of Pasindu Sooriyabandara, who has over 850 runs this season in just 12 matches, while Kamil Mishara has over 500 runs.
Isiwara Dissanayake and Ahan Wickramasinghe have both scored over 700 runs and will make up the key positions in Royal’s batting.
The bowling attack will be spearheaded by left arm spinner Gishan Balasooriya who has taken over 50 wickets and Kawshan Kulasuriya (36). The duo has been in the forefront in most of the matches that Royal played and support will be expected from Manula Perera (26) who played in only five matches and Lahiru Madusanka (25).
The two teams fight out the match for the D.S. Senanayake memorial shield and the match is sponsored by one of the island’s top mobile phone service Dialog Axiata.