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103rd ‘Battle of the Maroons’
Keen contest expected at Asgiriya

A keenly contested game is on the cards when the oldest big match in the hills get underway today (13) and tomorrow (14) between Dharmaraja College Kandy and Kingswood College Kandy in the 103rd 'Battle of the Maroons' played for the T. B. Tennakoon Trophy, at the Asgiriya International Stadium, Kandy.

According to the history their first meeting goes down the lane to 1893 with their inaugural match at the Bogambara Stadium. These were the days when the team included staff members to lead the youngsters in their decisive period. It was none other than Don Baron Jayathilake, who was later knighted, who led the lads of Lake View school, while a staff member at Kingswood. Earl Spenser captained the Randle Hills team.

It was in the year 1899 that the first all schoolboys match was played with J. C. De Mel and T. B. Marshall captaining Dharmaraja and Kingswood.

Dharmaraja College leads the series with 31 wins against 19 by Kingswood College with 52 matches ending in draws. Irrespective of the results, this encounter has continued to generate a great interest among all quarters for over a century. The Rajans registered their last win in the year 1980 under Janaka Mendis at Police grounds, but the Kingswoodians have a 51 year old hoodoo to break since it was in 1958 that they last won under Maurice Fernando. Yet, both schools have a 28 year stalemate to break.

In the 1907 the Rajans recorded their first win in the series by a run and moved on to the following year loosing all their men for a mere nine runs. Forty nine years after the inaugural match, there appeared the first centurions in P. L. Arthur for Kingswood and T. B. Talwatta for the Rajans. What is interesting here is that Talwatta was hit on his head by a ball at 90 and was rushed to the hospital and on his return to the field he scored his centaury.

In the following year, Clifford Ratnavibushana set a record by scoring 167 runs for Kingswood, which is yet to be surpassed. As one peeps into the 60th decade, yet another momentous incident took place in 1960 where the match ended with the scores tied and The Principal of Kingswood, Kenneth De Lenerolle decided to present the trophy to the Rajans for a moderately enhanced feat by them in the match.

In 1967, Tissa Jayathilake the Kingswood captain having made 89 runs retired courteously paving the way for his teammates to take their twist at the pitch and this incident is a yet another memorable part of history.

The present cricket coach at Dharmaraja College, Senaka Dissanayake has the record for the highest individual score of a double century which is yet to be attained and this occurred at Asgiriya in 1983. The Rajans posted 370 for 4 with Prasanna Walallawala adding an unbeaten century. In 1995, Senaka’s brother made 100 not out exhibiting the cricketing vigour in the family.

This series also incorporates some interesting incidents and the duo are Priyantha Wickramasuriya of Kingswood who is also the present Kingswood College coach and Ajith Narampanawa of Dharmaraja. In 1976, both scored a century each for their teams and in the following year they repeated this feat.

These two reemerged for their respective teams at Asgiriya in the their three successive years and Priyantha Wickramasuriya made 56 while Ajith Narampanawa made 55. The most recent centurions were Dananjaya Navaratne in 1980 and Chanaka Kulathunga in 1987 who stood out for the Rajans scoring two fine centuries, while Ramzan Sariffodeen with 115 in 1981 and Mangala Dharmaprema in the year 1984 with an unbeaten 120 excelled for the Kingswoodians.

This year’s big match will also feature for the first time a son following in the footsteps of the father, captaining the Kingswood College team. Mangala Dharmaprema captained Kingswood in 1985, while his son Chalitha will lead the team this year.

The only other occasion where a similar incident that took place was for Dharmaraja where father T. B. Talwatta captained the school team in the year 1941 while his son did the honours in 1985. The Dharmaprema family has another record; Deyal Dharmaprema, the younger brother of Mangala captained the team in 1994 while this year both Chalitha and Hasitha, two sons of Mangala, represent the school in the big match. The Rajan team also includes two brothers, Buwaneka Ekanayake and Rahula Ekanayke.

The Rajans, led by all-rounder Prathab De Silva have has had a mixed bag of fortunes this season with six wins, six defeats and another six ending in draws. They recorded wins over St. Thomas’ Matale, Sri Rahula, Matara, Sri Sumangala Panadura, Dharmapala Pannipitiya, Vidyartha and Zahira while they lost to Trinity, S. Thomas’ Mt. Lavinia, Ananda, Royal, Maliyadeva and D. S. Senanayake.

The Rajan skipper, who has taken 45 wickets this season with his right arm off spins has also amassed almost 500 runs. Yet another allrounder in the Rajan camp is Ramesh Yapa Bandra who is also the vice captain. Bandara, with his top score of 105 has an aggregate of just over 500 runs while he has captured about 40 wickets with his off spin.

Another player who could deliver the goods for the Rajans is last year’s skipper Buwaneka Ekanayake who has almost amassed 1000 runs, while Sandun Weerakkody, who scored a forceful century against Isipthana is a yet another aggressive bat whom the Rajans will depend on. Rahula Ekanayake, Sanjay Kalubowila and Hemal Munaweera are three more useful batsmen who could play vital roles.

Kingswood, out of the 15 matches played this season have not recorded a win, while they have lost to Trinity, St. Anthony’s and Thurstan.

Fourth year coloursman and all-rounder Chalitha Dharmaprema will have to play an important role in this game if they are to make an impact. It will be skipper Dharmaprema who will spearhead the bowling for them with 82 wickets this season, together with Chathura Kumarasiri who has been a productive off spinner, while Udara Hettige needs to provide the necessary support.

It will be Madhawa Maduranga, Udara Hettige, and Chathura Kumarasiri who will have to bat with responsibility if they are to trouble Kingswood.

Stumper Yasindu Athukorala, the Dharmaprema bothers together with Ashan Seneviratne and Thilina Karunaratne are the others who could make their presence felt, especially with the bat.

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