Royal favourites against S. Thomas’
Royal College captained by Sri Lanka Under-19 batting prodigy Bahanuka Rajapakse are the favourites against S.Thomas’ College, led by the experienced campaigner Dinesh Walpita, when the two teams meet in the 131st Battle of the Blues cricket encounter, which commences today at the SSC Ground.
With four years of First XI experience behind them, both captains would know what it takes to win a Big Match. But the form book suggest that Walpita’s team has to fight a battle of survival and repeat a performance similar to that of last year if they are to even honours against a high-ridding Royal outfit as the team’s batsmen have let them down this season.
Last year S. Thomas’ went to the 130th encounter as underdogs, but managed to force a draw following a dramatic rearguard action from Faahim Saleem. Walpita will count on their 1000 run scorer (this season) Nuwan Kavinda and experienced players Chamod Pathirana, Sachin Peiris, Lalindra Peiris and Ashane Fernando who were a part of the previous edition of the match. They should draw inspiration from Saleem to play vital roles when Thomians face the Royal bowling attack that consists of a 100 wicket taker for the first time in the history of the traditional encounter.
The Royal’s favourite tag is engraved by their depth in batting and formidable bowling attack. Their batting is strengthened by two Sri Lanka Under-19 players Bhanuka Rajapakse and Kithruwan Vithanage and a host of other players from Chalaka Bogoda, Ramith Rambukwella, Waruna Dissanayake to Imal Liyanage who have scored heavily this season. The fact that they could win some matches without their top players Rakapakse and Vithanage (who were called for Sri Lanka Under-19 national duty) is proof of strength. Royal recorded outright victories against St. Benedict’s, Maliyadeva, Wesley and St. Joseph’s this season before back to back defeats at the hands of Trinity and Prince of Wales rattled them towards the end of the season. After their batting line up struggled against Trinity and Prince of Wales they recovered in the last encounter against St. Sebastian’s. They would be bit worried about their highest scorer this season, Ramith Rambukwella who failed in the last three encounters to be stranded in 900s.
Royal will rely on freshers Gaurav Deva and Imran Khan to spearhead the new ball attack before their key wicket taker Maneesha Tantrigoda take the control of spin department. Spinner Tantrigoda has a piece of history under his name when he bowls for Royal. He is the first Royal College bowler to take 100 wickets in a season and the only bowler to take more than 70 wickets in consecutive seasons. He also had remarkable figures of four wickets in four consecutive balls for Royal this season and was the main wicket taker in two of their victories.
Thomians relied more on their new recruit Nuwan Kavinda for batting power as they struggled without depth in their batting line up. However, despite struggling in the batting department they suffered only one defeat (against Trinity) while recording two early victories against Joseph Vaz and Richmond.
Walpita will spearhead their bowling attack with Chamod Pathirana while Lalindra Peiris, Ashane Fernando, Neomal Wickremasekera and Umesh Fernando control spin.
Royal and S. Thomas’ have clashed in this bid match uninterrupted on 130 occasions and recorded their last victories in the series in 2006 and 2007 (The last win under Ashan Peiris). Royal recorded their last victory under the captaincy of Nadun Punchihewa in 2006.
Thomians lead the victory tally.
According to Royal: S. Thomas’ have won 34 and Royal have won 33 while the rest (63) have been drawn.
According to S. Thomas’: S. Thomas’ have won 35 against Royal’s 33 wins while only 62 have been drawn.
The result of the 1985 encounter is a bone of contention. While S. Thomas’ consider it to have been won by them Royalist claim it to have been ended in a draw.
S. Thomas’ College
Dinesh Walpita (Captain)
Ashane Fernando (V. Capt)
Sachinda Liyanarachchi (12th Man)
Barney Reid (Coach)
Lakmaal de Zoysa (MIC)
Bhanuka Rajapakse (Captain)
Maneesha Tantrigoda (V. Capt)
Danushka Ranasinghe (12th Man)
Gamini Perera (Coach)