Devananda better equipped of the two

45th ‘Battle of the Blues’ - Ambalangoda

by Reemus Fernando

Devananda College appear to be stronger than they had been in the past few editions, when they meet their arch rivals Dharmasoka College in the 45th ‘Battle of the Blues’ of Ambalangoda, which will commence at the Public Grounds, Ambalangoda, on Sunday.

Long tagged as the underdogs, Devananda College have made amends this season to be on par with their rivals. The team, captained by fourth year coloursman Sham Suranga are in terrific form after registering four outright victories in a row. They beat St. Thomas’ College, Kotte, P. de S. Kularatne, St. John’s College, Nugegoda and Division I team Revata College in a row, to demonstrate the spirit of a team brimming with confidence.

But they also suffered defeats at the hands of Vidyartha College, Kandy, Karandeniya Central and St. Thomas’ College, Matara, but their chain of victories has made the Division II team look a matching partner to their Division I rivals.

Dharmasoka, under the captaincy of fourth year coloursman Nilusha Uththamadasa, ended a season which they would want to forget ahead of the big match. They lost to Maris Stella, Ananda, Trinity and Maliyadeva Colleges. Although they could not register outright victories, they can always take inspiration from the good performances they displayed against Richmond, Lumbini and St. Servatius’ Colleges.

Batting appears to be the weak link in the Dharmasoka line-up. Uththamadasa will heavily depend on youngster Adeesha Thilanchana, who scored over 550 runs this season. Vice captain Gihan Mihiranga, Yohan Rashmika, Nimesh de Zoysa and Thanura Helambage are the others who add muscle to their batting.

The department that they will have less trouble is their bowling, with spinners leading from the front. The leg-spin off-spin combination of Chamath Gunasinghe and Ramesh Mendis will be vital for the Sokians. While leg spinner Gunasinghe has picked up over 60 wickets, off spinner Mendis has over 50 wickets to his credit. Paceman Mihiranga and spinner Duminda Kannangara too have picked up over 35 wickets and will provide variety.

Skipper Sham Suranga is the leading wicket taker and run scorer for Devananda, whose batting looks more solid than that of their opponents. Suranga has scored over 750 runs with an unbeaten double century against St. Thomas’ College, Kotte and when he joins Lakshitha Sirimanna, Randima vidyarathne and wicketkeeper batsman Rishika Theekshana they make up a formidable batting line-up.

Suranga will lead their bowling attack with his leg spinners. He has taken over 80 wickets this season. While Randima Vidyarathne and Lakshitha Sirimanna will share the new ball, Charith Sudaraka will provide additional spin support. He has picked up over 40 wickets this season.

The ‘Big Match’ has not seen a result after Dharmasoka registered a victory under K. M. Tharaka in 2006. They lead the series with eight victories against Devananda’s solitary win, registered under the captaincy of N. U. Amaradasa, in 1966.

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