The Royal-Thomian provided entertaining cricket but ended in a tame draw in favour of the Thomians. Despite playing the game over three days, a win was not attainable in the 135th encounter. Heshan Ramanayaka led the Royal fight back with a scintillating unbeaten 92 runs in their second innings. The Royal batsmen fared way better than its first innings when they played through the end of the 3rd day's play for a total of 234 runs for the loss of 5 wickets in 114 overs. At close of play, Royal had a lead of 68 runs with five wickets in hand. The Thomians were unfortunate in not getting a second chance of batting. Interestingly, the Thomians took 104.1 overs to score 325 runs in their first innings while the Royalists took 114 overs to score 234 runs in their 2nd innings. The standard of cricket witnessed all three days was very high and crowd attendance was at record levels. The venue – picturesque SSC grounds was spectacular and the spectators were entertained to good all-round performances by the stars.
Royal College 158 (50.2) Harith Samarasinghe 50, Thiran Dhanapala 46, Abdul Cader 3/37, Sahan Wijesinghe 4/46 & 234/5 (114) H Ramanayaka 92* Vs St.Thomas College 325/8d (104.1) Sanesh De Mel 110*, Kavinda Wickramasinghe 66, Chamika Karunaratne 4/91 – 135th Battle of the Blues – At SSC Grounds – Match drawn.
An unbeaten century by wicket keeper batsman Sanesh de Mel and a useful knock of 66 by No. 9 bat Chenutha Wickremasinghe put S.Thomas' in a commanding position by the close of second day's play in their 135th Battle of the Blues three-day cricket encounter against Royal College continued at SSC grounds yesterday.
Wickremasinghe joined De Mel with the fall of the seventh wicket immediately after lunch with the Thomian total on 209. Their brilliant alliance helped the Mount Lavinia school to take a superb 167-run first innings lead as S.Thomas', in reply to Royal's total of 158 all out, declared at a healthy 325 for 8. Royal were 36 for one at stumps, still needing 131 runs to avert innings defeat with nine second innings wickets in hand.
The Thomian declaration came immediately after the dismissal of Wickremasinghe, caught by Anupa Tillakaratne off Royal captain Chamika Karunaratne for 66, made off 102 balls with one six and seven fours. Medium paceman Karunaratne who was the architect of Royal's 2013 big match win with a match bag of nine wickets, once again finished as the most successful bowler in the Thomian first innings with 4 for 91 off 29.1 overs.
By Dinesh Weerawansa – Courtesy: Daily News
Earlier in the day, S.Thomas' took lunch at 209 for 6 after 70 overs of batting in 319 minutes with Sanesh de Mel (66 n.o) and Sachitha Jayatillake (0 n.o.) at the wicket. The dismissal of Jayatillake after lunch gave De Mel a faithful partner with the arrival of Wickremasinghe as the duo put on 116 valuable runs for the eighth wicket in 33.5 overs to give S. Thomas' a commanding total. Chenutha Wickremasinghe in a jubilant mood after reaching his half century. The day belonged to De Mel whose century kept the Thomian innings together. He held S.Thomas' innings from one end at a time he could not find somebody who could play a supportive role until Wickremasinghe arrived after the dismissal of Sachitha Jayatillake for a duck at the start of the post lunch session. Thanks to a couple of missed chances, De Mel went on to complete a century which the Thomains badly needed to capitalise on the initiative given by their bowlers on day one. De Mel's 110 not out came off 308 balls and included 12 boundaries. De Mel completed his half century off 140 balls in 206 minutes Royal struck early last morning after S.Thomas' had resumed at their overnight total of 134 for 3. Royal captain Chamika Karunaratne invited his new ball partner Anupa Tillakaratne to send the first over on day two. Tillakaratne obliged by clean bowling Helakamal Nanayakkara who departed without making any addition to his overnight total of one.
The Reid Avenue boys captured three wickets in the pre-lunch session but S.Thomas' cut lose in the second session to pile up runs as they wished. Royal would have restricted S.Thomas' to a lesser total of they had held on to the catches that came their way. S.Thomas' made the maximum use of Royal's poor fielding to take a commanding first innings lead. Royal, trailing by 167 runs, made a disastrous start to their second innings, losing opener Geeshat Panditharatne for a duck with the total on 2 in the second over of the innings. Medium paceman Sahan Wijesinghe who destroyed Royal batting in the first innings with a penetrative 4 for 46, once again gave the start the Thomians wanted with the new ball as Panditharatne departed after facing only eight balls, without disturbing the scorers. It will be an uphill task for Royal when the third and final day's play resumes at 9.45 am today.
If they could take their innings past tea break, they could think of an honorable draw. But considering the poor batting Royal batsmen have shown, S.Thomas' could well taste an early victory – perhaps before tea! Unless Royal batsmen come up with an extraordinary batting performance, they will have to surrender the D.S.Senanayake Shield they won last year with a seven-wicket win. The Thomians' last win in the series was registered seven years ago when they emerged victorious under Ashan Peiris in 2007. Since then, they have been enjoying a lean period with a series of draws, even losing the last year's encounter. But the middle of last decade brought them rich success. Besides the win in 2007, the Thomians also won in 2005 under Vidyesh Balasubramanium.