The pitches will play a big role
Fast, bouncy pitches is what South Africa is supposed to produce. With 2 weeks of the world cup games being played, there has been no evidence of such tracks.
The ICC has instructed all ground authorities to ensure the pitches provide plenty of runs. That is the essence of one day category.

Obviously they are making an effort to satisfy this requirement. In doing so they are having to sacrifice pace and bounce. To reduce these two qualities of a pitch the quantity of water applied onto the surface has to be reduced and rolling time also has to be reduced. The grass must be mowed from early on in preparation. That from a week before the game, with the final cut being given about thirty six hours before the game. That is about the time all preparation work should conclude.

Having watched all five one day internationals Sri Lanka played against South Africa, two-and-a-half months ago, it is surprising to observe the lack of genuine pace and bounce at present. During that series every pitch, of the five venues used, gave the quick bowlers assistance and very little for the spinners. Sri Lanka were battered 4-1 in the result. The experience was invaluable. Coupled with the series in Australia, the Lankans could not ask for better match practice. Although it is still very early days, present form indicates Sri Lanka as playing next best to Australia.

The home team, South Africa, have definitely been affected by these surfaces. Alan Donald, Jacques Kallis and to a lesser extent Lance Kluesner have been unable to extract that extra bit from the surface. Nicky Boje who is not a top bracket spinner has also been expensive. This has left Shaun Pollock and Makaya Ntini to bear the brunt of the attack. Now as they prepare to tackle weaker opposition, fresh thinking and a different approach will have to be planned out. Meanwhile, with rain robbing West Indies of a win against Bangladesh, another ray of hope has appeared in the horizon for South Africa.

It is the tail end of the summer in that part of the world and the preceding dry months have also taken all the juice off the pitches. In their attempt to prepare moisture-less, good batting pitches, excessive dryness could make the surfaces suit spin bowling and also the slower medium pace bowlers.

Muttiah Muralitharan, Harbajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Daniel Vittori, Brad Hogg, Saqlain Mushtaq, Asley Giles and the other support spinners will be licking their fingers and hoping this quality in the pitches will remain or increase as the tournament progresses.

A little bit of movement off the pitch at the beginning, not too steep bounce, pace that can be handled, some assistance for the spinners, hard work to get runs off the slower medium pace bowlers, 280 runs being a good score, could be the governing factors as the competition reaches its climaxing stages. Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and India (should their batsman regain form) are the teams equipped to succeed.

The 74th Battle of the Maroons at the SSC on March 1 and 2 Ananda-Nalanda points to close contest this year
Both teams evenly matched
By Bernie Wijesekera
The much look forward to the 74th "Battle of the Maroons" between two leading Buddhist schools - Ananda and Nalanda - should turn out to be a good contest. This year's encounter will take place at the SSC grounds on March 1 and 2.

Both teams have a cherished cricketing history. They have produced some of the finest players to the country at national level. For both schools it was a slippery climb to the top against some seasoned contenders in the school cricket fraternity.

Slowly, but surely they produced quality players, thanks to those who developed the game at grassroots level. Ananda had G.W. Rajapakse, a doyen of Ananda, who taught them to play the game hard and for the right seasons as the master-in-charge. Unlike today, Nalanda too had its humble beginnings with its cadjan shed pavilion after the Second World War.

Nalanda had the distinction of producing the first test Captain Bandula Warnapura, while Ananda has to their credit the most successful Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who led from the front for the country to win the World Cup final against Australia (Lahore) in 1996. In that team there were three Nalandians who served the country well - Asanka Gurusinha, Roshan Mahanama and Kumar Dharmasena and Ananda's Marvan Atapattu.

In 1953 Nalanda won a thrilling match under late W.W. Silva - thanks to the sporting declaration offered to them by Ananda skipper Henry Seneviratne. Since then it has been a long drought of 50 years. Will they be able to break that jinx this time?

Both teams have not performed well in the ongoing season. The teams are being coached by two old boys - Anuruddha Polonowita (Ananda) and Jayantha Seneviratne (Nalanda).

This year Ananda is being led by Damindu Kularatne - a solid opening batsman, who has been among the runs. He has made 524 runs with a best effort 119 against Richmond. Co-opener Pradeep Boteju with 440 runs has been batting consistently well. Sans glamour players the batting looks reasonably sound. Janujika Sriyapala made 107 against S. Thomas' Mt Lavinia. He has made 327 runs to-date. Tilina Dissanayake, bowling all-rounder Rakitha Wimaladharama a fine off-spinner has been among the wickets. He bats with confidence in the lower order. The other batsman to impress is Mahela Udawatte 327 runs.

The cherry is being shared by Isuru Dias and Charit Jayaweera. Both bowl effectively. However the close-in cordon has let them down. Spinners Wimaladharma and left-armer Asela Ranasinghe (50 wkts). His best effort of 5 for 40 is against St. Benedict's. Some of their games have been marred by fickle weather. Ananda got the better of Richmond, Dharmapala, Dharmasoka, and Maliyadeva on the first innings. They lost to St. Peter's and D.S. Senanayake College, on the first innings.

The Peterite match could have gone either way, outright. Humid conditions prevailing this part of the year with a hard fast pitch, with even bounce it should provide interesting cricket to fans. New-look Side Last year Nalanda beat Ananda on the first innings in the Big 'un, but lost the one-dayer played for the Dr. N.M. Perera trophy.

Nalanda led by third year coloursman Sanjaya Gangodawila, will be fielding a new look side packed with freshers. Sanjaya, one of the most outstanding allrounders in the schools, is a punishing left-handed batsman. He has amassed 730 runs - with a top score of 140 against Dharmaraja. Besides he has a rich haul of 40 wkts.
They have an attacking opening pair. Sri Lanka under-15 youth player, Sachithra Serasinghe and S. Madawela have been batting regularly well. He has chipped three 100s this season -142 - Isipatana, 123 - (Royal), 107 Maliyadeva.

Meanwhile Madawela scored 115 against S. Thomas'. There is much depth in the lower order. Yasas Hewawitharne, Gihan Rupasinghe, Madura Warnapura (son of Bandula) T. Attanayake scored 70 n.o. against Royal and 68 against SACK, Virendra Pathirana, Tharun Ranasinghe (son of late Anura) is a youngster with much promise (playing his first year in the big league) and Sameera Abeysinghe form the nucleus of the batting.

Nalanda lost outright to St. Sebastian's and to St. Peter's. After winning on the first innings over the Peterites, their batting in the second innings ran into a calamity which was the result for their demise. They won on the first innings over Isipatana, Richmond, DSSMV., Thurstan and Wesley. They lost to S. Thomas' on the first innings in a high scoring game and conceded a first innings win to Dharmasoka.
Record Ananda - 11 wins. Nalanda - 6

69th "Battle of the Saints" on February 28 and March 1
Who will break the twenty four year jinx?
By M. Shamil Amit
It is nearly a quarter of a century since the last win was produced in the annual 'Battle of the Saints'. The last being in 1978 when St Peter's led by Suraj Abeysekera defeated their arch rivals by six wickets which was there seventh win of the series. The Joes last win was in the year 1972 when the team was led by Rohan Fernando winning the game by an innings in the process registering their eleventh win.

Come February 28 the present and old boys of the two Catholic institutions in Colombo will trek to the P. Sara Stadium to witness one of the biggest happening in the schools sport calendar of both the schools and cheer their respective teams and to see who will lay the hands on the Fr. Maurice Legoc Trophy which is on offer. Going back to the inaugural match of the series which started in 1933 the Joes led tasted success the team was led by Robert Fernando while the first win for the Petes came only 13 years later in 1946 the team was led by Dion Walles. The Josephians has the honour of scoring the highest score in the series when in 1952 they hit a massive 382 while the lowest score in the series by St Peter's when they shot out for 36 in 1972.

The best individual score for the series is in the name of Clive Inman of St Peter's who slammed an unbeaten 204 in 1954 while Josephian S. Warnakula has the best bowling figures of 9 for 41 set in 1997. Fred Perera of St Joseph's has the honour of taking the only hat trick of the series which he did it in 1934. Looking forward to the 69th encounter scheduled for next week the Peterites seems to have an advantage over their arch rivals remaining unbeaten in the ongoing inter-school cricket season while the Joes have lost against St Benedict's. But the big encounter between these two schools cannot be judged according to form. As last year too the Joes went into the game as underdogs and nearly pulled off the game.

This year the Darley Road boys are led by third year player Deshan Bastianpillai who has done a wonderful job this season coming in the number three slot has three centuries and two half centuries to his credit. His deputy third player Ranesh Perera is the only coloursman of the side. A fine allrounder of whom much is expected in this big game.

Second year player Tharindu Aiyawansa and fresher Dhanuka Hettiarachchi will be expected to give them a good start. Both the players have scored heavily this season. To follow them and boost the Joes score will be Hashan Goonathileke a hard hitting batsman who has a 157 against Wesley, Angelo Mathew who is turning out be a fine allrounder he captained the Under 15 Sri Lanka team to Sharjah and was named the player of the tournament, Rajeewa Weerasinghe another member of the Under 15 Sri Lanka side, Shamal Warnakula, Sandun Dias and Prasanna Pallewela.

To give an early breakthrough for the Joes it will be in the hands of Angelo Mathew and Umesh Ruberu with Niroshan John to help them with his cutters. Skipper Deshan, Rukshan Perera, Sandun Dias will support the pacies with their spinning combination. Fourth year coloursman Nadhula de S. Wijeyaratne will lead the Petes. He is one of the best bowlers in the school circuit and a player with immense experience.

They have two players who could be regarded as the best opening pair in Prajeev Jansz and Dinesh Panditharatne to give them a good start.The Joes are coached by Harsha de Silva while the Petes are coached by Bandula de Silva. Along with these two both the teams would have finalised their strategy in their approach to breaking the 24 year jinx.

Every match is a big match - M.A.P.
By Bernie Wijesekera
At present more schools have taken to the willow wielding sport - unlike in the past. In its wake there are more big matches. But has the game or its traditions showed any upward trend? Cricket was first introduced in the meadows of England as a social sport to bring about togetherness, understanding and fellowship.

Today its wings have spread far and wide. Our former colonial masters - the Englishmen, introduced two things on and off the field - the English language. It's the main link for its economic development. It helps build a bridge among all nations.
The other discipline - cricket which was started as a social sport among the plantation fraternity. Later followed by rugby. Fellowship and bonhomie prevailed among all sans trophies, among the aliens and the locals played for the right reasons followed by a social and a get-together.

The gospel was spread to the schools too - followed by a traditional big-match. Today there are so many big matches apparently some of them marred by ugly incidents and fisticuffs especially among the young old boys. It attributes due to the lack of guidance not taught how to take defeat in the correct spirit or face setbacks in latter life whilst at school - but to win at all costs.

Some of the so-called big matches haven't helped the very spirit of the game but breeds hatred and enmity. The Principal of Wesley College M.A.P. Fernando, was one of the fans watching the Royal-Wesley match at Reid Avenue, along with Royal's Principal Lakshman Gomes. Mr. Fernando was interviewed by the Sunday Times. When he was asked if there is a big match for Wesley. No, he said and he went on to say that every match is a big match.

These friendly games should be played to bring about understanding among the schoolboys of the respective schools for the future betterment and build a bridge for a healthy nation. Via sports we could bring about reconciliation, he further said.

Since 1969 Wesley has not won the Sir (Dr.) Frank Gunasekera shield outright. What has that got to do or the final outcome. The bond of friendship is what matters in the end, among all schools rather than confining it to a big match. Schoolboys at Wesley in the past and at present are taught to play hard and clean.

No excuses for setbacks apparently if the umpires were found wanting. This was evident in this match, too. Mr. Fernando is a keen observer despite official commitments and has the time to watch a game. So is Royal's Principal, Mr. Gomes. It helps eradicate any shortcomings. Apparently it's not happening in some quarters and is the cause for most of the unwanted problems on and off the field. No one is indispensable. They have to play as a team. That's where the Wesley strength lies, Mr. Fernando said.

It was evident in the match against Royal last week. In the end for Wesley the Royal game was another big match in their cricket calendar. They believe in this saying. 'Interests are Permanent, but no Permanent Enemies, on and off the field'.

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