ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 9, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 41

Mowjood or Milan - only time will tell

The 129th Battle of the Blues

By Harry Jayachandra

The 129th annual Battle of the Blues encounter gets underway at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) Grounds on Thursday. It will be undoubtedly be a war of attrition, providing there is no rain. And even if there is, as long as it is a short shower, a result would be expected given what happened in the last three years.

Royal team

The year 2005 saw the Thomians win by four wickets. 2006 saw the Reid Avenue boys win by seven wickets, only to lose by an innings last year. Haroon Mowjood who captained Royal last year is still an integral part of the team though his nemesis Ashan Peiris is no longer a part of the Thomian team. But the Thomians have left arm leg spinner Milan Fernando who has already set a record for his school by capturing 103 wickets up to now. The outcome of this game could well be decided on who bowls best – Mowjood or Fernando.

Pundits are divided on how both teams have fared this year. Some say both sides have under achieved, while others attribute the lack of consistency to the Under 19 World Cup and security regulations that came in to effect last month. But the form book literally goes out of the window when these two teams clash in arguably the sporting and social event of the year cricket wise.

Third year coloursman Dilan Nanayakkara leads a Royal team filled with allrounders. Nanayakkara who is a right hand batsman has scored over 500 runs this season and also taken 6 scalps with his right arm off breaks.

Vice Captain Charith Fernando is also a third year coloursman who opens the bowling and is more than a useful batsman having contributed 335 runs in addition to claiming 16 scalps.

S. Thomas’ team

But arguably Royal's trump card is aggressive leg spinner and late order batsman Mowjood. This fourth year coloursman is wily at the best of times, but is lethal when he decides to bowl the flipper. The fact that the SSC pitch is not conducive to spin bowling especially on the first couple of days, will not make an iota of difference, if Mowjood can get both his googly and flipper right.

Left hand opening batsman Sahan Hettiarachchi has been the revelation of the season as far as Royal are concerned. This fresher has scored 568 runs with a best of 84. Kithruwan Vithanage and Thilina Samarasinghe have both partnered Hettiarachchi. Whichever combination Royal decide to use will need to give their team a decent platform from the likes of Banuka Rajapakse, Nanayakkara, Mowjood, Yasith Abeykoon, Kusal Perera and the likes can build on.

If Royal bat first and put up a 300 plus score then they could exert some pressure on young but talented Thomian side. Bowling wise, the Reid Avenue boys have the quality and variety to trouble any batting line up.

If Mowjood is Royal's trump card then for S. Thomas' it would be their coach Ranil Abeynaike. Abeynaike is the former curator of SSC and would know how the pitch would at least on the first day.

Skipper Jehaan Thahir literally leads from the front. This stylish right hander is the second highest scorer for the Thomians with 617 runs. He has also captured 20 scalps with his right arm leg spin.

Like their opposition the Thomians also have plenty of allrounders and a varied bowling attack. Vice Captain Ruchira De Silva opens the bowling and has taken 47 wickets to go along with 241 runs which he has scored.

Batting wise in addition to the players mentioned, the boys from Mount Lavinia also have the likes of R. A. Fernando who has scored 516 runs, Raveenthirarajah Nirushan with 551 runs and perhaps the best of the lot namely fresher and opening batsman Faahim Saleem who could pass the magical 1000 run mark having already scored 956.

Other than for Thahir, De Silva and Fernando, S. Thomas' also have in their bowling ranks players like Naveed Ghany, Nilshan Fernando and Dinesh Walpita, to name a few.

Statistics would tend to favour S. Thomas', but that counts for nothing in the 'un'. It is the team that plays consistently good cricket over the three days that will win the game. We can hope that the weather will not interfere and spoil what could be a fascinating and result oriented contest in a season that sees draw after draw in other big matches held all over the island.
The squads;

Royal from; L. De Silva, K. De Silva, B. Rajapakse, H. Mawjood, D. Nanayakkara(Captain), C. Fernando(Vice Captain), Y. Abeykoon, K. Boteju, M. Tantrigoda, C. Bogoda, K. Vithanage, C. Dharmasiri, V. Malwatte, S. Hettiarachchi, T. Samarasinghe, L. Premaratne, M. Buddhika, C. Devasurendra, C. Rajarathna, S. De Alwis.

S. Thomas’ from; R. Liyanage, M. F. Saleem, N. Ghany, D. Manamperi, M.S.N. Peiris, H.A.T. Fernando, M.R.N. Fernando, U.S.M. Fernando, R. Nirushan, D. Walpita, N.T. Nugawela, H. Soyza, A. Kerner, R.A. Fernando, A.J. Thahir (Captain), L. R. de Silva (Vice Captain), V. Weerawardene.

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