Thurstan and Isipathana aiming to break hoodoo

By M. Shamil Amit

It’s big match fever again and as the tradition that has been in the past the curtain raises with the 48th clash for the Blackham Wijewardena Memorial Trophy game between Thurstan and Isipathana scheduled to be played on February 26 and 27 at the SSC ground from 9.30 a.m. each day.

The Thurstan Cricket Squad

Of course the focus will be the ICC World Cup cricket tournament which got underway yesterday in Bangladesh but it will not take off the interest of the supporters of the two institutions. The two schools have been unable to produce a result since 1999 when Isipathana under the leadership of Krishantha Jayawardena secured a victory. Thurstan’s last win was recorded in 1992 when the side was led by Mackenzie Perera.

This season the two teams have had fluctuating fortunes. However there is no doubt that they will come with their heads held high though they have undergone defeats. Thurstan will be led by fourth year player Thisura Madurapperuma while Isipathana will also be having a fourth player in Dimuth Warapitiya to spearhead them.

Thurstan are coming into the big game having played 19 matches with three outright wins against Kalutara MV, Mahanama and Kinsgwood but their defeats are more. They have lost to Trinity, Royal Panadura, St. Sebastian’s and Ananda.

Isipathana on the other hand have played only 13 matches as they did not play the matches that were postponed due to the inclement weather that prevailed in the last few months. Of the 13 they have won and lost only one against Holy Cross Kalutara and DS respectively.

Unlike the previous year the two teams don’t posses players of match winning quality but even then they are well balanced so a keen tussle could be expected. Thurstan this season have only one player in Supun Navaratne who has been able to score a century and their batting will revolve around Supun and their top scorer this season, deputy skipper Praboda Arthavidu.

Praboda has been an all-rounder having scored 720 runs and captured 51 wickets with a top score of 80 while Supun too has passed the 700 runs mark. The others of note are Sajeewa Salgado and Harith Dias both of whom have made over 500 runs while useful contributions could come from Ashan Wanigaratne, Sachith Dias, Kaveen Silva and skipper Madurapperuma.

The Isipathana squad

The bowling will be spearheaded by right arm spinner Sachith Dias who has been their top wicket taker this season with over 70 scalps to his credit. Sachith will be looking for support from two other spinners - the right and left arm combinations of Arthavidu and Sachintha Wijesinghe to curtail the Isipathana batting.

Isipathana skipper Warapitiya will be the man to watch as he has been consistent right throughout the season. He along with Nilusha Sasanka have the been the two centurions of the side.

Warapitiya is their top scorer with over 600 runs while Harith Wanigaarachchi, another player to make note of being their second best. Harith has made over 500 runs which includes four half tons while Nilusha has over 450 runs to his credit.

Much is expected from Samitha Sulochana, Dhanushka Sandaruwan, Pawan Anjana, Deshan Jayakumar and Chenutha Wickramasinghe to prop up their score. The Isipathanians will also be looking forward for their spinners Sidath Mallawaarchchi, Samitha Sulochana to deliver the goods with support from Warapitiya, Bushana Nibanda and Deshan Jeyakumar. Nevertheless the two teams know that a win is needed and positive cricket is the need of the hour if they are to give entertaining cricket to their supporters and with the idea based on a result oriented match.

Thurstan lead the series with five wins as against four to Isipathana. The rest have ended in drab draws. Isipathana has the major share in the records in the series with Saman Nishantha holding the best individual score of 150 n.o. made in 2002. The best bowling figures is by Thurstan’s Jayajeewa Karunaratne who took 7 for 28 in 1992. The highest score of the series is 308 for 9 achieved in 2005 by Isipathana and the lowest score of 56 way back in 1968, also by Isipathana.

The two day match will be followed by the 31st limited over encounter fought out for the W. A. de Silva Trophy at the P. Sara Stadium on March 6 which will culminate with the fourth T20 encounter due to be played at the Thurstan ground on March 13.

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