By Ranjan Anandappa
CRICKET: S.Thomas’, with a superior all round effort avenged their defeat last year by completely outplaying Royal in all departments of the game to win the 128th Battle of the Blues encounter by an innings and 44 runs at the SSC grounds yesterday.
The Thomians accomplished their memorable win just 95 minutes into the pre-lunch session when the panic stricken Royalist Kanishka Boteju ran himself out as the Thomian fielders were on their feet, skipper Ashan Peiris marshalling his side from the front.
It was the fielding of either side that made the major difference. The Thomians were absolutely on the spot in whatever they did on the field while the Royalists faltered, particularly while the Thomian batsmen, Peiris and Mazahir were cruising towards their big record breaking partnership.
Royal who gave a disappointing batting display in the first innings (being all out for 167) fared no better while following on with a deficit of 207 runs.
The situation required a long and weighty innings by a couple of their top order batsmen to save the game, but only Diren Warnakulasuriya (54), Bhanuka Rajapakse (24) and Charith Fernando (31 n.o) batted with any authority as the rest succumbed to the immense pressure applied by the Thomians.
The Royalists were a “well beaten side” for a few good reasons. Firstly it was the weakness in their batting and the thinness in their bowling, backed up by appalling fielding at times. To add to their woes they won the toss and elected to field.
Besides Diren Warnakulasuriya, Banuka Rajapakse and Charith. Fernando who looked promising the others looked pretty rattled.
Skipper Haroon Mowjood whose leg spin earned him a place in the junior national pool, seemed to have lost confidence as the skipper, and with that Royal lost their way very early in the game.
The Thomians no doubt played to a plan which was well executed. They were aware of the weakness in Royal’s batting and being invited to bat was a blessing in disguise for the them.
Nizam Mazahir (162) and Ashan Peiris (161) who scored his second big match hundred provided the base for the Thomian batting. Their bowling attack was not that menacing but the enthusiastic fielding gave the bowlers a tremendous boost which constantly had the Royalists under pressure.
Royal began their second innings on the third day morning at 124 for 6 still needing 83 runs to make the Thomians bat again. There was much speculation as to whether Royal could extend their stay at least up to the lunch interval.
Charith Fernando the overnight unbeaten, made his intentions clear batting sensibly, but lack of support saw Royal losing wickets at regular intervals.
In the 24 overs bowled in the pre-lunch session they managed only 39 runs for the loss of four wickets.
Leg spinner Milan Fernando took the wickets of Thanthirigoda and Laksitha de Silva while the Thomians fielding prowess was clearly displayed when they ran out Yasith Abeykoon and Kanishka Boteju in a sensational 90 minutes of play in the morning. All awards were won by the Thomians.