The curtains of the 2017 Big Match season will be raised this weekend when Thurstan College and Isipathana College will battle it out for the 54th time for the Blackham Wijewardena Memorial Trophy on February 24th and 25th at the SSC grounds.
With the big match season a few days away from its commencement..
Growth of the Encounter
After 53 ‘Battle of the Brothers’ encounters, there have been only 9 instances where a result has been produced. Thurstan has a marginal lead having won five matches while Isipathana is not far behind with four wins as all the other games have been ended in draws. The last win in the series was recorded by Isipathana College in 1999 under the captaincy of Thushantha Jayawardene while Thurstan College last won in 1992 under Mackenzie Perera.
Saman Nishantha’s unbeaten 150 for Isipathana in 2002 remains the highest individual score in the series while former Sri Lanka Test and current SLC fast-bowling coach, Nuwan Zoysa’s excellent 10-wicket match haul in 1996 stands out as the best bowling show on record. Kasun Abeyrathne smashed a brilliant 147 off 348 balls in 446 minutes last year which remains the best performance by a Thurstanite.
Both schools have produced a number of Sri Lanka players in Amitha de Costa, Niroshan Bandaratilleke, Hemantha Boteju, Lahiru Gamage (Thurstan) and Jayantha Paranathala, Suresh Perera, Nuwan Zoysa and Sanjeewa Weerasinghe (Isipathana).
The team which has acquired the most number of points at the Singer Schools’ Cricket Tournament; Thurstan College has been unstoppable this season with 8 wins under their belt to top group D and qualify for the quarter-finals. Leading up to the Big Match, the Thurstanites have bagged four outright wins in a row and will be itching to make it five-in-a-row this weekend while breaking the 25-year hoodoo.
Thurstan College has produced the likes of Amitha De Costa, Niroshan Bandaratilleke and Hemantha Boteju who went on to represent Sri Lanka..
Skipper Kasun Abeyrathne who smashed a record century last year at the Big Match, has had an average season with only 253 runs to his name and has the added responsibility of captaincy on his shoulders. He will look to make it big once again during the all-important traditional encounter.
6th year coloursman and last year’s captain Charana Nanayakkara has been in terrific form this season, bowling some stunning spells for his alma mater. He has used the new ball perfectly to grab close to 45 wickets and will be a lethal weapon for the Thurstanites on the SSC surface along with his partner-in-crime, seamer Nipun Lakshan.
Nanayakkara has also amassed over 700 runs with 5 fifties and a ton while Sawan Prabhash has cracked over 500 runs with the bat. Left-arm spinner Naveen Gunawardena who has taken over 70 wickets will be the go-to slow bowler for Thurstan as his accuracy will be the key.
Kasun Abeyrathne, Yeshan Wickramarachchi, Imesh Viranga, Sawan Prabhash, Prageesha Mendis, Charana Nanayakkara, Nimesh Lakshan, Nipun Lakshan, Navod Samarakoon, Thushal Madushanka, Naveen Goonawardene
Isipathana, with three junior players in their ranks, have only won two games outright this season. They ended the Singer U19 Tournament as the fifth ranked team in group B and failed to qualify for both the two-day quarter-finals and the one-day tournament.
They will be led by fourth year coloursman Sanjula Abeywickrama, a stylish left-handed top order batsman and the wicket keeper of the team. Abeywickrama represented the Sri Lanka U19s against South Africa U19s last year and has scored close to 600 runs in 10 matches this season. Abeywickrama will make it into the Isipathana College history books this year, as this will be the first instance where a father-son duo has captained the College from Havelock Town. His father Anura Abeywickrama captained the side in 1984.
Second year coloursman Pathum Nissanka, will be an integral part of the Pathana batting..
The star of the team will be definitely the diminutive right-handed opening batsman Pathum Nissanka, who has clobbered 927 runs in just 9 games this season, including a double century. He too represented Sri Lanka U19s and will look to cross the 1000-run mark at the Big Match.
Vice-Captain Ayana Siriwardena has been renowned as a hard-hitting middle order batsman and a tidy off-spinner. Playing his third year, Siriwardena has over 580 runs and close to 20 wickets this season. Left-arm spinner Lahiru Dilshan has been the best bowler for Isipathana this season taking 60 wickets in 12 games.
Fast bowler Neranjan Wanniarachchi will look to use his first-class experience on the SSC surface and make the Thurstan top order wobble with his aggression. He has captured 25 scalps while all-rounder Heshan Fernando has struck over 500 runs this season.
Pathum Nissanka, Kalana Perera, Heshan Fernando, Sanjula Abeywickrama, Sanjula Bandara, Ayana Siriwardena, Leshan Amarasinghe, Harsha Rathnayake, Lahiru Dilshan, Lisura Veenath, Neranjan Wanniarachchi.
Both Thurstan College and Isipathana College must play positive cricket in order to entertain the cricket-crazy fans and approach the game with one intent in their mind, to win the game; if not for the 18th consecutive year, the ‘Battle of the Brothers’ will end without a result.