After weather cut short the Thomian charge for the win last year, a well-balanced S. Thomas’ College side are hell-bent on bringing ‘The Shield’ back to ‘The School by the Sea’ at the 137th Battle of the Blues.
Rekindle the history
Let’s take a brief look back at one of the most successful decades of S.Thomas’ Cricket; 1992-2002, which is largely accredited to the Thomians’ current coach Dinesh Kumarasinghe who was in his first stint for his Alma Mater.
S.Thomas’ College won the All Island (Day-Night) One Day Championship, which was known as the ‘President’s Trophy’, in 1992, defeating Ananda College in the final under the captaincy of Suresh Gunasekara.
Kumarasinghe who was the assistant coach of the 1st XI side, was appointed coach of the U17 ‘A’ team in 1995. The same year under the captaincy of Nilanka Peiris they won the All Island U17 Championship.
Kumarasinghe was appointed as the Head Coach of the 1st XI side in the 96-97 season, as S.Thomas’ College won the Royal-Thomian in 1997 after six years with Nilanka Peiris leading the side. A year later they won the Coca Cola All Island One-Day Championship. The side was captained by the dashing stroke maker Upeka Fernando, who went on to represent the Sri Lanka U19 side for the World Cup and captained youth sides as well.
Naren Ratwatte led a young and comparatively weaker side, in contrast to the other years, to another ‘Roy-Tho’ win in 1999 and a few months later Meshad Peiris captained the U17 side to another All Island Championship, a feat only accomplished again 14 years later in 2013, in Kumarasinghe’s first year after took over the coaching duties once again.
That side was captained by Ravindu Tillakaratne, the son of former Sri Lanka great Hashan Tillakaratne and also included 2016 Thomian skipper Sachitha Jayathilake.
Dominant Thomians wins the ‘Mini Battle’
The Thomians last won the All Island One Day Championship in 2002 under the captaincy of Dilshan Gunawardena who had the likes of Jeewan Mendis, Videsh Balasubramanium, Arjuna Rajawasam and Kaushal Silva playing under him.
Months later Kumarasinghe would leave his post and return a decade later to spark a new era of Thomian dominance with the 2014 Mustangs Trophy win after six years, 2014 All Island T20 Championship and 2014 All Island One Day Runners-Up trophy.
In 2015 they won the U15 All Island Division I Championship after 32 years with Dellon Peiris captaining. Incidentally when S.Thomas’ last won the U15 championship, Kumarasinghe was a member of that side.
“I consider All Island Championships a bit more than the Royal-Thomian because you need to play consistent cricket throughout the season to win a championship which is a great achievement. At a ‘Big Match’ whichever team has the stronger side can win.”
“With All Island Championships you can judge the standards of Cricket at College. This current tournament structure is very good because it reveals the real champions who play against the best,” Kumarasinghe added.
S.Thomas’ College are once again amidst a successful season with 7 outright wins, eleven 1st innings wins and three 1st innings losses; of those outright wins, 5 were in the Singer Schools Tournament along with nine 1st innings wins.
- Thurstan College – Lost (1st Inn by 14 runs)
- Anthony’s College – Won (Inns & 31 runs)
- Richmond College – Lost (1st Inn by 48 runs)
- John’s College (Jaffna) – Won (1st Inn by 33 runs)
- Wesley College – Won (by 5 wickets)
- Trinity College – Won (1st Inn by 6 runs)
The Thomians topped group D in the tournament ahead of St. Peter’s College with the only blemish being the surprise 1st innings loss to St. Joseph’s College.
The highlights of the tournament wins were the innings victory over St. Benedict’s College and Nalanda College, the latter after a lapse of 16 years.
“We would have set a record for most outright wins with 10, had it not been for the bad weather in the third term where we missed a few wins,” a slightly disappointed Kumarasinghe remarked.
Currently the lads from Mount Lavinia are in the semifinal of the tournament after avenging the regular season 1st innings loss with a reverse result to the star studded Richmond College side. It would have been an outright win for the Thomians who were 66/1, chasing 143 for victory but Richmond lads led by Sri Lanka U19 captain Charith Asalanka refused to play following a debatable decision.
- Prince of Wales College – Won (1st Inn by 4 runs)
- Joseph Vaz College – Won (by 9 wickets)
- Mahinda College – Won (1st Inn by 144 runs)
- Dharmapala College – Won (1st Inn by 3 runs)
- S.Senanayake College – Won (1st Inn by 111 runs)
- President College – Won (Inns & 29 runs)
- Sylvester’s College – Won (1st Inn by 172 runs)
- Benedict’s College – Won (Inns & 63 runs)
- Ananda College – Won (1st Inn by 108 runs)
- Joseph’s College – Lost (1st Inn by 71 runs)
- Sebastian’s College – Won (1st Inn 116 runs)
- Nalanda College – Won (Inns & 78 runs)
- Peter’s College – Won (1st Inn by 8 runs)
- De Mazenod College (Pre-Quarter Final)– Won (Inns & 68 runs)
- Richmond College (Quarter Final) – Won (1st Inn by 65 runs)
The success of S.Thomas’ College this season has been built upon five batsmen scoring over 700 runs and two bowlers picking up over 60 wickets.
The Thomian skipper and triple coloursman Sachitha Jayathilaka has been in phenomenal form and has led the team by example scoring 758 runs and picking up 80 wickets with his right arm leg spinners. He represented the Sri Lanka U19 team when Pakistan toured Sri Lanka but would consider himself extremely unfortunate not to make the squad for the U19 World Cup.
Royal-Thomian – The Descendants
Jayathilaka has scored 7 half centuries with a best of 89 while possessing a batting average of 36.1 and his wickets have come at an average of 10.70 with 4 five wicket hauls and a miserly economy rate of 2.04. His best was 6 for 17 against St. Joseph Vaz College.
The highest run getter this season for the ‘School by the Sea’ is the aggressive yet elegant stroke player Rashmika Opatha, who Kumarasinghe adds, “can easily become the next T.M.Dilshan if he applies himself a bit more.” Opatha has amassed 832 runs at 32.00 with a strike rate of 88.04. He has 5 half centuries and 2 centuries to his name while his sixes count stands one behind his skipper’s 36.
Opener Ravindu Kodituwakku with 1 hundred and 4 fifties has added 704 at an average of 27.08 and his part-time off-spinners have taken 14 wickets, while the boundary hungry wicketkeeper batsman Dilendra Gunathilake has scored 691 at 31.41.
Gunathilake with a strike rate of 74.94 has scored 116 fours and 17 sixes with no one else coming close to his fours tally; Kodituwakku is next best with 94. Gunathilake has 1 century and 5 fifties, with his century coming against Trinity College at the spin friendly Asgiriya Stadium, chasing 297 for a first innings win.
Amidst the carnage done by the top order batsman around him, it is the calm and cool Thomian vice-captain, Yohan Mendis that gels the batting order together. The diminutive left hander is built for the longer run having played nearly 250 overs this season. In his stay he has added 770 runs at an average of 33.48 with 4 fifties and a century.
A right arm leg spinner, a left arm orthodox bowler, a left arm chinaman, a right arm off spinner; you name it the Thomians have it all.
Apart from the afore mentioned Jayathilake, the Thomians second highest wicket taker, with 59 wickets, is the left arm chinaman Ravindu Tillakaratne. Tillakaratne is an aggressive bowler who is always on the prowl for wickets and is not afraid to use the variations in his armoury. He has an average of 18.1 and an economy rate of 3.22. Tillakaratne too has added 308 runs with the bat with one half century.
The 15 year old fresher, Dellon Peiris’ exploits as captain of U15 and bowler has given him a worthy run in the 1st XI team, which he has accepted with both hands. He has taken 41 wickets at an average of 14.33 and an economy rate of 2.33 in 12 matches. Though he was out of action for the most part of the 1st term due to a fractured thumb, he has recovered fully and will be eyeing donning the ‘Blue and Black’ at the Big Match.
Another 15 year old’s performances have given coach Kumarasinghe a selection headache; though a welcome one for the College. This time it is the right arm off spinner Dineth Kannangara, who was another integral part of last year’s U15 championship win. At an average of 14.5 Kannangara has taken 31 wickets in 12 matches.
The fast bowlers are spearheaded by Senal De Silva who has taken 39 wickets at average of 17.7. With Yohan Perera (another 15 year old) picking up 21 wickets in 14 matches and Hansaka Liyanarachchi with 20 in 9 matches, their performances have certainly complemented their trailblazing spinners with economical bowling. Perera has performed with the bat as well with 226 at an average of 20.55.
“We were a bit unlucky, last year weather saved Royal but don’t think it will happen this time. We are going flat out to win the Royal-Thomian,” Dinesh Kumarasinghe added for the Thomians, who never like having ‘The Shield’ away from the ‘School by the Sea’ for long.