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A Look at the “Battle of the Saints”

Posted on 01 June 2013 by admin

By: Sankha de Livera Tennekoon , 2010-02-08 11:30:24

PETERITE TEAMOn March 5 & 6, the oldest test cricketing stadium in the Island, the “Oval” will play host to one of the biggest cricket encounters in the Sri Lankan cricketing calendar, the “Battle of the Saints”. The Saints will yet again march on to the P. Sara stadium to battle it out after ending last year’s encounter in a draw.  The battle for the Rev. Fr. Maurice Legoc trophy which was offered in 1933 with St Josephans winning the clash has seen the Josphians leading the series with twelve wins as opposed to seven by the Peterites with the rest drawn. Rev. Fr. Maurice Legoc has been the Rector of both the institutions and the trophy for the big one is named in his honour. He first served St Joseph’s and then went on to become the first Rector of St Peters later on. The event which was started on the 23rd and 24th of February 1933 is by far one of the most looked forward to encounters during the season of March madness which includes several other prominent big matches like, ‘The Battle of the Blues’ and the ‘Battle of the Maroons’.

The Josephians have taken the upper hand in series of encounters winning twelve matches in comparison to seven by the Pete’s out of the 75 times the saints have played 56 times it had ended in a draw.

Last year we saw some of schools crickets finest locking horns together. The Peterites were lead by their experienced skipper Angelo Perera who was also the skipper of the junior national team, while the Josephian unit was lead by another promising cricketer in the form of all rounder Shameera Weerasinghe. The Pete’s were set out to break a long standing curse of 30 years but failed due to a gritty batting display by the Josephians.

So with both the teams possessing talented players there is going to be a close tussle for supremacy and of course the two teams are also on a mission with the Josephians hoping to retain the title and the Peterites coming in to the game to avenge the defeat of last year and break the 30 year old jinx of having last won the encounter in 1978 under Suraj Abeysekera.

Saints invade SL cricket In the recent times, the Sri Lankan cricket team has been muscled with a lot of new youngster. Some of these youngsters have matured and lived up to expectations and some more often than not single handedly have won games for the country. During the past when a youngster was thrown in to the deep end to perform, in most cases fail to deliver the goods. The Saints have come on to the big stage and defied all odds to bring glory to our country.

Angelo Mathews who burst in to the National scene was the skipper of the Josephian unit in the year 2006. He has been a fine fined for the Lankan seniors and many pundits have tipped him off to be one of the captains in the national team in the future. He has matured as a cricketer and has been a huge force in the middle order for the Lankans in the recently concluded season. Mathews who came in replace of former Wesley College skipper Farveez Maharoof cemented his place quickly and now is a permanent figure for the men in blue.

Another player who came out to the big stage was Angelo’s school mate, Thissera Perera. The bulky all-rounder stamped his authority in the national team coming out with several match winning performances in the recently concluded series against India and Bangladesh.

In the not so distant past cricketer in the mold of ex-Peterite batsman Russel Arnold and ex-Joephian bowler Chaminda Vaas donned the national jersey and turned out to be two of the greatest players who have played the game. The latter is still tagged as one of the best left arm swingers in the world and was undoubtedly ‘the best’ left arm pacie in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan juniors  travel around the world year in year out and has seen a lot of talented cricketers in amongst their ranks. The juniors have also been taken over by the Peterites and the Josephians. Angelo Perera, last year St.Peters skipper lead the juniors last year while the current skipper has taken over duties this year. Up to four Peterites toured in the recently concluded under 19 world cup. Namely, Andri Berenger, Chathura Peiris (skipper), Akshu Fernando and Lahiru Jayaratne.

Taking a look at the past The first ‘Battle of the Saints’ was played in 1933 at St. Peter’s College Grounds Bambalapitiya when the Joes, captained by Robert Fernando, easily eclipsed St. Peter’s under George Jayaweera by an innings and 105 runs. Cyril Dias of St. Peter’s stole the show with phenomenal bowling figures of 9 for 64.

In the following year Joes lead by skipper Claude Wijesinghe wrecked the Petes to register an impressive innings and 202 run victory at Darley Road. The highlight of this game was the highest partnership for the series of 219 runs by Fred Perera 114 not out and D. Arndt 110 for the 9th wicket. This record stands to date. The next 5 encounters ended in no decisions till 1940 when St. Joseph’s registered a 108-run win at Bambalapitiya under Czerny Serpanchy. In 1942 and 1943 the annual battle was not played during the Second World War. The Joes won in 1944 and ’45 under Malcolm De Costa. It took 13 years for St. Peter’s to register their first win in 1946 led by Dion Walles. Walles led the winning side the following year also, but the Joes bounced back to win in the next three years up to 1949.

In the next few years the matches were drawn. The 1954 encounter, though drawn, was a special year for the Peterites when one of their most illustrious cricketers, Clive Inman, scored a classic 204 not out at the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium (Colombo Oval). This continues to be the highest individual score in the series. In 1955 St. Peter’s, led by Clive Inman, reversed the Joes winning run with a comfortable 8-wicket victory. In a thrilling finish Joes won in the following year by 5 wickets under Kirthi Caldera. From 1957 to 1964 both sides could not pull off a win though the matches provided plenty of excitement. However in 1965 Peterites led by Travis Fernando registered an excellent 6-wicket win to break the ten-year hoodoo. The encounter faced a four year jinx again until St. Joseph’s won in 1970 under Hector Perera. A draw took place in the following year and in 1972 St. Joseph’s enjoyed their last win by an innings and 87 runs under Rohan Fernando. Six years  later St. Peter’s also registered their last win by 6 wickets in 1978 under Suraj Abeysekara. All matches in the past 29 years ended in draws.

For after all, and whatever anyone else says, at no period in the history of the game has any other team, either Peterite or Josephian produced three Test players, two who shared the new ball for Sri Lanka – Rumesh Ratnayake and Vinodhan John and the other Amal Silva, opened batting. In addition, Kitto Fernandopulle opened batting for Sri Lanka Schools and scored 58 against the Australian Schools team, Rohan Buultjens captained Sri Lanka Schools against the Indian Schools and the Dutch team and subsequently toured India with the Sri Lanka Test team, Suraj Abayasekera played for Sri Lanka ‘A’ while Trehern Perera and myself were also chosen for the trials of the Sri Lanka Schools squad.

The Test caps were not mere ornaments either. Amal Silva scored a century at Lord’s against England and still holds the record for the most number of victims in an international Test series, which was against India and this in a three Test series! Vinodhan John and Rumesh Ratnayake’s exploits are well known by all. While the fearsome fast bowlers of the past were probably very quick, there is no factual evidence that they could have taken out several of the world’s top batsman and like Rumesh, hit Larry Gomes on the face, hit the towering Clive Lloyd on the head and in fact caused that most brilliant of players, Viv Richards who usually disdained a helmet, to don one. Rumesh’s ability to make a ball climb very steeply and follow up with a toe crunching yorker brought him over 100 wickets in a school season with more than 50% being bowled. Match bags of over 10 wickets were common and taking over four wickets per inning in almost every match, he was terrifying.

Anyone who was around during this period will not challenge the fact that Rohan Buultjens was one of the best batsman of the period – winning the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year and Best Batsman, 1000 runs in a season, two centuries both ‘not out` in the Big Match, the Big Match record of the best batting double, the Second best batting double for St. Peter’s, the highest aggregate in the series, the record third wicket partnership of 173 with Kitto Fernandopulle which stands to this day and countless other centuries and half centuries against most other schools. His total command over any bowler of the era backed by hard facts clearly indicates the travesty of justice that kept him out of the Sri Lanka Test team. Though primarily a batsman, Rohan who also captained in 1980, picked up several crucial wickets, specialising in breaking partnerships.

Kitto Fernandopulle, the master strategist was easily one of the best cricketing brains – proved by the umpires’ panel awarding him the Best Captains Trophy in 1979. ” Kitto is today the Second XI coach of St. Peters and is doing a great job at developing cricketers having already fed the First XI team with three players this season.

School cricket in the late 70’s and early 80’s had advanced to a very high standard and Sri Lanka was on the threshold of test cricket. Gearing up for “Tests” more “.professional”’ batting, combined with good quality wickets and more evenly matched teams meant outright wins in two days were rare. In fact, the Royal/Thomian 03 day fixture had just started and batsman like Sumithra Warnekulasuriya of Royal batted two full days for a 100 runs. Yet, between ‘78 and ‘80 St. Peters had fourteen outright wins including St. Josephs, Royal, St. Thomas, Trinity, St. Anthony’s, St. Benedicts, Thurstan, Isipathana and Dharmapala. Some of them after a lapse of many years like St. Thomas’ which was an 8 wicket victory in a match where 2 1/2hrs of play was lost due to rain.

76th Battle of the Saints The teams are gearing up for the all important ‘76th Battle of the Saints’ with the Peterites striving to break the long standing hoo doo of 30 years while the Josephians look to make this their 13 win in the series. The biggest question will be whether the Peterites have what it takes to take back the coveted Rev. Fr. Maurice Legoc trophy after a long wait.

The Peterites sure have the fire power to achieve that feat mainly because of the four junior national players in their side who will be their trump cards. Peterite skipper Chathura Peiris is confident after a stint as captain of the junior side that his Peters side will perform up to the mark and deliver the goods on the day. He will be backed up by senior players, Andri Berenger, Akshu Fernando, Lahiru Jayaratne, Denham Perera, Nilochana Perera and Angelo Emmanuel.

The Josephians will have to hang on for dear life as the Peters brigade will come out all guns blazing to secure their long awaited win. They will be lead by senior player Dinal Dhambarage who is again a seasoned campaigner and will go all out to defend the title.  He has the backing of some experience in the bank in the likes of powerful all rounder Chathuranga Kumara, Enricho Silva, Jhan Jayasinghe and Rosco Tathil.

The stage is set for the saints to collide in what is tagged to be one of the most exciting ecounters in the recent times. Colombo Spirit wishes both teams the best of luck for the “76th Battle of the Saints”.

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