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89th Battle of the Blues:

Trinity go out favourites

Trinity College's skipper Chaturanga Munaweera and little star Sachith Pathirana will be the cynosure of all eyes when they take on St. Anthony's College in their Kandy's 89th 'Battle of the Blues' which will be played at the Asgiriya Stadium today and tomorrow (March 11th and 12th) with play commencing at 9.30 a.m. on each day.

This duo will be the focus of attention of all as they have been two of the top performers in the schools circuit this season. Skipper Chathuranga Munaweera has scored 920 runs and has also 65 wickets to his credit.

Young Sachith Pathirana has captured 100 wickets with his left-arm spinners and also scored 778 runs and this duo has been instrumental in the phenomenal success of Trinity College this season.

Pathirana who is still 15 years will move into sweet sixteen on March 21. At 15 he is probably the youngest cricketer to get 100 wickets in a season and the first Trinitian to achieve this feat.

This big match received top billing in the past as the discipline of the spectators and the players have been excellent and they will no doubt uphold these traditions.

The organisers of the game have not forgotten the victims of tsunami in the coastal areas and they will be donating fifty per cent of the proceeds to the tsunami relief work done by the two schools.

The match will be also played for the John Francis Halangoda Memorial Shield who is dubbed as the Prince of Cricket Coaches and has had the distinction of coaching both Trinity and St. Anthony's colleges.

A total of 88 matches have been played in the series with Trinity still in the lead with 22 wins against 11 by the Antonians who made their mark in school cricket much later.

The Trinitians dominated this series in the early years to such an extent that they won the big match for a record 11 years in a row from 1918 to 1928.

In fact the Trinitians owe their lead in the series to this sequence of 11 wins. This series which began in 1914 was not played in 1916, 1956, 1957 and 2001.

Trinity who are enjoying one of the best ever seasons will be led by fifth year coloursman Madhuranga Munaweera, a top allrounder, with a positive approach to the game, which has paid rich dividends. They have played 17 matches, winning 7, losing two and the balance 8 matches have ended in draws with most of them in their favour.

This will give an indication on the positive cricket played by the Lions as they have often thrown open the game when others would have opted to put the shutters down and play safe.

Maduranga has himself led from the front by amassing 900 runs including a ton with his aggressive batting. He has also captured 65 wickets with his medium pacers. He is a skipper who is not selfish and does not over bowl himself and brings in the spinners very early if the conditions suits slow bowling.

This was evidenced in the match against Mahinda concluded two days back when he opened with that little left-arm spinner Sachith Pathirana in the second innings and the bowler responded magnificently by capturing 7 wickets, 5 of them being bowled and 2 trapped in front.

Fourth year player Sisitha Jayasinghe is the deputy skipper and he will open the sides batting and is also a good right-arm off-spinner. He has really struck form with both bat and ball in the last few matches.

Giving inspiration to the side is the experienced Clifford Fernando who captained the team for two years in 2003 and 2004, a top allrounder. A technically correct batsman who is difficult to dislodge and is also a good medium-pacer. Winner of the Ryde Gold Medal for 2005 in school awarded to the Best Allround Student.

Apart from this trio Trinity's batting will rest on Sachith Pathirana who has scored over 700 runs and including 228 not out against Sri Rahula College, Katugastota. But bearing the brunt of the attack has been a little too much for the kid and as a result 1,000 runs for the season may not be there for him.

Other batsmen in the side are Santush Ratnayake, Sampath Ratnayake, Arinda Bulunuwewa, Charith Dumbarage, Mohammed Saseer, Dilan Gangoda.

Spearheading the attack will be skipper Madhuranga Munaweera and Clifford Fernando with Mohammed Saseer coming in as the third pacie with Arinda Bulunuwewa too could be useful here if the necessity arises.

Left-arm spinner Sachith Pathirana is the leading spinner and supporting him will be off-spinner Charith Dumbarage, left-arm spinner Arinda Bulunuwewa, and off-spinner Lasith Jayatillake. Dilan Gangoda will keep wickets with Diluka Talagoda as his deputy.

Trinity College is being coached by Old Antonian H. M. Muthalib who has not only moulded the side into a fighting outfit and has also instilled discipline. Another official who has been responsible for motivating the boys is the Manager - Administration of the school, Rohan Samarakoon, who is better known in planting circles and rugby fields. This is something which is new to Trinity and beyond his duties had performed with the inherent love he has for the success of the school.

St. Anthony's College will be led by third year player Pramodth Fernando, a third year player with the strains of leading a side under construction has had an effect on his performance with the bat and the ball. He has scored 350 runs and also captured 25 wickets with his off-spinners. A talented cricketer, he is expected to come good in this big occasion.

The Antonians have played ten matches this season and all have been drawn, thus the team has remained unbeaten, a record which their opponents could not maintain this season.

Shameer Munas is the leading run-getter of the side, scoring 510 runs including a top-score of 74 against St. Peter's College. The best performance of the Antonians has been against the strong Josephians whom they held to a draw.

The Antonian's batting will revolve around skipper Pramodth Fernando, Shameer Munas, Sameera Weerabahu, Selwyn Jamion, Gimhana Dissanayake, Harsha Medagoda, Sahan Pallihakkara, Adil Reyal, S. Reyal, Dinuka Wijewardena and Malindu Perera.

Vice captain Sameera Weerabahu will lead the new ball attack with Selwyn Jamion followed by Peter Samarakoon. Skipper Fernando will be their main spinner followed by Harsha Kodagoda (off-spin), Sahan Pallihakkara (left-arm spin), Adil Reyal (left-arm spin), Shameer Munas (off-cutters), Prasanga Illangakoon will keep wickets with Gimhana Dissanayake too could occupy this position.

The Antonians are coached by former Sri Lankan left-arm spinner Piya Wijetunga who took over the team this year and has been entrusted with the task of building up the side and immediate results is not possible. But Piyal Wijetunga has done a good job of the task given to him.

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