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Royal holds upper hand with the help of batting power

A superb century by Heshan Kumarasiri (127), backed by three good half centuries by skipper Imal Liyanage (80), opener Isuru Gunatillake (67) and Milan Abeysekera (58) helped Royal College, Colombo to hold the upper hand on the second day of their 133rd Battle of the Blues three-day cricket encounter against S.Thomasí College, Mount Lavinia continued at SSC grounds, Colombo yesterday.


Royalist centurian Heshan
Kumarasiri who made a
well-compiled 127 in the
Royal first innings at the
SS C Grounds yesterday.


Royalist Isuru Gunathillake pulls a ball from Thomian off spinner Thilaksha Sumanasiri, watched by Thomian skipper
and stumper Sachin Peiris. Picture by Nissanka Wijerathne

Royal, in reply to S.Thomasí first innings total of 325 for 9 declared, made a healthy-looking 413 for 9 declared. Thus, the Reid Avenue boys bounced back to take a valuable 88-run first innings lead. The Thomians were 27 for no loss in their second essay, still training by 61 runs with all ten second innings wickets intact.

Earlier in the day, it was that captainís knock of 80 by Liyanage and a brilliant 67 by opener Gunatllake that set the pace for a mammoth Royal total of 413 for 9 declared Ė the second highest total in the series by Royal behind their record of 432 for 7 declared registered in 2006.

Replying to S. Thomasí healthy first innings total of 325 for 9 declared, after being put into bat, Royal opened the second day at their overnight total of 53 for one with Gunatillake on 31 not out and Poorna Aluthge yet to open his account. They progressed to 168 for 4 at lunch with Liyanage on 38 n.o. and Heshan Kusumsiri on 10 n.o.

S.Thomasí had early success last morning when overnight batsman Aluthge departed for 12, caught by Javed Bongso off former Thomian captain Chamod Pathirana. They bagged two more Royal wickets before lunch, that of Sampath de Silva and Gunatillake. De Silva became an unfortunate victim of a run out, responding to a call from Gunatillake for a single which appeared to be never there.

Gunatillake played a cautious innings to make sure that Royal go past that 300-plus Thomian total. He picked only the bad deliveries to go for his shots while he respectfully treated good balls. It was his superb 67, that came off 133 balls in 188 minutes with two sixers and nine fours, that gave Royal a solid foundation to put an equally clever total on the board. However, Gunatillake departed shortly before lunch when he was trapped leg before wicket, off Pathirana.

Skipper Liyanage who cam at the fall of the third wicket, helped Royal to consolidate. It was a treat to watch when Liyanage was in full cry, showing no mercy to Thomian bowlers to score 80 runs off 79 balls with one six and 12 power-packed boundaries. But Liyanage, on 62, was lucky to be dropped by Bongso at slips off Madushan Ravichandrakumar.

Royalís 100 runs came in 149 minutes off 205 balls. But they accelerated their scoring though Gunatillake and Liyanage to reach the 200-run mark in 225 minutes off 318 balls for the loss of four wickets. Kumarasiri signaled his teamís 200-run mark shortly after lunch, driving the last ball of Thilaksha Sumanasiriís sixth over to the cover boundary.

But it was Kumarasiriís effort that finally saw Royal crossing 400-run mark, only for the second time in the 13-decade-old series. His batting was a treat to watch as he made a galaxy of strokes, frustrating Thomians bowlers to all parts of the ground.

His knock of 127 runs included 19 fours and came off 173 balls. Abeysekera, in making a blistering 58 with seven boundaries, gave Kumarasiri a good support. Kumarasiri became only the 26th Royalist to score a century in the Battle of the Blues series.

The duo shared a record 141-run stand for the sixth wicket after Royal were reduced to 223 for 5, still 102 runs short of the Thomian first innings total. But Kumarasiri-Abeysekera alliance produced that valuable record century partnership for the sixth wicket which erased the previous best of 133 runs between D. Edussuriya (136) and H. Morawaka (49 n.o) in 2004.It was a memorable experience for yours truly who is covering his 25th Royal-Thomian cricket encounter as a sports media personality, previously witnessing ten matches in the series as a student of the Reid Avenue school.

Royal-Thomian series is associated with many high traditions which are hard to match and real experience of the gentlemenís game played in its true spirit.

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