Mixed bag at big matches and a forgotten legend | Sunday Observer

Mixed bag at big matches and a forgotten legend

23 July, 2022
Kaushalya Weeraratne emerged the star at the Mega Show in 1999-2000
Kaushalya Weeraratne emerged the star at the Mega Show in 1999-2000

The 2021-2022 inter-school under-19 season main matches will end with the conclusion of the 143rd Battle of the Blues between Royal and S. Thomas’ at the SSC ground, Colombo.

Following Nalanda’s memorable win over Ananda in the Battle of the Maroons big match after almost seven decades, the Battle of the Saints between St. Joseph’s and St. Peter’s ended in a draw this week.

Opener Sadeesh Jayawardena stroked an unbeaten 103 for St. Joseph’s while St Peter’s College took major honours in their drawn encounter played at the P Sara Oval.

St. Peter’s batted well in the both innings scoring 251 for 7 wickets and 232 for 7 wickets declared while Abilash Wellalage the all-rounder made a fine knock of 61 in the St. Peter’s second innings well supported by Lahiru Dewatage who scored 53.

St. Joseph’s were bowled out for 163 and had a target of 320 runs and were 163 for five wickets at close. Wicket keeper batsman Adeesh Jayawardena was the day’s hero making a superb unbeaten knock of 103 in 183 balls striking 11 fours.

With the conclusion of all big matches, the curtain will come down in the 2021-2022 inter-school cricket season.

Veteran Test batsman and former Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal, the former Observer-SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, has been enjoying two successful back to back Tests against Australia and Pakistan at the Galle International Stadium.

Chandimal, who enjoyed the brightest moment in his Test career last week with a blistering double century against Australia last week, completed twin fifties in the first Test against Pakistan earlier this week. He followed his top score of 76 in the first innings with an unbeaten 94 when he ran out of partners in the second essay.

Earlier last week, he produced a magnificent unbeaten double century, the first by a Sri Lankan against Australia, to pilot the home team to a convincing innings victory with more than a day to spare. A superb knock of 206 not out by Chandimal and a dream debut match bag of 12 wickets for 177 by Prabath Jayasuriya guided Sri Lanka to an innings win. It was Sri Lanka’s first-ever innings victory against Australia in Test cricket.

Chandimal became the first ever Sri Lanka batsman to score a double century against Australia, surpassing the previous best of 192 by Kumar Sangakkara in Hobart 2007.

It was also the first occasion that Australia had lost a Test by an innings, after being crushed by South Africa in November 2016 in Hobart, Tasmania.

Australia’s previous innings defeats after batting first in Asia were both at the hands of India - by an innings and 219 runs in Kolkata in 1998 and an innings and 135 runs in Hyderabad in 2013.

Jayasuriya’s magical match analysis is the best for Sri Lanka on Test debut and the fourth-best overall. The previous best by a Sri Lankan on debut was by Praveen Jayawickrama, 11 for 178 against Bangladesh. In the second Test too, Jayawickrama had a match bag of nine wickets. If he had taken one mere wicket, he would become the best debutant in his first two Tests.

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, which will be held for the 44th year this time, reached the new millennium when Kaushalya Weeraratne emerged the star at the Mega Show.

Weeraratne of Trinity College, Kandy emerged the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in the year 2000 with a stunning record in the 1999-2000 inter-school cricket season.

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year is sponsored by Sri Lanka’s premier mobile service provider SLT Mobitel for the 15th successive year.

Ex-Sri Lanka cricketer Weeraratne was better known as a right-arm medium paceman whose stock delivery was the out-swinger.

He was earmarked early as an all-rounder for the future after his successful school career. His vicious bowling was stronger than his batting during his early career at Trinity.

But as a batsman, he was blessed with the ability to hit the ball cleanly. Weeraratne, still being a schoolboy cricketer for the hill capital school, was an integral part of Sri Lanka’s Under-19 World Cup squad in 2000. He captured 12 wickets at an average of 13 apiece which accelerated his promotion to the national team.

Months after being the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2000, Weeraratne made his ODI debut in the Asia Cup also in the same year. Unfortunately, his poor form and injury resulted in Weeraratne failing to cement his place in the national team.

He spent nearly five years on the sidelines after his 11th ODI in 2003 before he forced himself back into the reckoning after successfully remodeling his action and scored a blistering half-century off 12 balls, which was the fastest fifty in one-day cricket, during a domestic match in 2005. Weeraratne nudged the national selectors for inclusion in the national squad for the tour of the West Indies and the Asia Cup in 2008.

Born on January 29, 1981 in Gampola, Weeraratne was a left-handed batsman and a right-arm fast medium bowler. He represented Sri Lanka in 15 One Day Internationals and five T20 matches. Weeraratne made a stunning T20 debut for Sri Lanka capturing 4 for 19 in four overs and scoring 20 not out off 13 balls against Pakistan at King City, Canada in October in 2008.

On November 1, 2005, Weeraratne accounted for what was then the fastest fifty in limited-overs history, taking just 12 balls to reach the milestone, three balls fewer than the then previous record held by Adam Hollioake.

Weeraratne, who finished with 66 off 18 balls, hit seven sixes and two fours on his way to fifty.

That included five straight sixes off 40-year-old slow left-armer Ajith Ekanayake in an over which went for 34. He was playing for Ragama against Kurunegala Youth at the Thurstan College ground in Colombo.

The former Observer Schoolboy Cricketer, apart from playing for Sri Lanka in ODIs and T20s, was also fortunate to represent Sri Lanka ‘A’, led by Russel Arnold on the tour of South Africa in September-October 2003.

Weeraratne was the first Trinity ‘Lion’ to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title. Besides him, two others from Trinity College have won the main title – Niroshan Dickwella in 2012 who went on to play for Sri Lanka and continues to do so and Hasitha Boyagoda in 2018.

Meanwhile, the contest for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year and Observer-Mobitel Schoolgirl Cricketer of the Year contests are becoming even more competitive with some interesting polling in past weeks.

When the success of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year is talked about, one cannot forget the lavish contribution made by SLT Mobitel during the past 15 years. Since Mobitel joined hands with Sri Lanka’s premier English newspaper the Sunday Observer, the Mega Show has gone from strength to strength in every aspect.

The dynamic vision of Sri Lanka Telecom Group Chairman Rohan Fernando has helped the Observer-SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year to reach new horizons. His passion for sport has helped the organisers to strengthen the quality of the show by providing memories as the country’s first school cricket awards show.

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1978-1979.

It has produced some legendary cricketers for Sri Lanka, beginning with ICC Chief Referee and ex-national captain Ranjan Madugalle in the first year and World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga in the second year.

The galaxy of stars include world record holder for most number of Test wickets Muttiah Muralidaran, the most valuable player of 1996 World Cup tournament Sanath Jayasuriya and former Sri Lanka player and the best ICC elite panel umpire Kamar Dharmasea.

Among the other big time cricketers who had won the prestigious title are former World Cup winning players Asanka Gurusinha and Roshan Mahanama and former Sri Lanka captain Marvan Atapattu.

Hence, there is a tremendous value in winning this glittering trophy which would almost assure one a place in the national team after leaving school.

That is why winning the Observer-Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year titles has remained every schoolboy and schoolgirl cricketers’ ultimate dream.