It’s big match fever again in the metropolis and as usual the curtain raises with the clash between Thurstan and Isipathana scheduled to be played today and tomorrow at the SSC grounds beginning at 9.30 a.m. each day.
The clash between the two teams which began in 1964 will be the 49th in the series with Thurstan having a slender lead securing five outright wins to the four by Isipathana with the rest ending in draws.
The last win in the series was recorded by Isipathana in 1999 when the side was led by Krishantha Jayawardena while Thurstan’s last win was way back in 1992 under the leadership of Mackenzie Perera.
The Thurstan – Isipathana series is of significance to Priya Paranavithana who could boast of having been associated with 47 of the 49 matches. Priya as a student of Thurstan has been involved as a spectator during his junior days and then as a player for four years.
He captained the big match in 1966 and after leaving school he was involved with the administration holding various posts in the big match organizing committee.
The two sides this season have had fluctuated fortunes and both have undergone outright defeats with Isipathana losing four and Thurstan two. Thurstan has an outright win while for Isipathana it has so far been a season without an outright win.
But even then when it comes to the traditional big match it’s different as they put in their full resources available to come out as the top team and hopefully if they are aiming to break the hoodoo then the two teams will no doubt have to play positive cricket.
The two sides will be led by the top scorers with Sajeewa Salgado leading Thurstan and Harith Wanigaarachchi in charge of Isipathana.
Sajeewa will be the cynosure of all eyes as he will be coming into the game with his head high having reached the 1000 runs for the season in the sides’ last match against Royal.
Thurstan has four centurions in the side with Sajeewa being one who has four tons under his belt. The others are Kavindu Kulasekera (two tons), Ashan Wanigaratne and Ramidu Kumarasinghe.
So the Thurstan batting will revolve around the four batsmen who have done the bulk of the scoring for the team and Minhaj Jaleel who is capable of chipping in with some useful contribution.
The Thurstan bowling will most probably be spearheaded by Kavindu Silva and Dulan Charuka but their trump card will be spinners Rajith Perera and Minhaj Jaleel. Rajith has to his credit over 60 wickets with Minhaj over 30.
In the Isipathana camp the player to watch will be skipper Harith Wanigaarachchi who has been their top scorer of the season, who has made over 850 runs and is the only centurion of the side. He will have the services of deputy skipper Deshan Jeyakumar, Mateesha Ranaweera, Pawan Anjana and Charith Rajapakse who are capable of making good scores.
The spin attack of Isipathana too has been the backbone of their bowling with Sidath Mallawaarachchi being the best bet and he along with Kaminda Dhananjaya will be the main strikers to curtail their opponents with pacies Rajapakse and Malin Dias to support them.
Nevertheless the two teams know that a win is in need and some positive cricket is the need of the hour and let’s hope that the approach of the teams would be based on a result oriented match.
Isipathana has the major share in the records of the big matches with Saman Nishantha holding the best individual score of 150 n.o. made in 2002 and the best bowling figures is by Thurstan’s Jayajeewa Karunaratne who took 7 for 28 in 1992.
The highest score of the series is 308 for 9 declared made in 2005 and the lowest 56 made in 1968 both by Isipathana.
By M Shamil Amith