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Sunday, 27 February 2005  
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Ananda-Nalanda on quiet note this year

By Ranjan Anandappa

The 76th 'Battle of the Maroons' encounter between Ananda and Nalanda will be played sans the usual fanfare but will preserve the rich traditions maintained by both schools as a mark of respect for the lives lost during the December 26 tsunami disaster. The match will be played on March 5 and 6 at the Sinhalese Sports Club grounds.

There will be no bands, trumpets, fire crackers and the smoke bombs that explode during these matches. Musical instruments and other merry making items will not be permitted inside the stadium.

A unanimous decision was taken by the two principals B. A. Abeyratne (Ananda) and Hemantha Premathileka (Nalanda), the old boys union of both schools and the Joint Big Match Committee to have the 'Big Match' on a low key this year.

"We originally did not want to play the 'Big Match' at all as a mark of respect for the people who lost their lives in the national disaster on December 26.

But we later thought that it was totally unfair by the players to do so as a match of this nature is a dream of any schoolboy and thought of playing the match either at Campbell Place or at Ananda Mawatha.

Then again there were other problems arising like accommodation, parking space, toilet facilities etc. There was also a request made by the captains and parents to stick on to the SSC, said B. A. Abeyratne, the Ananda Principal.

'nanda and Nalanda have produced the bulk of the Test cricketers in Sri Lanka. Bandula Warnapura (Nalanda) was the first Test captain when Sri Lanka played England in 1982 after gaining full ICC status and Arjuna Ranatunga (Ananda) who won the World Cup in 1996.

It is unfair to deprive a player's future as the encounter between the two schools is a symbol of identity and goodwill," said Hemantha Premathileka, the Nalanda Principal.

The 'Big Match' series between the two schools began in 1924. Five matches were not played from 1942 to 1947 due to the second World War. In the series, Ananda has won 14 to Nalanda's 6. The highest individual score was recorded by Shantha Kalavitigoda (149 n.o) in 1997 and Yohan Gunasekera (8 for 32) in 1976 had the best bowling analysis.

A victory for over a half-a-decade in the 'Big Match' series for Nalanda, is certainly long overdue since their last win in 1953, Nalanda will have this in mind when they step into the grounds to meet their traditional rivals Ananda. On the other hand, Ananda with their win two years ago are brimming with confidence which makes this encounter a compelling battle of supremacy.

Ananda captain Mahela Udawatte has been a prolific scorer this season. He has topped the 1,000-run mark with five centuries and an equal number of half centuries. Vice Captain Achela Ranasinghe has taken over 70 wickets for the season with best figures of 6 for 51 against S. Thomas' Mount Lavinia. With Pradeep Boteju 618 runs with a century and three fifties, Amal Athulathmudali over 350 runs and 2006 under 19 World Cup poolist Wishwa Wijesuriya with over 200 runs Ananda boast of a strong batting order.

They have recorded five outright wins in their 14 matches and the rest have ended in draws.

The wins were against Trinity, Dharmasoka, Sri Rahula Katugastota, Wesley and St. Benedict's.

Nalanda has the distinction of having three centurions in their side. Opener Sachitra Serasinghe is the batsman to watch with three centuries scored against Richmond (102), Rahula, Matara (106) and Dharmapala (105). He is also an useful bowler who could bowl off-spin to good effect.

Tharindu Attanayake kept the scoreboard moving with two fine hundreds - 111 against S.Thomas' and 174 against Royal. Gihan Rupasinghe could fall into the top allrounders category with his left-arm leg-spin.

He has taken over 90 wickets with best figures of 9 for 77 against Richmond.

The unbeaten Nalandians have three outright wins against Isipathana, Maliyadeva and Lumbini in the 15 matches played to-date.

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