‘104th Battle of the North’: Jaffna Central v St. John’s

The tradition lives on

By Samiddha Ratnayake
The Jaffna Peninsula, arguably the worst affected region during the ruthless war, experienced the most severe destruction, loss of lives and disruption to the day to day life of most of the people. Yet to the credit of some of the Jaffna schools they ensured that the traditional big matches were continued, as far as possible, despite the trials faced. No doubt to most of the cricket lovers who got battered by the 30-year-old armed conflict, these big matches must have been their only consolation at that time.

The ‘Battle of the North’ and ‘Battle of the Golds’ are the two big matches in the peninsula which have been enriched with deep-rooted history and majestic traditions. For the past 30 years they remained as two mega sporting events for the Jaffna civilians to forget their worries and fears caused by the violence in the region.
The `Battle of the North’, the big match to be played between Jaffna Central College and St. John’s College from February 23rd to 25th this month was first staged in 1901, and this year it will be the 104th edition of the encounter. The match is considered as the third oldest big match after the Royal-Thomian in Colombo and the match between St. Thomas’ and St. Servatius’ in Matara.

A cricket encounter that continues for 104 years is bound to have its share of golden memories. Though it may sound a bit strange considering the happenings of the past few decades, there was an era when students from the southern part of the country studied at Jaffna colleges. Some of them even played in the Jaffna Central College - St. John’s College big matches and went on to captaining their respective teams, just as students from Jaffna took part in sports in Colombo schools. R.K.V. Premaratne, one such Sinhala student from Jaffna Central College captained the school cricket team for two consecutive years, in 1955 and 1956. And in 1957, a Burger student, Bonnie Vantwest, also captained the Jaffna Central College cricket team.
St. John’s College had also produced marvellous cricketers such as the Devendra and Surendra brothers who were known as the Chappell brothers of Jaffna.

The area surrounding St. John’s cricket grounds with the trees of the Old Park, Jaffna and the College Chapel creates a setting which is similar to watching cricket in an English countryside. However, Jaffna Central College always had the privilege of hosting the big match as its ground was situated in the heart of Jaffna.

During the time the `Yal Devi’ plied to the north, the `Battle of the North’ had been the biggest crowd-puller of the cricket season. Former students and their families from various parts of the country would travel to Jaffna by train to be at the big match while several students residing abroad would also make it a point to be there to cheer their alma-mater.

In the 103-year history of the `Battle of the North’ cricket encounter, St. John’s had won 33 matches and Jaffna Central 24. Thirty seven matches had ended in draws, results of some matches were not available, and a match was abandoned due to unavoidable circumstances while during the height of the conflict, from 1985 – ’89 and 1996 – ’97 some matches were not played. It is quite significant to note that since 2007, Jaffna Central College has been wining the encounter. It was in 2004 that St. John’s had their share of luck for the last time.

Much responsibility will rest on the shoulders of captain, Rajanayagam Hajeeban, to break the shackles for St. John’s. Batting is their main strength, and centres on fourth year coloursman Hajeeban, last year captain and wicket-keeper Vivekanantharajah Pranavan and Ananthakumar Vithushan. Vivekanantharajah Harivathanan and captain Hajeeban, who share the new ball, can be called as the in-form bowlers of the team and will hold the key in their bowling department.

St. John’s, who remained unbeaten during the season, has won five out of the seven matches that they have played while two ended in a draw. But back-to-back losses that they suffered in previous editions of big matches, definitely will add more pressure on the team, and they will be desperate to gain the advantage from the first day itself.

On the other hand James Jansen is surely one who wouldn’t want to disturb the winning streak of his college. A fifth year coloursman, who captains Jaffna Central College, he will be interested in making it four in a row. As the opening bat and wicket-keeper of the team, Jansen has been quite prolific both in his bating as well as in his keeping. Ganaseelan Erikthusan, another key player of the side, brings balance to the team with his all-round capabilities. Vice captain Nagarasa Janosan’s aggressive stroke play will also hold a key to the success of the batting department of Jaffna Central College. Jaffna Central played seven matches during the season winng six but losing to Hindu College, Jaffna.

All in all there’s hardly anything to separate the two teams in respect of performance and skills, and this will make the encounter a tight contest of absorbing cricket.
A recent addition to the big match is its limited-over edition of the game, which will be played at the same venue on 6th of March. Since 2003, St. John’s won the first four matches consecutively while Jaffna Central has been wining it since 2007.
Following the dawn of peace in the country, and life returning to normal in Jaffna, one would expect the enthusiasm and spirit at the `Battle of the North’ to be on a high note this year.


93rd ‘Battle of the Golds’ in Jaffna

St. Patrick’s College and Jaffna College will confront each other in the annual 93rd ‘Battle of the Golds’ schools cricket encounter which will take place at St. Patrick’s College ground on February 26 and 27.
Although this is the 93rd encounter only the results of 74 matches are available on record. St Patrick’s have won 31 times, Jaffna College 16 and 27 have ended in draws. Results of 19 matches are not available because during the war in the north the series had been interupted.
Last year’s encounter ended in a draw.


Kandy schools prepare for their big matches
By Hafiz Marikar
It is going to be big match time again in Kandy, on 5th and 6th March when the oldest big match in the district known as the battle of the Maroons will be played between Kingswood and Dharmaraja at the Asgiriya Stadium for the 104th time. On 12th and 13th of March Kandy’s ‘Battle of the Blues’, between Trinity and St. Anthony’s will be played for the 94th time, and on 19th and 20th March it will be the 52nd Battle of the Babes between St. Sylvester’s and Vidyartha with both matches at Asgiriya. The dates of the fourth big match between Sri Sumanagala and Sri Rahula are still not fixed.

104th Battle of the Maroons
The oldest big match in Kandy is between Kingswood and Dharmaraja, the first big match this season. A record, since discovered, reveals that the first match between these two schools had been played on the lst of July 1899. These two schools have played matches from 1893 to 1898 but the teams comprised players selected from the college staff and students. The series has been marked by growing enthusiasm and increasing friendly rivalry as the years advanced. Full details of the series are not available, but two games are recalled as being of great interest. In the year 1918, Dharmaraja had been dismissed in one inning for a total of 9 runs only striking a parallel with an earlier Royal - Thomian encounter, in which Royal had been bundled out for 9 runs in one innings. Another unforgettable year had been the one in 1949, when the gamed ended in a tie, with both teams found to have made exactly the same total at close of play.

In the 61st encounter, a shield was presented in memory of late C.W.H. Lutersz, who was a teacher at Kingswood for over four decades, but that shield is no more and now they play for the T.B. Tennakoon trophy.
When these two schools meet on 5th and 6th, it should be a close game as this encounter is considered as the biggest and most awaited sporting event of the two institutions.
The two state-run schools have cherished the annual match as a fitting climax to the season. The loyal supporters, old boys, parents, members of the staff and the public look forward to this fixture with great enthusiasm and excitement.
The last win by Dharmaraja was in 1980 under Janaka Mendis and for the Kingswoodians in 1958 under Maurice Fernando.
Dharmaraja College is led by all-rounder Ramesh Bandara and his deputy is Rahula Ekanayake, Some of the other players are P. de Silva, Hemal Munaweera, Sanjaya Kalubowila, Kavinda Weerakoon, Nuwan Karunaratne, Sandun Weerakody, Susantha Nakawita, Lahiru Herath and Sasith Gunasekara.
Kingswood depends much on Chamila Gunasekara, Lahiru Gannoruwa, Indragith Rabel, Lakshitha Madushan and Yasindu Athukorale.

93rd ‘Battle of the Blues’
Trinity and St. Anthony’s will play in their 93rd game which is known as the ‘Battle of the Blues’ on 12th and 13th of March at the Asgiriya Stadium. Cricket at this match is expected to be of a very high standard with both sides well balanced. This game is one of the most looked-forward-to events between these two schools, who are rivals at cricket for the last 93years.
Trinity’s last win in the series was in 1986 under the leadership of Thushara Weerasuriya who led the side to win after 35 years at Katugastota. Trinity won by 7 wickets with a magnificent knock coming off the bat of Mevan Ballale and this game was the Trinitians 22nd win in the series. A result in this game came due to the sporty declaration of Antonian skipper Rienzie Perera who threw the game open. The Antonians’ last win was in 1992 under Umesh de Alwis, so the Trinitians have won on 22 occasions to Antonians 13.

This time Trinity is led by Mohamed Sajid, a fine stroke maker, he is expecting a lot from his team and he too should give a good account with the bat. Deputy skipper Kithmal Wimalaweera too is a good bat, they have their last year’s skipper Rushan Jaleel a Sri Lanka Youth player, but sadly they will miss their star bowler Akila Jayasundara who is being sidelined due to a back injury. His absence will be badly felt. Others who are to do well are Shameera Wijesuriya, Suresh Wickrema, Nirshan Dickwella, Kheliya Athugoda, Janishka Premasinghe, Amail Anaz another fine bowler has pocketed many wickets and should give of his best.
The Antonians are led by Dulash Kumarasinghe who is a good bat and he will look forward to Adil Reyal, Hiran Wickremasekara, Yohan Woods, Manoj Sarachandra, Erando Seneviratne, Aravinda Premaratne, Kanishka Ranaraja and Tharaka Jayasinghe, to give of their best.

52nd Battle of the Babes
The third big mach of Kandy is between St. Sylvester’s and Vidyartha, called the ‘Battle of the Babes’, to be played on 19th and 20th. Out of the 51 games played St. Sylvester’s are leading in wins with 12 to Vidyartha’s 4. The winners of this game get the Rev. Fr Don George Trophy,
This year it is going to be an interesting game with Sylvestrians expecting a lot from Waruna Wijesinghe, Nuwan Nilantha, Faiz Ahamed and Danjaya Athuda.

Vidyartha is led by Tirantha Dissanayke, his deputy is Kasun Wijekoon and last year’s skipper Sameera Abeyrathne is also there to give his experience together with Dinush Gunatilake, Ruwan Bandara, Thilina Rupasena, Tharindu Ranaweera, S.A. Athanayake, Indika Bandara, Dulaj Perera and Kanishka Senevirathne.
During these matches high spirits and healthy rivalry will prevail as usual. According to DIG Pujith Jayasundara, a top class cricketer of Dharmaraja College, the Police will be there in strength not to harass or intimidate but to see that everything goes well and peace is maintained.
To the revellers a word of caution from the Police: “In your ‘high spirits’ do not inconvenience or provoke anyone. While you enjoy the cricket, may it not cause difficulties to the others. Do not drive about in packed, decrepit vehicles. Avoid road demonstrations as far as possible and please - no hat-collections whatsoever. If you break the law you are liable to be arrested and locked up until the match is over – then the match will be over for you.

“The police will have to do their duty. No processions or parades will be permitted and avoid walking in large groups on the perimeter of the playing area. Please avoid invading the playing field and obstructing the progress of the game.

The organsiers of the big matches, who also played the game, wish everyone at the matches two days of great cricket, wonderful entertainment and maximum enjoyment in all three games. They also hope all would be able to go home after a happy ending and with great memories.