1991: Portrait of Kapila Wijegunawardena (File photo)
1991: Portrait of Kapila Wijegunawardena (File photo)

S. Thomas’ College Mt Lavinia suffered an 87-run defeat at the hands of Royal College led by PLD Kariyawasam in the 90th Battle of the Blues in 1969 and after that for the next 14 years both traditional rivals failed to win a match with some of the contests ending in dreary draws.

However in 1983 the ice was finally broken when Royal led by Chulaka Amarasinghe beat S Thomas’ captained by Kappila Wijegunawardene by ten wickets.

Wijegunawardene recalling that match said, “The Education Department brought an age rule, they changed it from under 20 to under 19. The Education Minister at the time was the present Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. As a result a lot of the boys who could have played in 1983 became overage leaving us with only two coloursmen. We had 9 freshers in the side like Kaushik Amalean, Asanga Seneviratne, Dhammika Bulankulame, Graham Tissera and Mohana Marzook. We had very talented players but they lacked experience.

“Also, our fielding let us down. We had them on the rocks at 52-4 by lunch in spite of Chulaka Amarasinghe scoring 1200 runs for the season and also Sandesh Algama also having scored in excess of 1000 runs. They progressed to 126-6 after which Rochana Jayawardene came in and made a swashbuckling 145 and basically batted us out of the game. Of course in the process he was dropped more than six times. That was an innings of a life time. That was the turning point and contributed to our loss. The Education Minister being a Royalist there was a lot of insinuations about the loss,” said Wijegunawardene who played in three Big Matches.

“It was an honour to don the college blazer and to have the privilege of being picked to represent the school at the Royal-Thomian,” said Wijegunawardene.

“The main highlight in those three years was sportsmanship, which was inculcated into the players. There was a lot of respect between the two sides. They were very talented cricketers in those days and we had the highest regard for the opposition. The camaraderie and the friendship was one of the highlights and the spirit in which the game was played.”

The first two years Wijegunawardene who was a fast bowler of repute displayed his skills as a batsman to pull the Thomians out of trouble.

“In my first year when I went into bat we were basically staring at defeat with seven wickets down with a lead of about 160. I was able to hold on with Franz Molamure and stave off defeat in my first year as a fresher,” recalled Wijegunawardene.

“The second year also I was faced with a similar situation where Ritchie de Silva and I had to once again hold the innings together we reached 200 and led by about 165 with half an hour to go before tea. Then this famous declaration where we gave Royal a target of 166 runs to score in one entire session and 30 minutes before tea. We came very close to bowling them out before they drew the match. I was in the side as a fast bowler and I walked in as no. 10 batsman and held up one end to get S Thomas’ out of trouble in both years,” he said.


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