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March 15, 2009
Royal College 313 for 9 dec (Perera 142) and 42 for 3 drew with St Thomas' College 99 (Thanthirigoda 4-11, Abeykoon 3-36) and 411 (Faheem 165, Nirrushan 104)
Royal College failed to capitalise on an excellent opening day and the 130th Battle of the Blues at the SSC ended in a draw. A battling 165 from Faheem Saleem after St Thomas' College slipped to 21 for 2 after being forced to follow-on 214 in arrears guided his side to safety.
Royal dominated the first half of the match, racing to 313 for 9 in 76 overs before reducing Thomas' to 54 for 4 by the close of the first day. Kusal Perera (142) and Banuka Rajapakse (87) enabled Royal to score at more than four an over after they had been put in.
Faheem fell for 0 when Thomas' replied, setting the tone for the innings as they were bowled out for 99 in 33.3 overs. Yasitha Abeykoon (3 for 36) and legspinner Maneesha Thanthirigoda (4 for 11) did the bulk of the damage and a capacity crowd anticipated an early finish.
The loss of two early wickets when Thomas' batted again only underlined that feeling, but then the match turned on a drop, Abeykoon spilling a slip catch off Faheem when he was on 38. Soon after, another dropped slip catch, this time off the bowling of Abeykoon, reprieved Nirrushan who was on 45.
The pair made the most of the let-offs, wiping off the first-innings deficit and seeing their side through to 225 for 2 by the close of the second day, both reaching hundreds in the late afternoon.
Nirrushan added one to his overnight score, falling for 104, but Faheem pressed on. When Thomas's slid to 285 for 6, only 73 ahead, before lunch, it appeared that the rearguard would come to nothing, but 15-year-old wicketkeeper Sachin Peiris scored an invaluable fifty as again the bowlers wilted.
Faheem finally fell for 165, after batting for 544 minutes and faced 426 deliveries while hitting only 15 fours. It was a remarkable feat of concentration, and helped Thomas' to 411, a record second-innings score for them.
Royal were left with needing an improbable 198 in 21 overs, and although they made clear they were up for the challenge, in the end bad light brought a premature end when they were 42 for 3 off seven overs.
In the end set a challenging target of 198 to runs to clinch the contest off a maximum 21 overs, the lads from Reid Avenue started their second essay as if though they were on a mission of vengeance.
But an asking rate of 9.42 runs was always going to be tough for a schoolboy team let alone an international side, and Royal's haste paid no dividends as they took the light of offered by the umpires with the total at 42 for 3 in 7 overs.
There was a slightly sour end to the match as Royal stewards were reported to have abused the umpires as they left the field. It was also rumoured that the Royal players displayed dissent with decisions during the game.
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