Saturday is the second day of the 59th big match between St. Sylvester’s College vs. Vidyartha College, termed ‘Batte of the Babes’. Big Matches are annual cricket matches played between different schools. The same schools have played one another for many years, some for over a century. Big Matches form an important part of modern Sri Lankan culture with both schoolchildren and adults taking part in many of the activity that is part of the annual matches.
Out of the 58 matches played, forty-two matches have ended in draws. St. Sylvester’s have won 14 games and Vidyartha 3. The first match was played in 1955, which was a draw, the first winners of the series is Vidayartha in 1956 under T.B. Wijasinghe and their last win was in 1967 under R.M. Laffir , so this time will it be a Vidyartha victory? At present, this game is played for Rev. Fr. Don George trophy, a person who did a lot to start cricket at St. Sylvester’s. The trophy was presented in 1982.
The highest individual score in the series was made by Thushara Kodikara of Vidyartha College who slammed 218 not out in 1984 which is also the only double century on record in the series. Medium-pacer Sarath Basnayake of St. Sylvester’s College has the best bowling analysis in the series when he had a match-bag of 14 for 48 in 1962 and this match was won by the Sylvestrians by an innings and 13 runs. He captured 9 for 14 in the first innings and 5 for 34 in the second. Vidyartha made 45 and 98 in this match against a small total of 156 by their opponents.
St. Sylvester’s College, despite having limited facilities, has emerged as one of the top cricket playing schools in the central hills. They have a playground, which can be used only for training sessions. Earlier Police grounds was like their home venue and they played all their matches including the Big match at that ground. Today, most of their games are played at Pallekelle or out of Kandy.
Vidyartha College also is with limited facilities and has emerged as one of the leading cricket playing schools in the hill capital.