The Sunday Leader

The ‘Nineties’ Brigade

By Pelham Juriansz

Thomian Chamod Pathirana carried by his supporters

The ‘nervous’ nineties – that is what it is called. Well, what do you think I am referring to? It is of course, those batsmen who get out for a score between 90 and 99 especially, in their respective ‘Big Matches’.
This year, at the 133rd ‘Battle of the Blues’ between Royal and S Thomas’, two batsmen – both Thomians – were dismissed when within striking distance of a coveted century.
The first was Javed Bongso and in the second innings it was last year’s skipper Chamod Pathirana who missed out on a ‘ton’ by the narrowest of margins. Pathirana is not the first to get out for 99. In 1998, Nilanka Pieris, the successful Thomian skipper of 1997, was on 99 when his opposite number bowled him neck and crop for 99. Could this be a malady that affects former Thomian captains?
Two years ago, Pasan Wijewardene, another Thomian was on 99 when he tried a reverse sweep and was caught by Bhanuka Rajapakse who moved judiciously at first slip to take the catch. It is tragic when a batsman gets out at 99, just one short of the magical figure.
However as a consolation Pieris, Wijewardene and Pathirana have a special place in Royal-Thomian history.
They will be remembered more for that illusive one run that eluded them than if they scored a century. So far in this 133-year-old match it seems that the Thomians lack that extra power to reach the century and that the Royalists do not seem to suffer from the same malady. For instance Heshan Kumarasiri in this year’s game did not have any problem with reaching his century.
Royalist Pat McCarthy way back in 1938, if my memory serves me right was dismissed for 98 and then the dynamic Gajan Pathmanathan was out for 97 in 1971 when in partnership with Jagath Fernando, who went on to score 160 n.o. Duleep Mendis in 1971 and 1972 did not have such ‘nerves’ when approaching his century. He would often do it with a boundary hit, be it a four or a six. This year young Javed Bongso played a stylish knock until he reached 97 and then went into a shell that saw his downfall when a century was there for the taking.
Perhaps the most cruel luck was what was suffered by Sarath Seneviratne when in two consecutive innings in 1964 and 1965 he was deprived of the coveted figure being dismissed for 96 and 97. There have been other instances of batsmen faltering in the ‘nervous’ nineties. It is not only schoolboys but Test cricketers as well who feel the pressure of reaching that elusive ‘ton’.  It is not fitting that in such a brief article all the names of those ‘nineties’ brigade be mentioned.
The former Warden of STC, David Ponniah scored the first ‘fresher’ century way back in 1967, and I remember it was such a momentous occasion. But Ponniah might never have reached the magical figure and created history had he not escaped been run out at 99.

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