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Royal Thomian Match Stories and memories of the greatest match ever

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Old 26-04-20, 07:44 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default THE MATCH OF 1964 by Premalal Goonesekere

Premalal Goonesekere

Friday, the 13th March 1964. Oval time 10.20a.m. Shaw Wilson's lucky coin decided to rebel against its custodian and spin in favour of the boys from Mt. Lavlnia. It was a known fact that the wicket had been prepared in such a manner so as to give a sporting chance to both batsmen and bowlers. Having called correctly I had a problem whether to bat or field. The team had previously favoured bowling first and then taking their chances, because we all knew that there was no way that our powerful batting line up could be demolished twice by any school boy bowling side that year. I fully agreed with them, but I was also not going to carry the can for inviting our opponents to bat on what looked like a perfect batting wicket, no matter how the strip would play later. So S. Thomas' elected to bat.
Royal started cautiously against our openers so much so that we in the pavilion were convinced that they were scared of us. Sugi Rajaratnam and Thalayasingham, one of the best pace combinations in school cricket that year, opened to a field of fine leg and third man each, to supplement their two slips and gully. In spite of this, we practically dug our own graves before the first hour was through. L. S. Perera, Kumar Boralessa and I were back in the pavilion before 50 runs were on the board, thanks to some reckless batting. Shaw's lucky coin seemed to be doing its thing after all, I thought glumly. Anura Tennekoon was at the wicket, his usual calm self and utterly deaf to a situation that had never occurred before to us that season. At the other end his new partner Sarath Senevlratne was fidgetting nervously. Poor Sarath had had a very lean season up to then and it was with some effort that external pressures to drop him were defied in order that he could play, simply because only the team and those close to it knew the tremendous potential he had. He proceeded to show the public how right we were and in the next two and a half hours or so with Tennekoon playing the supporting role for a change, blasted the Royal attack with contemptuous ease. By lunch the Thomians were out of the woods and by 2.00 o'clock we were sitting pretty. In 113 minutes this pair added a fantastic 146 runs, the highest stand for the 4th wicket in the series to date, the 100 coming up in only 78 minutes. Anura Tennekoon's technically perfect knock ended with his score at 78 when he was caught off the tiring Thalayasingham. The Royalists must surely be still regretting not having accepted the relatively easy chance he gave early in the innings. Sarath Seneviratne continued plundering the Royal attack, driving and cutting effortlessly until he reached, his nineties. Then he suddenly stopped, as if he had forgotten something. The 'Nervous Nineties' claimed yet another victim when Sarath, now fidgetting in the same manner that he started, spooned a catch to Macan Markar off Thalayasingham when he was only 4 runs short of the century he so richly deserved. Truly an unforgettable knock.
Our target for a tea-time declaration was 250 runs and thanks to these two brilliant knocks we knew we could reach this easily. Young Sriyantha Rajapakse, taking advantage of the tired and confused Royal attack, made merry cracking a scintillating 41 not out and according to plan we declared at tea. The timing of our declaration was received with mixed feelings, not by the team nor its coach/master-in-charge, Mr. Orville Abeynaike, but by some prominent old boys, who thought that we should have batted for another 20 minutes or so. Tempers were understandably high in the dressing room when I was bluntly told that I had made a mistake. To me all this advice was as useful as a hole in the head, since we had already conveyed our decision to the Royalists.
Royal went in to bat after tea. We now had the opportunity to see how good our obser#oops#vations on the Royal batting weaknesses were. In the previous match-free week-end, the entire team were generously given off school on Friday by the Warden to watch Royal play St. Peter's College at Reid Avenue, this we did for two whole days seated in the Royal College pavilion. Every scoring stroke made by the Royal batsmen was marked on paper and then systematically analysed overnight for any areas of weakness. As expected there were plenty, the problem was how to exploit them.
Shaw Wilson and Kevin Sockanathan started briskly, true to form, a two here, a four there, a single here and a single there. But Sockanathan gave us the first break-through when he was caught off Balasingham, Royal 1 wicket down for 13. 'Porky' de Silva joined his skipper and these two steadily brought the score to the forties and we then had our first bowling change, Chelliah in place of Reid. We had seen Wilson's weakness against a 'yorker' pitched on the leg stump in their previous match and we also knew that Chelliah was the only bowler who could effectively bowl this type of ball. Good 'Ole' Chella did not let us down and produced the magical ball in his very first over to bowl Wilson neck and crop for 30. De Silva stood as if petrified till Mevan Pieris' first ball of his first over rattled his stumps and Anketell left a little while later. Royal were 52 for 4 and we had them reeling. But two dropped catches off Sugi Rajaratnam and Cedric Fernando cut us down to size before close and Royal ended the day at 96 for 4, just 66 runs to avoid the follow on. So from the very comfortable position we ended the day in a rather dicey situation.
Saturday morning 14th March 1964 - the day of reckoning. The wicket had begun kicking up a bit of dust late on Friday and Royal, utterly confident of their position opted for the heavy roller to crack the wicket further. Little did they realise then that they were digging their own graves by this act. However if Royal scored their required 66 runs I was surely going to have a problem. Already the thought of a sporty declaration had sent shivers down some of our prominent supporters. So anyone could well imagine why I was praying that the right-royal telling off I had given the team in the College Prefect's room about our shabby fielding the day before would have had the desired effect, since there was no way we would afford another fielding fiasco.
Play began, and poor Shaw Wilson's problems commenced increasing in geometric pro#oops#gression. The hitherto unconsidered 60 odd runs to avert the follow on appeared impossible right from the time Rajaratnam lofted a simple catch to Tennekoon at long-on, the latter having cleverly hidden himself from the batsman, so much so that, till he was caught Sugi was grinning from ear to ear thinking that he had hit the first of the many sixers he had planned. Although Fernando was still playing confidently some of the Royalists found the guile of Barney Reid a bit too much, ably supported by off-spinners, Perera and Rajapakse.
Finally, to our utter relief Royal folded up 10 runs short of the follow-on, well before lunch and I had no hesitation in inviting Royal to bat again. The wicket was turning appreciably but our opponents had wanted it that way by the use of the heavy roller in the morning.
Wilson and Sockanathan commenced the Royal 2nd innings as if they did not have a care In the world. We had dispensed with our pace attack after a couple of token overs and runs were not freely available off the spinners. To apply pressure attacking fields were set, but none of these seemed to worry the two openers one bit and soon the first fifty run partnership by Royal for the entire match was hoisted, 60 runs to make the Thomians bat again, all wickets in hand and about four more hours to go. Our chances of winning the game were slowly but surely slipping further and further away. But we plugged on nevertheless, the bund had to breach sometime, and at long last it did. Sockanathan painfully resisting his favourite pull shot right through his gallant knock, spooned a simple catch to the leg-trap rather than play the stroke he loved so much. Royal were 55 for I, Shaw followed soon after, caught behind off Reid. True to his sporting spirit, he never even bothered to wait for the Umpire's decision. We had got rid of two headaches and we wanted no more. So the new comers 'Porky' de Silva and 'Grubber' Anketell were given the full works. Tightest of fields to back up the tightest of bowling and we knew we had them worried. Finally 'Porky' got fed up of this cat and mouse game and decided to rectify the situation. By using his feet to the spinners, especially Reid, he found that his score had trebled before you could call his name. 'Porky' was happy, at last he found a solution to end his misery. Our match-winning chances depended a lot on Reid and I did not want him collared by any batsman. He was pulled off the attack and replaced by Sarath Seneviratne, with specific instructions to encourage 'Porky' to let off his steam and cook himself in the process. 'Porky', now with a vision of a Royal victory, danced down the wicket to crack the scoreboard clock off Sarath's bowling, missed and found himself stumped. We had managed to remove a dangerous batsman, thanks to himself. Anketell followed a little later and the next to go was Fernando, trying to steal a run that was not there.
Royal were 112 for 5 and the mood in their camp was anything but joyous. Hamza Macan Markar and Sugi Rajaratnam dug themselves well in, purely to save the game and defended gallantly.
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