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DateLine Sunday, 3 June 2007

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When Sanath and Roshan helped Lanka to 952/6 against India...

CRICKET: Sri Lanka, still very young on the Test scene, yet has a really noteworthy performance to talk about in Test cricket. The highest total in a Test match - 952 for 6 wickets against India and lit the R. Premadasa Stadium alight in 1997-98 series, stands head and shoulders against all other Test scores by the teams.

The massive Sri Lanka score was made possible by two great openers - left-hander Sanath Jayasuriya who made a colossal 340 on that occasion while his partner right-hand batsman Roshan Siriwardene Mahanama made 225 and the duo had a marathon partnership, making 576 runs. They became the first pair to bat through two full days of a Test match.

After five days of record-breaking performances at the R. Premadasa stadium where the first Test between Sri Lanka and India ended in a draw, the eventual winner was cricket, but the strip that had been laid out for the match.

Though Sanath Jayasuriya failed to beat Brian Lara's record on that occasion by 40 runs, he was somewhat compensated by Sri Lanka hitting up the highest-ever Test score of 952 for 6 wickets in the fifth and final day of the match.

After the first two days were occupied by India compiling a total of 537 for 8 wickets and then declaring, Sri Lanka's batsmen dominated the final three days on a pitch which proved to be a heart-break for the bowlers.

Jayasuriya made a monumental 340 in 799 minutes off 578 balls with two sixes and 36 fours with fine concentration and endurance and with Roshan Mahanama who occupied the crease for 753 minutes in making 225 which included 28 fours, they put on a world record stand of 576 runs for any wicket at that time.

This record stand was surpassed in July 2006 as the largest partnership in Test match history by fellow Sri Lankans Kumar Sangakkara and present Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene who put on 624 against South Africa.

There has been a lot said about Jayasuriya and he really deserves the good things said. Roshan Mahanama, who turned 41 on Thursday, is somewhat off active cricket, but he is a much wanted personality - as he is a match-referee of the International Cricket Council and was very much in focus at the recent World Cup Cricket Tournament in the West Indies.

Cricket No. 1

Cricket is still the number one sport here in Sri Lanka. There is no shadow of any doubt regarding that statement after our performance in the World Cup cricket tournament in the West Indies. There are facts and figures to justify that statement, though the Lankan cricketers just did not having enough luck to pull off the final against Australia.

So, young Mahela Jayawardene - the Lankan captain this time did well to somewhat match the deeds of his 1996 predecessor Arjuna Ranatunga, who did Sri Lanka proud by winning the much hallowed World Cup cricket title.

Unlike many other sports, Sri Lanka plays against the best in the world when it comes to cricket.

Cricket was introduced to Ceylon, as the country was then known in 1832 and Ceylon's first cricket club - the Colombo Cricket Club was formed in 1832 and according to available statistics, Colombo Cricket Club lost the first-ever match by ten wickets to the British Garrison (the 97th Regiment).

The game did not stop at that point, but gathered momentum and the first touring team to play first-class match in Ceylon was the MCC in January and February 1927. Captained by Arthur Gilligan, the MCC played four games during the 18-week tour of the Indian sub-continent during which they remained unbeaten after 34 matches.

Though there is somewhat of a row that has brewed in the cricket set-up in the country now, the first centralised cricket administration was the Ceylon Cricket Association that was formed in 1922. The Ceylon Cricket Board of Control (formed in 1948) merged with Ceylon Cricket Association in 1965.

Schools - the backbone

People of high integrity guided the destiny of cricket in the early days and the game became part and parcel of daily life in the country. The schools came into the scene and the schools quite naturally became the backbone of our cricket.

Though visits by international teams to this country were few, the game caught on rapidly. With cricket becoming increasingly popular, there were many interesting feats in matches played here by international sides.

The highest total in first class cricket in Sri Lanka in those early days was 549 for 8 wickets declared by the West Indies against Ceylon at the Colombo Oval (now the Saravanamuttu Stadium) on the 22nd and 23rd January 1967. This has now been improved on.

The massive West Indies total has centuries by Basil Butcher, Clive Lloyd and the captain Garfield Sobers.

Then the lowest total in first-class cricket is 42 by the Ceylon President's XI against Joe Lister's International XI at the Colombo Oval.

Batting records

Batting is what everyone looks for in a cricket match and the highest individual innings in Sri Lankan first-class cricket before the country gained Test status, was produced by one-time West Indies captain Frank Worrell for a Commonwealth XI against Ceylon at the Colombo Oval on February 16 in 1951. He made 285 and with W. H. Sutcliffe (95) added 301 runs for the fifth wicket which is the highest partnership for any wicket in first-class cricket. Worrell batted only for 274 minutes and tucked into his knock 5 sixes and 31 fours.

Gradually Ceylon was getting into the game and our batsmen too were seen in the thick of the matches. The top scorer by a Sri Lankan on home soil has been 212 in 283 minutes by the evergreen cricketer C. I. Gunasekera for Ceylon against Madras in the Gopalan Trophy match at the Colombo Oval.

Mahes Rodrigo - 1st century

While C. I. Gunasekera had made the highest score, earlier one of his schoolmates - Mahes Rodrigo came into the limelight on February 20 and 21 in 1949, when he became the first Sri Lankan batsman to score a century on home soil. Opening Ceylon's second innings against the West Indies at the Oval, Mahes carried his bat through making 135 not out against the West Indians that contributed much to Sri Lanka's total of 318 in 382 minutes.

The first overseas batsman to score a century on his first-class debut in Sri Lanka won C. J. Barnett who made 116 in 125 minutes for MCC against Ceylon at the Colombo Cricket Club grounds on February 7 in 1934.

Hitting one century is fine, but to get a century in each innings of a match is great and it tells the batsman's prowess in no uncertain manner. This is what A. V. Mankad of India did against Ceylon President's XI in Katugastota in the match played between February 1 and 3 in 1974. Mankad made 105 and 100 not out.

Bowling records

Though batting is what most people crave for in a cricket match, there have been instances of even the bowlers making their presence felt in no uncertain manner. The year was 1968 and the three-day match between Joe Lister's XI and Ceylon President's XI at the Colombo Oval from March 5 to 7. A thunderstorm followed by blazing sun produced conditions ideally suited to the spin and swerve of Kent and England left-arm bowler Derek Underwood.

The Lankan cricketers were dismissed for 42 and 93. Underwood's eye-catching analysis: 11.3-6-10-8 and 26.1-13-33-7.

Wicket-keeping records

There has been some feats by wicket-keepers in first-class cricket.

The most dismissals in a match is nine by S. A. R. Silva for Sri Lanka against India in Colombo twice. He set the record at the SSC in match between August 30 and September 4 in 1985 and followed it up in the Second Test at the Saravanamuttu Stadium from September 7 to 11.

The Lankan wicket-keeper set a world record by making 18 dismissals in consecutive Test matches. He compounded the record by scoring a century (111) in the Second Test.

 

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