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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.