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DateLine Sunday, 19 August 2007

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Sidath Wettimuny held centre-stage when he played international cricket

CRICKET: His grey hair will slightly giveaway his age somewhat that - Sidath Wettimuny nevertheless cut somewhat of a pretty picture when he climbed the steps of the BMICH last Thursday evening and made his way to the main hall, accompanied by other VIP's to preside at the awards ceremony of the 29th Observer-Bata Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show.

He looked a cricketer all the way as he, along with the other VIPs came into the hall to rounds and rounds of all pause to give the much awaited show the grandeur it deserves.


Sidath Wettimuny - has fine cricketing background

Sidath. now 51 not out with one week gone past 51 (he was born on August 12th 1956), spoke so flowingly about cricket that captured the heart and minds of the large audience that was present that day. He called on the schoolboys to devote hundred per cent to the game and the devotion of the schoolboys masters-in-charge and coaches will bring the best out of the players and also bring laurels to the school too.

He asked the schoolboys to play the game hard on the field, but be friends off the field. Sidath Wettimuny can speak with authority about cricket as he comes from a family that has been involved in the game for a long, long time. His father Ramsay can best be described as an authority on cricket as his devotion towards the game brought out three sons: Sunil-the eldest, Mithra and Sidath who all donned the Sri Lanka cap as they played competitive cricket against other nations.

Cricket was in the blood of the Wettimuny brothers and they have the facts and figures to show the manner in which they dominated the game, both in local cricket and in international competitions too. Sidath made his debut in Test cricket in 1981 against England. His first tour of England, he scored 527 runs (avg 43.91) with 95 not out vs Leicestershire as his highest if his five fifties.

A sound technically correct batsman with the temperament to play long innings. He began his first-class career, however, with a 'pair of specs' for Sri Lanka Board President's team against Pakistan in 1976, getting out to Sarfras Nawaz both times.

But Wettimuny was not to be held back and five years later made amends by scoring twin fifties (68 and 51 not out) against Northamptonshire for when Sarfras Nawas was playing. Wettimuny went on to complete his maiden first-class hundred also against Pakistan in the Faisalabad Test in 1982 by scoring a career best 157.

Has scored 1,303 runs (avg 31.02) in 27 first class matches with two centuries in the early days. After scoring Sri Lanka's first hundred in Tests - that's against Pakistan - 157 as already stated, he also had a long innings, taking 372 minutes when he carried his bat out for 63 against New Zealand in a Test at Christchurch.

Name in Wisden

With Wettimuny's bat doing the talking as if to say, he became the first Sri Lankan to appear in Wisden's 5 cricketers of the Year in 1984.

He made the highest score in a inaugural Test at Lord's against England - 190. Sidath's performances would have been guided by the spiritual guidance of his father, who also guided elder brother Sunil and Mithra too.

The monumental innings of 190 at Lord's was the highest score in a first Test appearance in England. Wettimuny broke a 104-year-old record when he surpassed Australian batman W. L. Murdeek's 153 scored at the Oval in 1880.

At that time, Wettimuny's innings stood seventh in the all-time list of batsmen who scored centuries against England at Lord's. Legendary Australian batsman Don Bradman heads the list with 254 in 1930 followed by West Indian opener Gorden Greenidge's epic 214 not out in 1984. The others are:

206 not out W. A. Brown (Australia) in 1938.
206 M. R. Donnelly (New Zealand) in 1949.
200 Moshin Khan (Pakistan) in 1982.
103 not out Warren Bardshley (Australia) in 1926
190 Sidath Wettimuny (Sri Lanka) in 1984.

When late President J. R. Jayewardene heard of Sidath's fine knock of 190, he congratulated the cricketer through Sri Lanka High Commissioner Mr. Chandra Monerawala.

Sidath Wettimuny has a lot of confidence in him before he went out to bat and before he undertook the tour to England, he had told his mamma: "I will score a century in England before coming back home and kept to his word.

He achieved another distinction in his career as an opening batsman when he became the first Sri Lankan to carry his bat through an innings in a Test match. In the first Test against New Zealand at Christ Church, Wettimuny batted throughout the Sri Lanka first innings of 3 1/2 hours to remain 63 not out of a total of 144 thus representing 43.75 per cent of the total.

Former England captain Len Hutton has the highest percentage rate - his unbeaten 202 out of 344 against West Indies at the Oval in 1950 represented 53.72 percent of the total. There have been 9 other instances of batsmen contributing more than 50 per cent of the total.

 

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