LE MERCIER TO VON HAGT – Double Centurions at Katugastota

by Afzal Laphir

Writer, an Old Antonian, and Cricket enthusiast and historian recently met up with former St. Peter’s College 1st XI Cricket Captain (1963) Tyrone LeMercier and former Sri Lanka Cricketer and Cricket Captain of St. Anthony’s College 1st XI Marlon Vonhagt in Australia recently where the trio is domiciled. He compiled this article based on records available (as of 10th of Feb 2024).

Scoring a double century in any form of cricket, let alone at the school level, is a remarkable feat that occurs not so frequently. Thus, it comes as no surprise that only three players have achieved this rare milestone at the Katugastota Oval in First XI cricket since its establishment in 1938. A Peterite and two Antonians are in this exclusive club.

Outside the confines of Katugastota, there exists only one other instance of an Antonian cricketer reaching the double century mark at Under-19 level, and it was none other than the legendary Jack Anderson who etched his name in history. Anderson’s iconic innings of 291 runs (54 fours, 7 sixes) against hosts S. Thomas’ Mount Lavinia in 1918, remains a topic of reverence and admiration among cricket enthusiasts spanning across generations.

For now, let us go down memory lane to explore the three double centurions at Katugastota.

235* – Tyrone Le Mercier

The first double century at Katugastota was scored by Peterite all-rounder Tyrone Le Mercier in March 1962. His marathon innings of 235 not out (20 fours, 2 sixes) was achieved in only 230 minutes and at the time was the best score in the history of school cricket since Anderson’s 291.

Before Tyrone’s exploits, it was ACM Lafir who held the record for the highest score at Katugastota when he made 176 against Trinity College in 1954, during his famous 266-run opening partnership with Ronnie Stephen.

Tyrone’s 235 remains the highest score at Katugastota in a First XI game, although most recently, Antonian Nikil Abilash smashed an unbeaten 275 (176 balls, 25 fours, 14 sixes) against Gateway International College in an under-17 Division III game. Abilash, who is currently striving for a place in the Antonian first XI squad, holds the record for the highest individual innings at Katugastota at all levels of school cricket.

204 – Mohan Ratnakumar

On 11th March 1978, Mohan Ratnakumar scored a brilliant 204 (22 fours, 2 fives) against St Peter’s College Colombo. Mohan, who was the last man dismissed after coming in at the fall of the second wicket, had the distinction of scoring the first double hundred by an Antonian since Anderson and the highest innings by an Antonian at Katugastota surpassing ACM Lafir’s 176 in 1954.

 

224 – Marlon Von Hagt

Four years after Mohan’s knock, Marlon Von Hagt made a chanceless 224 (20 fours, 385 mins) against Dharmaraja on 9th January 1982 and earned the record for the highest individual innings by an Antonian at Katugastota. Marlon’s innings is yet to be emulated by an Antonian at First XI cricket, despite a few scoring over 150 – Nuwan Kalpage (166 vs Thurstan in 1990), Sunera Jayasinghe (161 vs Carey in 2017), Mohamed Kamil (157 vs Isipathana in 2021) and Sajith Fernando (156* vs Maliyadeva in 1992).

HIGHEST INDIVIDUAL INNINGS IN SCHOOL CRICKET

Jack Anderson’s record as the highest score in an inter-school Under-19 game lasted until 1993, for 75 years, when Indika De Saram of St Thomas’ College, Matara surpassed him by scoring an unbeaten 304 (19 fours, 25 sixes) in a mere 149 balls at the compact Uyanwatte Stadium against Sri Devananda College, Ambalangoda. It must be noted former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunge became the first schoolboy, at all levels of cricket, to cross the 300-run mark during his unbeaten knock of 315 (48 fours, 12 sixes in 195 minutes) for Ananda College against St. Mary’s College Negombo at the Negombo Esplanade in 1976 in an Under-15 match.

Most recently, this coveted record has tumbled many times.

In March 2020, Nawod Paranavitharana of Mahinda College Galle became the first schoolboy ever, at all levels, to cross the magical 400 run mark, when he made 409 (39 fours, 19 sixes in 326 balls) against Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda at Mahinda College Grounds, Galle. This record was previously held only a month earlier, by Wattala Antonian Avishka Tarindu, who scored 350 against Lumbini MV at Wattala in an under-19 game in February 2020.

But in August 2022, Danindu Chirath Sellapperuma of St. Joseph’s College, Anuradhapura, breezed past Nawod’s innings when he made an epic knock of 553 not-out in their Under-15 Division III tournament fixture against Lyceum College, Anuradhapura played at the Salgado Grounds in Anuradhapura.

By the way, the world record for the highest individual innings is held by Indian Pranav Prashant Dhanawade when he made an unbeaten 1009 (129 fours, 59 sixes, in only 327 balls) for K. C. Gandhi High School in January 2016. He broke the 116-year-old record of 628 not out set by English schoolboy A. E. J. Collins in 1899 and also became the first player to cross the 1000-run mark in a single innings. Wow Wow Wow!!!

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One comment

  1. Excellent reading takes us down memory lane also good inspirational reading for young cricketers following. Thank you Afzal for this wonderful research you have done and put up for us to enjoy 🙏🏾

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