Have you ever noticed the uniqueness of score sheets of the matches played by St. Joseph’s College, Colombo 10 during the 1963 school cricket season? Forget about the astute leadership of Brian ‘Bumper’ Perumal; forget about those stunning victories over St. Benedict’s, St. Thomas’ Mount Lavinia and St. Anthony’s, Katugastota, or how they stood at the threshold of victory against Wesley. Just have another look at the 1963 score sheets. Imagine how many times the phrase “st/ct. Placidus Leanage, bowled. Berchman De Alwis” appeared in the opponents score sheet against St. Joseph’s in that seven-match cricket season.

Undoubtedly, it was one of the most cherished phases in the 120 year old Josephian cricket history.  When left arm spin bowler Berchman De Alwis and agile, dazzling wicket-keeper Placidus Leanage formed an almost inseparable bowler-wicket keeper partnership on the field during the 1963 season, it not only marked a historic phase in Josephian cricket history but also affected the downfall of many a batsman, again and again.


Bowlers hunt in pairs, it is said. Like Keith Miller and Ray Lindwall, Fred Trueman and Brian Statham or Alf Valentine and Sonny Ramadhin in the international cricket scene during our schooldays. It was same with the batters also. But very rarely an effective alliance is built at school level between a fielder and a bowler; especially with a glove-man and a bowler.


This is an attempt to recall the feats of one of the most memorable bowler – wicket keeper combinations in Josephian cricket history.


During the 1963 first eleven cricket season St. Joseph’s had Brian “Bumper” Perumal (Capt.), Victor Wickramasinghe (Vice–Capt.) both 4th year coloursmen, Placidus Leanage and Rufus Buultjens – 3rd year players and a few 2nd year players of the calibre of twins Berchman and Joy De Alwis, Brian Perera, Christopher Moreira, with freshers such as Sunil Athukorale, Desmond Serpanchy, Trevor Mitchell, Senani Peiris, Earl Peiris, R. L. Anthony Perera, Ray Livera and Cosmas De Saram among others.


By then the glove-man Placidus Leanage was considered as one of the best in the school arena. Also by then he held the record of stumping 9 batsmen out in one match. He was a member of the Ceylon Schools cricket team that toured India in 1961 under the captaincy of Yatagama Amaradasa of Ananda College. The other two Josephian cricketers who toured India with the Ceylon Schools team in 1961 were Rajah de Silva and Hillary Marcelline.


Left arm spinner Berchman’s bowling approach was of the traditional mould. Repeatedly he tossed the ball in the air inviting the batsman to step forward and occasionally deceived him enabling the wicket-keeper to whip off the bails.


It was the time when we as middle school students were trying to understand the colour and character of this glamorous game called cricket. At that time there were no inter-collegiate cricket tournaments. Usually, the cricket season was limited to six or seven traditional matches. St. Joseph’s College was no exception. For decades the SJC cricket match itinerary remained unchanged. The first match was with St. Benedict’s College during the last week-end of January, followed the by Royal, Wesley and St. Thomas’ matches. Then came the confrontation against two Kandy schools, St. Anthony’s and Trinity followed by the ‘big match’ against St. Peter’s. That was all for the cricket season. Hence scoring 500 runs or grabbing 50 wickets in that era was a herculean task.


It was against this backdrop that Berchman De Alwis reaped a rich harvest of 53 wickets and the wicket-keeper Leanage claimed 36 dismissals (26 stumpings and 10 catches) in just seven matches. Berchman’s bowling average of 9.3 per wicket was recorded as one of the all-time best by a Josephian bowler.


Being always a late entrant to the school cricket season at the time, St. Joseph’s commenced the 1963 season on 25th day of January at the Darley Road grounds with the match against St. Benedict’s College.


St. Benedict’s batted first and were bowled out for 154 (Sunil Fernando 72, Brian Perumal 5 for 56). The home team fared no better and were bundled out for 137 (Rufus Buultjens 31, Neville Pereira 5 for 44).


Came day two, and the second innings of the match. St. Benedict’s fared better to collect 162 runs. But their batting performance was overshadowed by the Josephian duo – Berchman De Alwis and Placidus Leanage.


And this particular innings marked the emergence of the most formidable bowler/wicket-keeper combination of Josephian cricket.


Berchman who had only a single wicket (Felix Dias bld. B. De Alwis 02) to his tally in the first innings, was in devastating form in the second, claiming 6 wickets for 49 runs. Amazingly, five of the Benedictine batsmen became victims of the Berchman – Placidus combination.


St. Benedict’s score card read:

Ranjit Fernando  ct. S. Athukorale bld. V. Wickramasinghe 29

Senadhira ct. C. Moreira bld. B. Perumal 11

Balendran st. Leanage bld. Berchman De Alwis 00,

Sunil Fernando  ct. B. Perumal  bld. Berchman De Alwis 27

Quintus Perera (Capt.) st. Leanage  bld. Berchman De Alwis 01

Percy Perera  st. Leanage  bld. Berchman De Alwis  05

Felix Dias  st. Leanage  bld. Berchman De Alwis  30

Mervyn Fernando  st. Leanage  bld. V. Wickramasinghe 25

Anandappa not out 29

Perumal ct. C. Moreira bld. V. Wickramasinghe 00

Neville Pereira  st. Leanage  bld. Berchman De Alwis 00

Total: 162


Berchman retained a match bag of 7 wickets for 73 whilst wicket-keeper Leanage accounted for 11 dismissals (9 stumpings and 2 catches).


Eventually, St. Joseph’s reached the winning target with a couple of wickets intact. SJC: 180 for 8 (Placidus Leanage 59, Rufus Buultjens 33).


In the following weekend at Royal College grounds, Berchman De Alwis had another sensational bowling spell to claim 8 for 54. Placidus – Berchman the wicket-keeper/spin bowler combination was responsible for the dismissals of:

S.S. Kumar (Capt.) st. Leanage  bld. Berchman De Alwis 56, Sugi Rajaratnam st. Leanage  bld. Berchman De Alwis 34, A. Anketell st. Leanage  bld. Berchman De Alwis 06, S. Sathikumar st. Leanage  bld. Berchman De Alwis 00 in the first innings and the wicket of Sugi Rajaratnam st. Leanage  bld. Berchman De Alwis 19 in the second.


Whilst Berchman retained a match bag of 8 wickets, Placidus Leanage had 6 flashy stumpings to his credit.


Brief Scores: SJC: 106 (P. Leanage 23, R. Buultjens 31) and 147 (R. Buultjens 49) lost to Royal College: 175 (B. De Alwis 11.3-0-38-6) and 79 for 6 (B. Perumal 3 for 33, B. De Alwis 2 for 16) by 4 wickets.


At Campbell Park on the second weekend of February 1963, St. Joseph’s taking the first lease of the matting wicket were shot out for 65 (D. Serpanchy 20, B. Perumal 14). Wesley replied with 163 (M. Hamer 44) but once again it was Berchman De Alwis (19-1-67-7) and Placidus Leanage who stole the limelight. They smartly effected the dismissals of Wesley skipper M. Muthuvaloe (30), Everard Schoorman (29) and Darell Maye (06). Berchman also had the wickets of M. Hamer, M. Jebarajah, M. H. Fuard and C. Perera. In the second innings, the Josephian duo was responsible for the wicket of S. Wickramaratne (st. Placidus Leanage bld. Berchman De Alwis) thus leaving the spinner a match bag of 8 wickets and the wicket – keeper a haul of another 4 scalps (3 stumpings and 1 catch).


For the purpose of record, SJC declared their 2nd innings at 271 for 8 (C. Moreira 46 n.o., D. Serpanchy 43, P. Leanage 33) and at close Wesley were 57 for 8 (B. Perumal 5 for 19, B. De Alwis 6-5-1-1).


Overall, in just three outings Berchman De Alwis had 23 wickets to his credit. And Placidus Leanage had 21 scalps (18 stumpings and 3 catches) to his name!! Unbelievable achievement indeed.


Against St. Thomas’ at Darley Road, Placidus – Berchman combination effected the dismissals of C. L. Perera (st. Leanage bld. B. De Alwis) 02 in the first innings and P.N.W. Gunasekera (st. Leanage bld. B. De Alwis) 01 in the second. Berchman also claimed the wickets of Anura Tennekoon (ct. Perumal), Tony Sirimanne, K. Boralessa and H. R. C. d’ Silva in the first innings to carry a match bag of 7 wickets. All in all Placidus Leanage accounted for 2 stumpings and 2 catches during the match.


Brief scores: STC: 145 (Randy Morell 34, Berchman De Alwis 14.5-2-59-5) and 176 (B. De Alwis 2 for 52) lost to SJC: 201 (Rufus Buultjens 59, C. Moreira 46 n.o., V. Wickramasinghe 25) and 121 for 5 (Rufus Buultjens 54, P. Leanage 23) by 5 wickets.


At Katugastota during the last weekend of February ’63 and playing against St. Anthony’s, the ace bowler from St. Joseph’s Berchman De Alwis was at his brilliant best. This time he was able to collect 12 more wickets at the expense of 56 runs. Together with Placidus Leanage, he accounted for the wickets of M. Joseph (st. Leanage), R. Fernandopulle (st. Leanage) and Franklyn Amerasinghe (ct. Leanage). Some of his other victims were B. Stephen, Thenuwara, N. Abeyratne, L. Macky, M. Macky, S. Louis and J.M. Buhari.


Brief scores: SAC: 90 (B. De Alwis 9.3-1-24-5, B. Perumal 15-5-40-5) and 145 (Thenuwara 37, B. De Alwis 15-1-32-7) lost to SJC: 105 (R. Buultjens 19, Franklyn Amerasinghe 3.1-0-5-3, M. Joseph 3 for 44) and 131 for 4 (P. Leanage 60, B. Perera 40) by 6 wickets.


Leanage had 6 scalps (4 catches and 2 stumpings) to raise his wicket keeping tally to 31 in just five matches.


When heavy downpour forced for an abrupt end to the SJC – Trinity match at Darley Road, the scoreboard read as follows: Trinity: 126 (Berchman De Alwis 20-4-30-6) and 43 for 1. SJC: 275 (Joy De Alwis 95 n.o., Senani Peiris 48, Brian Perera 48, P. Leanage 33, B. De Alwis 27) .


In his 6 wicket haul, Berchman had N. Gunasinghe (st. Leanage), S. Galgama (st. Leanage), M. Sahayam (ct. Joy De Alwis), L. Karunatilleke, H. Dunuwille and E. Wadugodapitiya.


It is of interest to note some of the other top class bowlers who excelled during the 1963 school season such as Neville Pereira (St. Benedict’s), Darrel Maye (Wesley), B.D. Reid (St. Thomas’), Brian Perumal (St. Joseph’s), Sena Kalpage (Nalanda), Maurice Deckker (St. Peter’s), S. Sathikumar (Royal), T.K. Devapriya (Dharmapala), H. Weerawarna (Mahinda), U. Bandaranaike (Maliyadeva) and  G.S. Ratnayake (Dharmarajah) among others. They all took more than 30 wickets during the season.

Then came the long awaited festive match – “Battle of the Saints”, played at Bambalapitiya. SPC batted first and Berchman was introduced to the attack early in the Peterite innings, after his twin brother Joy De Alwis had removed the opener F. Asgerally (02) and Ravindra Fernando (00), sharing the new ball with Brian Perumal.  Berchman immediately claimed the wicket of Darrel Wimalaratne and went on to dismiss A. de Silva, Maurice Deckker and Franklyn Bowen to take his wicket tally over and above 50. Then in the second innings he had the wicket of A. de Silva (st. Leanage) thus proving that he had a match bag of 5 wickets or more in all seven matches played during the season.


Meanwhile, Placidus Leanage celebrated his last innings for his school with a delectable half a century in the second innings.


Brief scores: SPC: 161 (A. de Silva 38, D. Le Mercier 39, B. De Alwis 4 for 42) and 152 for 4 dec. (David Heyn 64 n.o.) drew with SJC: 106 (D. Serpanchy 37, P. Leanage 17, R. Buultjens 11, J.De Alwis 8, David Heyn 5 for 15) and 118 for 7 (P. Leanage 53).


Much water has flown under the bridge since then. Cricket season after season emerged and sometime later blurred in our memory. But I can recall those exciting moments – sensational bowling of Berchman De Alwis and acrobatic catches and flashy stumpings of Placidus Leanage during the 1963 season, as if it happened just a couple of days ago. It is the spirit of Josephian cricket.


About Sujith Silva

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  1. Great reading I was only 15 at the time and now at 70 I still keep in contact with Trevor Mitchell and Chris Moreira

    Thank you so very much for keeping me in the loop. Graham Ludowyke.

  2. Fantastic reading graham ludowyke

    • Hi Graham,Read your comment on Joes Cricket quite by Chance.Yeah I too could reminisce on the Cricketing Exploits of our heroes during that Super era of School Cricket in General and the valliant Joes of those Golden Years .I have watched each and every Joes Cricketing exploits from 1958 thru 1966 When i left College.I t skipped my mind to mention
      that barring the away matches in kandy viz SACK & Trinity had to be given a miss due distamce constraints.

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