By David Heyn
Spectators at the 1962 Josephian-Pe terite Big Match were taken on a bumpy roller-coaster ride as the teams experienced highs and lows over the two days. Only 444 runs were scored and 38 wickets fell but there were some outstanding performances with bat and ball, and supporters were kept on the edge of their seats. Here, Peterite and former Sri Lankan cricketer David Heyn recounts that memorable match.
I played in four big matches, from 1961 to 1964, captaining in my last year. I have quite a good recollection of all four games, though my performances in my first and last games were not of much note.
My best performance on paper would be the 1963 match under Tyrone Le Mercier, taking five wickets in the Joes’ first innings, and scoring an unbeaten half century in our second innings – but the 1962 game under my brother Richard is the one that really stands out, with my performances having greater significance under the circumstances. All of my four big matches ended in draws – in three we pushed for victory, but each time the Joes held out and the matches fizzled out. However, the 1962 game, though also drawn, ended in the most
dramatic way. All four results were possible as the drama unfolded – a draw being the least likely, and the odds were heavily in favour of a tie, or a win for either school. But it was not to be, due to a very debatable decision by the umpires to bring the game to a premature end, resulting in an unsatisfactory draw.
We Petes went into the 1962 big match with a bit of confidence, having won three of our games that season and drawing two – the only blemish being that humiliating defeat by Royal, where we were bowled out for 30 and 44, a game that the Royalists still talk about. The big match was to be played at the NCC ground, a venue chosen by the Joes. In 1961 the match was moved from the Oval, and played at the SPC ground, if I remember correctly, it had something to do with a polio scare at the time. I cannot recall why the Joes did not revert to the Oval for the 1962 game We won the toss at the NCC, and decided to bat first. We were soon in trouble due to the hostile bowling of “Bumper” Perumal, and wickets fell at regular intervals. I went in at number 5, but was a spectator as wickets fell at the other end – eventually I was 23 not out, and we were all out for a paltry 55 runs. Perumal ended up with 5 for 14, and spinner Yogeswaran 3 for 7. We fought back though, and the Joes fared equally badly – despite a bright start by openers Marcelline and Rufus Buultjens, wickets fell at regular intervals, and their ninth wicket fell at 56. However, a last-wicket partnership between tailenders Berchman de Alwis and Yogeswaran took them to 82 all out. Paceman Deckker picked up 3 for 11 and the left-arm By David Heyn spinner Le Mercier claimed 4 for 26.
We ended the day at 18 for no loss, so after a topsy-turvy day where 20 wickets fell, we were only nine runs behind the Joes with all our second innings wickets intact – and all to play for on the second day. We knew that we had to put our heads down and bat well, to give us any chance of winning or saving the match.
However, we were soon in trouble at the start of day two, losing two quick wickets with only 26 on the board and still in deficit. Then a stand of 83 between opener Ravi Fernando and me took us out of trouble – Ravi got 42, and I ended up with 63, getting out bowled by Perumal. My brother Richard scored 23 and others chipped in, so we had the luxury of being able to declare at 168 for 9, setting the Joes a victory target of 142. Again, Perumal was their best bowler with 4 for 45.
The Joes set about the run chase with some relish, and for us it looked like our declaration had not been the right decision. Skipper Hilary Marcelline and Rufus Buultjens were smashing the ball around the ground and they raced to 73 for no loss, then, the wicket of Marcelline for 54 and two quick run outs brought us back into the game. Travice Fernando took four of the next six wickets, and when the last over was due to be bowled the Joes were 139 for 9. So, after two days of fluctuating fortunes, it was down to just three runs required for a Josephian victory, two for a tie, with the Peterites having only one run to play with for a sensational win.
Unfortunately, by the time we reached that last over situation, playing conditions had deteriorated quite badly. We had been playing in a steady drizzle, and the light was really bad. Left-hander Garrick Soyza was swinging the bat at everything, and you could barely see where the ball was going off his bat! But both sides were going flat out for victory, and all in the crowd were definitely sitting on the edges of their seats. Then the unbelievable happened – with three minutes to go before the official close, and with one over to go, the umpires pulled off the bails and walked off for bad light. I do not think the captains were consulted, and without doubt neither would have agreed to a stoppage with a possible win in sight.
Many protested to the umpires when we were back in the pavilion, but it was a pointless exercise anyway. Within five minutes of the bails being pulled off it was pitch black outside, so there was absolutely no chance of a restart of the game. But I am sure that the light would have held for that last over to be bowled, and it
may have taken just one ball to finish the game either way. We shall never know though. So who had the great escape from defeat? Maybe it was us, the Peterites, after being bowled out for 55 in our first innings, and then seeing the Joes at 73 for no loss in their run chase. Or, perhaps it could have been the Josephians, collapsing in their second innings from 73 for no loss with victory in sight, then being helped by the slippery ball and dodgy light to avoid defeat, and even to get close to their target.