LP steered St. Benedict’s College to became the ‘Unofficial Champions’ something St. Benedict’s couldn’t achieve almost for four decades since the early 20th century.
Inspired by legendary individuals, sports teams of yesteryears and their mavericks, I ventured into those golden years in search of the ones who excelled in Quadrangles and to share their stories.
I begin the journey with the schools’ cricket season of 1957. While spending countless hours at National Archives going through newspapers of old Ceylon and speaking to former Cricketers including those surviving from that era I stumbled upon some household names of Cricket in Sri Lanka who stamped their class on the turf. Not forgetting many leading civil servants and professionals in various fields among them who first laid their hands on the Red Cherry back in the 50’s.
In 1957 while Michael Tissera was leading S. Thomas’ College, Anurudha Polonnovita was steering Ananda College and Premasera Epasinghe was representing Nalanda College. Daya Sahabandu was making his debut for Royal College and so did Lionel Fernando for St. Benedict’s College. Anandian Sonny Yatawara was terrorizing batsmen from opposing schools and went onto clean bowl Sir Garfield Sobers in later years. Ranjit Malawana was swinging the cherry at Darley Road and Cecil Waidyaratne did that from Kotahena. Thomian Lareef Idroos was spinning a web with his leg breaks whilst Royalist Mahinda Wijesinghe was putting batsmen on a spin with his slow turners. Ranjith Doranegama, Chandrasiri Weerasinghe, Neville Casiechetty, Darrel De Silva, Jayantha Fernando, L. Ebert and Ronald Reid were on a song with bats from Katugastota to Mount Lavinia via Campbell Place and Bambalapitiya. Amidst all this, Benedictine Lovellyn Rayen, affectionately called as LP steered St. Benedict’s College to became the ‘Unofficial Champions’ something St. Benedict’s couldn’t achieve almost for four decades since the early 20th century.
For variety I am sharing views from those who played in that season and also extracts from The Ceylon Daily News columnists, Christie Seneviratne who wrote under his nom de plume ‘The Yorker’.
Christie Seneviratne himself was an outstanding schoolboy cricketer in the late 1930’s from Wesley College. His critical reviews, mostly hard hitting along with beautiful narrations on matches played were a treat to read and hope it would be the same still.
St. Peter’s opened their 1st term with a match against S. Thomas’ on 11th January. While at the same time Royalists were hosting Ananda at Reid Avenue and St. Anthony’s were hosting Nalanda at Katugastota.
Though managing to bowl out the Thomians on the first day (162) with Anton Paulpillai grabbing 7 for 57 runs the Peterites failed to capitalize on it and ultimately lost the game. Thus having an inauspicious start to their season and also giving the Thomians their maiden win over Peterites. Royal on the other hand though being bowled out for a below par score in both innings (183 and 129) and was trailing Ananda on the first innings (240/7) almost pulled off an impossible win when Ananda were chasing 72 for victory in the 2nd innings. Royalist Mahinda Wijesinghe captured 04 wickets in consecutive balls and had Ananda in tatters (50/8) when bad light ended play. This feat by Mahinda could most probably can be termed as a unique record in Cricketing annals. Up in Katugastota, St. Anthony’s and Nalanda featured in a high scoring draw where Ranjith Doranegama and Chandrasiri Weerasinghe notched up centuries for the respective schools. St. Benedict’s under L.P. Rayen stepped out for the first time for the 1st term against a formidable S. Thomas’ 1st XI captained by Michael Tissera which had one of the finest leg spinners in the schools cricket, Lareef Idroos.
BOWLERS WILL REVEL ON SODDEN WICKETS, Thomians are favourites against St. Benedict’s
-Ceylon Daily News (18th January’1957)
‘The Yorker’ predicted Michael Tissera’s boys will have upper hand after Thomians had crushed the Peterites a week earlier at Mt. Lavinia. On top of it, this game was to be played on a turf wicket and it was going to be a challenging experience for the Lovellyn Rayen and his team who were used to playing cricket on matting wickets at Kotahena.
However after the first day’s play, Sports Correspondent of Ceylon Daily News posted the following as their Sport Headline on Saturday 19th January’1957.
Benedictines are well on top THOMIANS TOTTER AT MT.LAVINIA Six crash for 48 in reply to 171
St. Benedict’s after dominating the first day’s play went onto create a major upset as they brought down the fancied Thomians to record their first win for the 1st term. In reply to St. Benedict’s modest score of 171 in the first inning, S. Thomas’ were bundled out to 74 with a deficit of 97 runs. Benedictines scored a quick fire 74 runs in their 2nd inning and set a victory target of 171 for Thomians to reach in the later in the Saturday afternoon. Thomians were then bowled out for 114 runs giving St. Benedict’s a famous 57 run win. Neville Wickremasinghe (4/21 in 1st innings) and Cecil Waidyaratne (4/14 in 2nd innings) were the chief destroyers of Thomian batting line up.
In the following week, St. Benedict’s was hosting Royal captained by Michael Wille a side packed with fresher’s but still had the likes of Samarasinghe brothers, Mahinda Wijesinghe and Daya Sahabandu. A close game was expected after Royal had had the better of Ananda College captained by Anurudda Polonnovita in their first encounter. However the Bens after toppling the Thomians, were the fancied team.
During those days game was played (1st term two day games) from 12.00 noon onwards with a short break for Milk around 1.50 p.m. and a tea break between 3.45 and 4.00 p.m. with close of play scheduled for 6.00 p.m. provided the light was good.
Benedictines posted 322/4 on the board with Anslem Ludowyeke (76), Neville Casiechetty (63) and Lionel Fernando who missed out on a century at 94 sent Royalists on a leather hunt on an enterprising 1st day’s play.Royal was bowled out for 202 in the 2nd innings on Saturday (26th January) and asked to follow on Royalists batted out the rest of the day for a draw putting up 111/3.
St. Joseph’s College 1st XI team under Kirthi Caldera stepped out for their first game of the 1st term and hosted St. Benedict’s at Darley Road on 1st & 2nd February’1957. On the same weekend St. Peter’s hosted the Antonians at Bambalapitiya.
‘St Joseph’s recovers after a poor start’
said the Sports Headline on Ceylon Daily News (2nd February 1957) after the first day’s play. Joes were at one time down at 3 wickets for 30 runs and were rescued by a stubborn partnership of 87 runs between captain Kirthi Caldera and Zacky Mohamed (50) that helped Josephians to put up 217 runs. Neville Wickremasinghe captured 6 for 49 for Benedictines. The Bens in their turn went past the Joes by scoring 229 runs on the second day with Fitzroy Ponnaiha, Lasantha Fernando and Neville Casiechetty contributing with the bat. The Josephians then scored 118/6 on the 2nd innings but took time to declare which was in the late afternoon as they gave Benedictines 106 to win in less than 40 minutes left to play. Bens took up the challenge and went for the chase but only managed to score 34 runs with 4 wickets down. The Yorker (Ceylon Daily News 6th February 1957) wrote ‘As expected this game gave the big crowd a rare batting treat when bowlers took the honours during the weekend matches’.
Meanwhile at Bambalapitiya, St. Anthony’s led by Ranjith Doranegama bounced back after being shot out for 92 in the first day to record an exciting 52 run win over Peterites after Peterites were set a victory target of 126 runs to get in the final session. Russell Duckworth had a match bag of 8/68 and Lakshman Serasinghe (52 in 1st innings) and Jayantha Fernando (33 on 2nd innings) tried to rescue Peterites but Antonian bowling attack with Ranjit Samarasekera (match bag of 6/38), Adrian Berenger (5/15 in 1st innings) and Stephen Joseph (3/14 in 2nd innings) ensured a win for Antonians.
Then it was the turn for Antonians to host Benedictines at Katugastota on 9th and 10th February. This game was expected to be a closely contested affair. On the first day the Antonians were bowled out for 134 and the Bens were at 124/4 at the close of play. Ceylon Daily News reported
‘Wickremasinghe wrecks Antonian batting’
as Neville Wickremasinghe ran through the Antonian top order to finish with 5 wickets. The Benedictines went onto pile up massive 312 runs (Neville Casiechetty 42, Anslem Ludowyeke 65, Lovellyn Rayen 71, Cecil Waidyaratne 50*, Neville Wickremasinghe 40*) and then in return Antonians did better by scoring 373/5 with captain Ranjith Doranegama scoring a well struck 152* and match fizzling out to a tame draw. On the same weekend the Josephians hosted Royal College at Darley Road where Josephian last pair managed to salvage a draw from a certain defeat. The Royalists had the upper hand when they scored 180 in their first innings and bowled out the Josephians to a paltry 89. Then in the 2nd innings they set a victory target of 185 and by the final hour of the second day the match was seemed heading for a tame draw when Joes opted to play safely. However with a dramatic turn of events,
Josephians lost four quick wickets in the last half an hour and it was up to the final Josephian batting pair to steer them home safely. Lorenz Pereira enjoyed a match bag of 11/57 for Royal. Meanwhile things were getting worst for Peterites as they failed hold on to their first innings lead of 33 runs against Zahira and then unexpectedly stumbled to a 5 run loss chasing 77 runs to victory in the 2nd innings, their 3rd loss on the trot.
The following week (15th & 16th February) saw Antonians playing against Darmaraja at Lake view. Antonians put up massive 331 runs on the board with Ranjith Doranegama (93), Sherifdeen (64), Berenger (53), Charlie Joseph (33) and Ranjith Samarasekera (30) all making contributions. The Rajans were skittle out for 127 and in the 2nd Innings they were struggling at 95/7 when match was called off due to rain. Sherfideen captured 3/18 in the 1st innings and Seneviratne took 4/10 in the 2nd Innings. Ceylon Daily News reported
‘Rain Robbed Antonians of a certain victory’.
St. Joseph’s took on S. Thomas’ at Darley and an exciting game was on the cards with both sides having fine batting line ups and equal bowling attacks too. However, the Thomians snatched victory after bowling out the Josephians twice with Lareef Idroos took another 10 wicket haul,a match bag of 10/83. Tissa De Soysa (53 in 1st innings) and Ranjit Malawana (7/54 in 1st innings) shone for Joes in loosing cause.
The Peterites after losing three games in a row, for the first time in their history, hosted Ananda who were led by left arm leg spinner Anurudda Polonnovita at Bambalapitiya. Newspapers predicted another tough game for Peterites with Anandians favoured to win it. However, Jayantha Fernando’s boys who were bowled out for modest 163 in their 1st innings fought back to bowl out Ananda for 139 runs with Peterite spin duo Russell Duckworth (3/33) and Mitchell Rabot (3/37) causing much damage. However once again
Peterites folded in their 2nd inning, which seemed a predictable occurrence by then, but managed to salvage a draw as Anandians didn’t have time to chase 118 runs for victory.
St. Benedict’s were visitors at Kurunegala when St. Anne’s hosted them in a one day match and the Bens recorded an easy win with L.P. Rayen leading from front with bat and ball by scoring 107 not out and taking 5/16 in the Annite’s inning.
During the same weekend Nalanda hosted Royal at Campbell Park and took major honours in a drawn game after bowling out Royalists for 110 runs Palitha Premasiri taking 8/49 and yet again Chandrasiri Weerasinghe the Nalanda skipper was in fine form with bat scoring 136 in their score of 243/4. Royal in their 2nd innings scored 204/7 by the end of play.
In the same weekend Wesley took honours in their drawn game against Trinity which was marred by rain. L. Ebert scored 112 in their score of 268/8 and Nimal Maralanda scored 52 in Trinity’s score of 106/6.
St. Anthony’s College Katugastota travelled down to Colombo to meet Ananda College at Campbell Place on 23rd and 24th February. The Antonians were clear favourites with Ranjith Doranagama in fine form with the bat. However it was Charlie Joseph who took the batting honours with 80 runs not out in the 1st innings. Antonians won on 1st innings as match ended in a draw.
The Peterites after showing some signs of improved performances were predicted to do well when they hosted Royal at Bambalapitiya. Alas, they couldn’t prevent their 2nd innings miseries as for the 4th consecutive weekend (in as many matches). The Peterites were bowled out for less than 100 runs in the 2nd Innings and not surprisingly lost the match too.
St. Joseph’s after being beaten by the Thomians managed to bounce back with a win in their match against Wesley College which was played at Campbell Park with Priya Perera grabbing a match bag of 11/102. With Trinity – Antonian Big match not being held for the 2nd year running, Trinity hosted S. Thomas’ in Kandy with Old Boys from both schools joining hands and making arrangements to play the match in a carnival atmosphere. However, the Trinitians wouldn’t have enjoyed the results as they were thrashed by Thomians by innings and 76 runs. Ronald Reid scored 93 in S. Thomas’ score of 383/6 and only Nimal Maralanda a fine ruggerite, if not one of the best country has seen, showed some fighting skills on cricket field for Trinity as he batted alone in both innings with scores of 86* (in the 1st innings total of 170) and 39 (in the 2nd innings total of 137). Michael Tissera took 5/39 in Trinity’s 2nd innings. Excerpts from a review of the schools’ cricket by the “Yorker” are below to give you a taste of what scribes thought of it back then
These Inter College Cricket Matches – Just What is their Aim?
–School Cricket Review by The Yorker,
Ceylon Daily News, 27th February’1957
St. Benedict’s who were on a roll under L.P.Rayen hosted St. Peter’s on 1st & 2nd March at Kotahena while St. Anthony’s hosted St. Joseph’s at Katugastota.
St. Benedict’s recorded a 1st innings win over St. Peter’s as the match ended in a draw with Captain Lovelyn Rayen and Neville Casiechetty scoring half centuries for Bens in their score of 254 and Benjamin Silva capturing 4/13 when bowling out Peterites for 151. On their 2nd Innings Jayantha Fernando’s boys batted well as Peterites scored 257/6 at the close of play with Jayantha Fernando (82), Darrell De Silva (70) and Brian Seneviratne (85*) scoring half centuries.
‘Leanage in devastating spell’
-Ceylon Daily News, 2nd March’1957
At Katugastota, St. Joseph’s recorded a 1st innings win over St. Anthony’s as Josephian pace bowler Peter Leanage caused major damages to strong Antonian batting line up in the 1st inning with a 7 for 35 runs as Antonians were bowled out for 146. Zacky Mohamed propelled Josephian batting with 76 runs in their 1st innings score of 184. Antonians fought back in the 2nd innings by scoring 284/8 with Ranjith Doranegama notching up another century.
On the same weekend Royal hosted Trinity at Reid Avenue and took major honours in their drawn game as they managed to bundle out Trinity for 162 after scoring 291 runs in the 1st inning. Trinity following on was badly placed at 86/5 at the close place.
Unbeaten St. Benedict’s College hosted another unbeaten side, Nalanda College at Kotahena on 8th & 9th March.
“Two strong batting sides have it out”
-Ceylon Daily News, 8th March.
The match was a contest between bats and it ended in a draw but Bens recorded a 1st innings win. St. Benedict’s proved they have the best batting line up in the season as they scored 306 runs with Neville Casiechetty (88) and Lovelyn Rayen 67 notching up half centuries and overpowered Nalanda’s 1st inning of 243/6 which was largely built on their star performer and Captain Chandrasiri Weerasinghe’s knock of 127 runs.
Trinity travelled down to Colombo again as they were the visitors at Darley Road when St. Joseph’s under Kirthi Caldera hosted them. St. Joseph’s recorded a 1st innings win with Ranjith Malawana capturing 7 for 45 runs and Zacky Mohamed scoring 89 runs. Trinity’s Malsiri Kurukulasuriya scored 101 in their 2nd innings score of 186/9. St. Anthony’s College Katugastota faced their name sake St. Anthony’s College from Wattala in their one day game on the same weekend and had an easy win.Brian Seneviratne & Darrel De Silva
On the weekend of 15th & 16th March, St. Benedict’s hosted St. Sebastian’s Moratuwa at Kotahena, St. Anthony’s hosted hometown rivals Kingswood. St. Benedict’s enjoyed a win over St. Sebastian’s with Benedictine Neville Casiechetty (70) and Lasantha Fernando (86*) scoring fine half centuries and Cecil Waidyaratne claiming 4/20. Antonians meanwhile managed to beat Kingswood. Ranjith Samarasekera with twin half centuries along with another half century by Ranjith Doranegama and five wicket haul by Stephen Joseph helped Antonians in their cause. While the Battle of Blues between Royal and S. Thomas’ taking place at Colombo Oval on 22nd & 23rd March, St. Peter’s hosted Nalanda at Bambalapitiya.
Battle of the Blues was a battle between Ronald Reid (of S. Thomas’) and Michael Wille (of Royal) as both batsman stalled the limelight in the drawn game. However Thomians under Michael Tissera’s captaincy had the satisfaction of enjoying the 1st innings win. The biggest surprise of the weekend, most probably of the season, came from Bambalapitiya. Peterites were expected to go for a leather hunt against Nalandians at Bambalapitiya with Nalanda’s skipper Chandrasiri Weerasinghe enjoying fine season with bat. However JayanthaLakshman Serasinghe
Fernando had other ideas and strong Nalanda batting line up was curtailed to 165 runs by Peterites thanks to Lakshman Serasinghe “Are these inter collegiate cricket matches serving the purpose for which they are played? I have my doubts! Accent appears to have been laid for too much on winning or making a draw of the game, and not fostering the ideals of friendly rivalry among the teams”. Brian Seneviratne Darrel De Silva who returned to competitive cricket after missing few games due to an injury and grabbed 3 wickets for 31 runs. Peterites amassed 331/7 in their 1st innings with Jayantha Fernando (79), Brian Seneviratne (70) and Lakshman Serasinghe (90) stroking well for Petes. Nalanda was struggling at 111/9 in their 2nd innings when bad light ended the game and saved their face.
‘What a surprise the Peterites gave the Nalandians! Labeled the ‘weakest team this season’, at the outset they came out with flying colours to very nearly beat one of the strongest schoolboys eleven. The match in itself provided two days of fine cricket and above all, it was played in the right spirit.’
–School Cricket Inquest by The Yorker,
Ceylon Daily News, 27th March
By then most of the schools were playing or preparing to play their Big Matches, St. Benedict’s College, which did not have a Big Match in their schools fixture till then though Benedictines started playing Cricket in 1890’s and were among the handful of schools to play competitive Cricket in Sri Lanka, opened up a new chapter in their Cricketing annals.
Benedictines inaugurated a big match and took on a combined team comprised of Cricketers from their ‘Sister’s Schools’ managed by Lasalian Brothers. Namely St. Sebastian’s (Moratuwa), St. Mary’s (Chilaw), St. Anne’s (Kurunegala), St. Anthony’s (Wattala) and De La Salle College (Mutwal). Match was played at Kotahena on 30th March and it was a one day game.
St. Benedict’s had the distinction of winning their first Big Match against Combined Sister College team. St. Peter’s hosted Wesley at Bambalapitiya, their final match before the Big Match. Peterite Darrell De Silva notched up a century in this drawn game.
Ananda – Nalanda Big Match was played on 30th & 31st March. It was expected to be a battle between fearsome pace bowler of Ananda, Sonny Yatawara and fine batsman of Nalanda Chandrasiri Weerasinghe. Sonny Yatawara was regarded as one of the, if not the greatest fast bowler of late 50s. He used to terrorize batsmen with his fast and fiery express bowling. At the same time Nalanda captain Weerasinghe was amongst the leading run scorers of the season tormenting bowlers. Though Nalanda College was firm favourites with their impressive record leading up to the Big Match, Ananda College under Anuruddha Polonnowita grabbed honours in this drawn game.
‘The match of Chandrasiri Weerasinghe’ and ‘The Battle of missed catches’ ‘The other Big Match which I saw for a brief period was the St. Benedict’s versus Combined Sisters’ Colleges game at Kotahena. What struck me most forcibly the wealth of talent in outstations. Some of the bowlers seen in action that day could compare very favourably with those in Colombo, could be even better.’ ‘The Benedictines scored a thrilling victory in a race against the clock and registered the first win in this inaugural fixture’ ‘The Benedictines fielded admirably to end a fine season unbeaten and with an enviable record!’ ‘A week to go and the Selectors get a headache’ ‘First for the list of batsmen, I cannot see a Combined Colleges side without Ronald Reid (S. Thomas’), Chandrasiri Weerasinghe (Nalanda), Ranjith Doranegama (St. Anthony’s) and Neville Casiechetty (St. Benedict’s) that would make four places. L.P.Rayen (St. Benedict’s) and Lasantha Rodrigo (Prince of Wales) should fight it out for another batsman’s place. Personally I would choose Rayen for his ability to lead the team’.
-School Cricket Inquest – The Yorker sums up,
Ceylon Daily News, 3rd April
The schools Cricket season for 1957 came to an end with the Joe-Pete being played at the Colombo Oval on 5th & 6th April. St. Joseph’s went in as clear favourites with St. Peter’s having a dismal season barring the matches played at the latter part of the season which gave some solace to Peterites.
‘Josephians, Peterites have strong batting, weak bowling, so…….. RUNS APLENTY AT THE OVAL – BARRING RAIN. Result? – It’s a toss – up’.
-By the Yorker , Ceylon Daily News, 5th April
‘Fighting fifth wicket stand after 64/4. Josephians stage a fine recovery, gallant 99 by Caldera.’
–Ceylon Daily News, 6th April.
The match ended in a draw with St. Joseph’s recording a 1st innings win with Josephian skipper Kirthi Caldera being unfortunate to miss out on a century by getting out on 99 to the bowling of Russell Duckworth. Also Carlyle Perera (77) and Emilton Fernando (53) batted well for Josephians (1st innings 298) and Ranjith Malawana took 8 wickets for 57 runs in dismissing Peterites for 192. Peterites following on did better than expected with Jayantha Fernando (81) and Darrel De Silva (59) and Premasiri Athukorala scoring his second fifty (52) of the game (85 in 1st innings) to ensure Peterites reached a respectable score of 246 all out at the end of play.
After the final week of Schools cricket matches the selectors picked the Combined Schools XI to face the touring Madras Cricket Association XI on 16th & 17th April at SSC Grounds at Maitland Crecent, Colombo 07.
Benedictines under L.P.Rayen ended the season as the ‘Unofficial Schools Champs after being unbeaten with Ananda and Nalanda coming as second best followed by St. Thomas’
The players were; Lasantha Rodrigo (Prince of Wales) as Captain, M. Anwar (Zahira), Neville Casiechetty (St. Benedict’s), Ranjith Doranegama (St. Anthony’s), L. Ebert (Wesley), Ranjith Malawana (St. Joseph’s), Lorenz Pereira (Royal), Anuruddha Polonnowita (Ananda), Ronald Reid (S. Thoams’), Chandrasiri Weerasighe (Nalanda), Sonny Yatawara (Ananda), Darrell De Silva (St. Peter’s), Larif Idroos (S. Thomas’) and Cecil Waidyaratne (St. Benedict’s). Later on M. Anwer was replaced by Josephian skipper Kirthii Caldera as former opted out from the squad due to holy month of Ramazan.
‘Cricket season ends, schools fielding and batting under par’
–School Cricket Inquest –The Yorker sums up, Ceylon Daily News 10th April
‘The Schools Cricket Association selectors have done a good job of picking the Combined Colleges team to meet Madras Cricket Association. I do not agree, however with the selection of the captain. I would have preferred the Benedictine skipper L.P.Rayen. Anyway the selection has now been made.’
‘It was only fitting that the Josephian Peterite have ended the season. What Cricket it was during the two days. The capacity crowd on both days were treated to a rare exhibition of batting and of course deplorable fielding especially on the 1st day.’
It was announced, six school boys were picked to represent Ceylon Cricket team for their tour of Malaya. This included Sonny Yatawara (Ananda), Chandrasiri Weerasinghe (Nalanda), Ronald Reid (S. Thomas’) and Neville Cassiechetty (St. Benedict’s) and team was expected to be captained by Sathi Coomaraswamy of Tamil Union. Benedictines under L.P.Rayen ended the season as the ‘Unofficial Schools Cricket Champions for 1957’ after being unbeaten (even on 1st innings) with Ananda College and Nalanda College coming as second best followed by St. Thomas’ College.
A versatile sportsman from St. Peter’s also captained the College rugby XV in 1956, reputed for his left arm swing bowling he was a hard a hitting batsman. Now domiciled in Australia he’s enjoying the sunset years of his life.
I played for College between 1954 to 1957 as an all rounder. We had a fine team in 1957 but did not play well during that season and lost a few games badly, like losing to St. Thomas’ for the first time and then St. Anthony’s, Royal and Zahira. Jayantha, Darrel, Russell, Brian and Anton were some of the outstanding players we had. I was the Vice Captain and was injured during the season and missed some matches. Clive Inman who captained the College in 1955 was our coach at the beginning of the season and halfway through Maurice Perera took over the coaching role. I think we played well towards the latter part of the season, including the Joe Pete Big match where the match ended in a draw. I remember the game against St. Benedict’s which was played at Kotahena and it ended in a draw. The Bens had a fine bowling unit with Cecil (Waidyaratne) bowling really fast and swinging the ball well along with L.P Rayen and Neville (Wickremasinghe). Lionel (Fernando) and Neville Casiechetty batted well for Bens. When it came to the Big Match, all predicted that we will struggle and that the Josephians will do well as we had a poor season compared to the Joes. Then we surprised all by drawing the match after being asked to follow on. Premasiri Athukorala played really well in both innings and also Jayantha Fernando.
recollects on 1957
I played for St. Joseph’s from 1955 to 1957 and Mr. Malcom Spittle was our Senior Coach. I left College after 1957 with two more years left as I joined the Royal Navy at the age of 16. I still remember, back in 55’ when Mahinda De Silva was the captain of St. Joseph’s, people got to know me as a fast bowler after the game against Royal College. I was the opening bowler along with Tony Buhar and was given the choice of picking the new ball from a box of balls. I picked a ball which fitted my hand nicely and started to bowl. I found I’m getting a good swing and pace. Soon I managed to grab 4 wickets in my first spell. Royal 1st XI was all out in the 1st day and late in the afternoon I realized that I have picked the wrong ball. It was an Under 16 Cricket Ball (a small size leather ball) and that’s why I managed to bowl like a demon. The following day’s Sports Pages carried ‘Peter Leanage Schools Fastest Bowler’. At the close of first day’s play Mahinda got to know that we used the wrong ball. Then on the 2nd Day, rain interrupted play and all expected the match to be drawn with two innings to play. Then Mahinda called us and said, because of the ball incident, we should in true ‘Josephian Spirit’ give this match to Royal and he forfeited our 2nd Innings and informed umpires to walk into the middle and we followed. No one expected this decision as Royal had to score only 80 odd runs to win within couple of hours. They scored and won the match. Next day, all pages praised us and our ‘Josephian Spirit’. I do not think, any present day team would take such a call in the true spirit of Cricket.
I remember the match against St. Anthony’s at Katugastota where I got 7 wickets. The Antonians had Ranjit Doranegama, outstanding batsman. I managed to use the early morning conditions well to swing the ball and our slip fielders and the keeper had a time behind the stumps. This is because it was a cold and misty. Michael Berman used to recall that game as he had a hard time behind the stumps. Also I remember playing against St. Benedict’s with Neville Casiechetty and L P Rayen coming to my mind. Among the big matches, I remember my 1st Big match in 54’ where we all went on a leather hunt with Peterite Clive Inman scoring a double century. Then in 55 we lost it badly but bounced back in 56’ when Peterite captain Ken Duckworth declared and gave us 90 runs to score in the final hour and we scored it with few more overs left. From the 56/57 seasons some players I may recall Ferdinand, Idroos and Tissera from S. Thomas’, Jayantha Fernando, Duckworth brothers and Lakshman Serasinghe from St. Peter’s and among the Josephians Malcom Francke, Malcom Berenger, Michael Berman, Ranjit Malawana, Kirthi Caldera were some outstanding players.
Memoirs of PROFESSOR SHERIFDEEN on 1957
Back in those days, I was a small made boy, a left hand batsman and a spinner. I got the break to play 1st XI when I was Under 15 (1955) as some of the seniors including Lafir was sitting for their SSC (GCE O/L) and young players were drafted in for 3rd term games until the seniors returned. I made the debut against St. Thomas’ (1955) during a 3rd term match and managed to take two wickets in my first game. Once the seniors returned, I was retained in the squad, maybe since I performed well against St. Thomas’. I played for St. Anthony’s 1st XI between 1955-1958, John Halangoda was a coach a mentor who shaped most of us at junior level. He used to throw a coin on the pitch near the batting crease and asks us to bowl targeting that. We had to hit it 6 out of 6 balls. This was a must for all bowlers. Then at 1st XI, during late 50’s our coach Robert Wright used to put importance on our fielding. So we were a good fielding unit and I specialized in slip fielding. It was a memorable experience to play under Ranjith Doranegama in 1957. He was a cheerful character, an inspirational leader, always motivated us and kept the team united. While he was batting, it was a sight for the eyes, stylish and a master of the cover drive. Our top order was really strong. Most of the time Ranjith (Doranegama), Anton (Rambukpotha) and S.W. Seneviratne does the bulk of the batting and bat long so rest assured that we would not needed to bat (from No. 05 down) but this puts pressure on bowling attack. Adrian Berenger and Stephen Joseph were our opening bowling attack.
I remember the match against St. Benedict’s which was played at Katugastota. Neville (Wickremasinghe) and Cecil (Waidyaratne) bowled us out cheaply. Cecil was outstanding, a smooth run up and a beautiful action and then he swings the ball. Then Lovellyn (L.P.Rayen) played beautifully and they scored more than 300 runs. On our 2nd innings, we all batted well and Ranjith Doranegama scored a quick century. An amazing inning, less than run a ball century. I remember playing really well against Dramaraja as I was just bowling floaters and their batsman couldn’t read it so I picked up wickets. Then the game against Ananda at Campbell Place was a memorable one too. On the first day, after we got out (204 runs) it was Ananda’s turn to bat late in the afternoon. I started to bowl and used to vary the deliveries as I noticed the conditions of the matting would help me. In fact Ananda spinners bowled well on the same matting, including Anurudda Polonnovita who later noticed that I was using the conditions of the matting to bowl really well. Ananda players were struggling and I managed to grab 03 quick wickets. Unfortunately light was fading and umpires called off play for the day.
Come the 2nd day, when we walked to the middle we noticed the matting was put quite loosely. So when I started to bowl again I couldn’t get the same bite or the grip from the surface which I got on the previous day. I went wicket less and when Ranjith called in fast bowlers, they managed to use the conditions and take wickets and we managed to bowl them out cheaply. The game against St. Joseph’s too is well remembered for the opening spell of bowling by Peter Leanage who used the early morning conditions quite well and troubled us. During the Milk Break our discussion was how to face Peter Leanage and counter his swinging deliveries. The game those days was played in the true spirit and we enjoyed it, it was not about a competition. I wonder if the present day boys enjoy their game like we did.
writes on 1957 season
It was a memorable year, as most Colleges had elite sporting talent, with some players already established in club cricket. St. Peter’s College was captained by Jayantha Fernando, a brilliant sportsman and one of the privileged few to captain the College in four different sports; rugby, tennis, athletics and cricket.
The list of rival captains in 1957 were, Lasantha Rodrigo (Prince of Wales), Michael Tissera (S. Thomas’), Ranjit Doranegama (St. Anthony’s), M. Joonos (Zahira), Anurudha Polonnovita (Ananda), Michael Wille (Royal), L.P.Rayen (St. Benedict’s), Harold Juriansz (Wesley), Chandrasiri Weerasinghe (Nalanda) and Kirthi Caldera (St. Joseph’s). They were brilliantly talented and formidable leaders and most of them played premier club cricket (while playing schools cricket), Mercantile and later represented All Ceylon teams as well. I was quite privileged to have played against them and later in club and Mercantile cricket.
It was a disappointing season, with St. Peter’s winning one and losing four of the 12 matches. As I read through the old cricket memorabilia of books, I saw a statistical gem. This was written in The Peterite Monthly Vol. 1 No.2, of February 1957 and headlined ‘Cricketers on a Record Breaking Spree’.
These were the records
- First Peterite XI to have lost to St. Thomas’ College.
- First Peterite XI to have been defeated on home turf.
- First Peterite XI to have lost three consecutive matches in one season.
- First Peterite XI to have lost to Zahira College.
- First Peterite XI to have lost while chasing a total of 78 runs with all wickets intact.
- First Peterite XI to have been all out at least once below 100 for five consecutive matches.
I am quite sure we were on the cusp of certain defeat against St. Joseph’s but for a brilliant match saving innings by Premasiri Athukorale whose cavalier 85 runs was the defining moment in the Big Match. Athukorale and Christie Marthalingam (16 n.o) plundered 94 precious runs in a record eighth wicket partnership to ensure a draw.
I played for S. Thomas’ from 1954 to 1958 whilst Captaining College in 1957. I could’ve played in 1959 too but I left the College in 1958. We played 10 matches during that season of 57 and won 7 but we lost to St. Benedict’s. We would’ve been ‘Unofficial Schools Cricket Champions’ if not for that loss. Instead St. Benedict’s became Champions. We were very strong as a team and also had individuals’ likes of Reid and Idroos who were outstanding. Our 1st match for the 1st term was against St. Peter’s at Mt. Lavinia and the turning point of the game was when Lakshman Serasinghe who came in at 3 down in the 2nd innings left (no stroke offered to) a googly from Idroos and was clean bowled. Jayantha (Fernando) was batting well but with that wicket we managed to bowl them out cheaply. Against St. Benedict’s, I won the toss at Mt. Lavinia. Since it was a turf wicket and with the rain during the lead up to match I thought of using the conditions to our advantage. So I asked the Benedictines to bat first. This decision backfired as when the wicket started to dry up in the afternoon batsmen found it easy to bat and St. Benedict’s put up a decent score. Then in their turn to bowl, Cecil Waidyaratne and Neville Wickremasinghe bowled really well as the opening pair. L.P Rayen was an aggressive captain and a smart player. He led them well in fact they fielded brilliantly. We lost that game. Against St. Joseph’s, we had a really good start and we managed to bowl them out for 155. Then Ronald Reid and Goonetileka made a good opening stand and Idroos bowled another good spell in the 2nd innings against Josephians. We were set to score 80 odd runs in few overs before close of game and we just managed to score that and won it. We had easy wins against Anthonians (3rd tem), Wesley and Trinity in the 1st Term. I can recall Malsiri Kulakurasuriya, Nimal Maralande and Odayar playing for Trinity. The Battle of the Blues ended in a draw but Reid played outstanding cricket again for us. Some of the outstanding players in that season were Lorenz Pereira and Michael Willie (Royal), Anurudha Polonnovita and Sonny Yatawara (Ananda) and Chandrasiri Weerasinghe (Nalanda), Ranjit Doranegama (St. Anthony’s), Ebert (Wesley) were among the Top 05 batsmen in that year.
I really enjoyed 50’s and for that matter 60’s and 70’s too. In 50’s, schools cricket unlike today was played while upholding the highest values, we enjoyed it. We went out with positive minds and took risks to win matches and in the process we lost games too. Today, Tournaments and Competitions have killed the spirit and the game. I treasure those times as life back in those days was fantastic.