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ARTICLES | CENTENARY SOUVENIR

MY CRICKETING CRICKETING DAYS AT STC BY A LANKATILLEKE

S. Thomas' and Royal Colleges celebrate 100 years of cricket between them in the Year 1979. There is no doubt that this is an achievement for any institution in the East.

At first it would seem difficult for anyone to look back 59 years to 1920 when 1 first played for my alma mater and thence to 1923 when I captained the College team. Nevertheless in my 76th year of life, I still have a vivid memory of what took place thence and I shall narrate a few events which find confirmation in some of the old College magazines that are still with me.

I entered College in the year 1913, at Mutwal (Galpalliya). Of the many games I took part in - Soccer, Tennis, Fives and Cricket - I had taken a particular liking to cricket, having watched the Big Club cricket and Inter-collegiate cricket.

Up to the year 1918, I had learnt much of the game having been coached by Mr. Edward Navaratnam and Mr. Leonard Arndt of the Big Club.

The Big Match against Royal was a terrible test to me, especially to see such a vast crowd present and this was my first experience too. I can very well remember reading in the Ceylon Morning Leader, which as usual, gave an account of each player, saying this of me: "A Veddah boy plays for S. Thomas". I did not know the reason for this then, but my father said the reason for all this was that I came from the Uva Province where the Veddhas originated. Incidentally this indicates how backward the Uva Province was at that time.

The day of the Royal match was a very warm day and P. B. Bulankulame our captain, lost the toss. We had to work hard in the field in the gruelling sun. The SSC wicket was like a cement floor. I believe, it had been over-prepared, and the bowlers had no say. The Royalists who, I believe, had the best side among the schools had Donald Rutnam as captain besides F. C. W. Van Geyzel, C. T. Van Geyzel, E. C. Rose, A. E. L. Thomasz, C. G. A. Perera and some other names I cannot now remember. The Royalists amassed the big score of 267 on a fine wicket and we crumbled in both innings for the paltry scores of 104 and 111 and, unexpectedly, the match was over in a day. I still remember how that decent looking pitch was broken up when we had played.

It was a disappointment to our players as well as the spectators who had looked forward to witnessing two days' cricket. That ended the 1920 match.

The 1921 Big Match, under the captaincy of C. E. L. ('Kalla') de Silva, was played on the SSC grounds and in a low scoring game also ended in a win for Royal.  There is nothing in particular to mention. The better side won.

Then came the 1922 Big Match, played on the SSC grounds on the 15th and 16th March 1922. There was tremendous excitement, centered around the biggest Inter-School fixture of the year. The weather was bright and a large crowd present, by evenfall the crowd was dense and every coign of vantage had been taken over. I expected the pitch to play fair by both sides and my impression appeared to be correct as the scores on either side indicated this.

The Royalists were said to be a better side with more bowling talent and the Thomians a better batting side. It augured well when the Royalists bowled us out for a paltry score of 143 runs in the first innings and 137 in the second innings. The Royalists were able to collect only 128 runs In their first essay and 95 in the second innings. Thus we won comfortably by 57 runs.

With the ending of the Big Match, College closed for the vacation.

The new first term commenced In January 1923 and the first term generally being a term of mostly sports, most of the boys got into their strides in their own sports.

It did not take time and it was a pleasant surprise when the Rev. Warden Stone made an announcement and put up a notice on the board, that I was elected Captain of Cricket. I got up from my seat immediately after dinner-time, went up to the Warden and thanked him. Afterwards it was a case of felicitation from my school friends and masters.

The next morning I felt that there was a sense of heaviness and responsibility cast on me. 

The inter-school matches were close by and before these, I was engaged in selecting the team to play club matches and the probables were taken in.

Some proved to be good and some fell by the way-side due to their lack of form. From the year 1920, I had been wondering why our school was not in a position to get the cricket grounds improved.

It appeared that the school was in great financial stress and it was clear that it was only the old boys who could do something to assist our standard of cricket to improve. From the time we came to Mt. Lavinia from Old Mutwal, there had been no signs of ever being able to play cricket at home on a decent ground and we had only sea-sand covered with sea-weeds. This was the state of affairs up to the end of 1923 when I was about to leave school.

Nevertheless, I am glad to record that notwithstanding the handicaps we had somehow done well for ourselves in our ground fielding.

I now felt that after half a dozen years of awaiting we had now begun to put our new home in order. In fact, we ourselves, like most other people, had almost forgotten that this is a new home. The making of our cricket pitch had been first taken in hand and expected it to be ready for use in the third term. The gain to our cricket from a firm turf covered outfield will be considerable.

Our 44th encounter with Royal was in 1923 and was played on the SSC grounds on the 13tn and 14th March.

The SSC grounds which had been the venue for these matches at the time was a fitting setting for this big inter-collegiate match.

One of the features of the match was the Umpires - D. L. de Saram and F. Ondatjie. I do not think that there has been another occasion when two such famous captains of the past donned the long coat, and it must have been an unexpected added pleasure to the large crowd that turned up, to see their popular idol, D. L. de Saram on the field.

The Royal Captain won the toss and made no mistake about what he should do. He decided to bat. The wicket appeared to be a very good one and it should have played well on the first day, but I was not sure whether it would last four innings, as on close examination, there appeared two patches at least on the further end - from the pavilion end which I felt would give the bowlers a great deal of assistance during the last innings.

The strong Royal batting side was curiously bundled out for a paltry 116 runs with all the four bowlers tried by me, excepting Kumaranayagam, A. Toussaint bowling 10 overs, 5 maidens, 16 runs and 3 wickets, C. F. W. de Saram taking 2 wickets in 8.2 overs, 2 maidens and giving 15 runs, and my contribution being 1 wicket in 17 overs, 9 of them being maidens and giving 23 runs. Our fielding was keen and consistently good without being particularly brilliant, except in the case of 1 wicket-keeper Cooke who was really splendid. He did not make mistakes and his stumping of Meedeniya was a smart piece of work, as was his running Rajaratnam out. C. F. W. de Saram had been adjudged as the best school boy cover point fielder and he atoned in this position.

Taken altogether we were congratulated by the Royalists themselves for having got our rivals out so cheaply.
                                                                         
An extract from The Ceylon Observer by 'Authentic' says this: "The Thomian skipper f is a splendid little cricketer with the bat, ball or in the field and it is a pity he hasn't more of a personality to make a successful captain. Carl Cooke the best batsman on the side was obviously  nervous and his first stroke was a lucky snick through the slips. 

He was too afraid to play his usually forcing game and hit only one boundary to leg. Then his inactivity evidently upset him and went to the other extreme of rashness which cost him his wicket, j 5 for 20, 7 for 39, these figures were not heartening for the Thomians and Koch who could have saved j the situation gave a chance at the very start which was not accepted. He then opened out and if his { hitting was not scientific cricket, it certainly was most useful cricket for his side. Royal team became accountably excited from this point onwards and Dias instead of pulling them together seemed to be the worst. There were some misfields and unnecessary boundaries from byes - I saw, what perhaps you will never see in any other class of cricket - byes cheered!

Kanagasabai, who was partnering Koch played some very good cricket. He was not a bit excited and his bat was straight up and down all the time. He will make an ideal opening batsman, I cannot understand why he only came as a substitute for Ratwatte who is down with mumps. Koch got out in a silly fashion to a full ball which he should have punched to the middle. Toussaint who followed repeated Jayatilleke's performance in calling Kanagasabai for an impossible run, but he condoned his fault somewhat by his plucky batting afterwards. The last wicket added 31 runs and Ashmore Pieris deserves credit for rising to the occasion. Someone was heard to remark when he went in, "He can't bat for toffee" but his determined stand with Toussaint showed that he needed no such sweet inducement. He batted well for his side. Toussaint did most of the scoring during his time and he went for the bowling with quite the current tactics for a mis-hit for 4 which was far more useful than a maiden over of correct cricket. He gave rather an easy chance to Senaratne at mid on which was dropped and I actually saw a very high Thomian authority stand up and cheer when this happened! What a triumph of enthusiasm oversense! The Thomians are to be congra­tulated on their plucky recovery which shows they still possess the old Thomian "Esprit de Corps".

The Royalist's skipper had been evidently made to see the folly of his first innings order, for he now did the right thing in sending Rajaratnam to open the innings with Gunasekera. 1 am not saying that Rajaratnam played very good cricket for you cannot call a batsman classy who merely pats a full toss. But his stolid batting exasperated most of the spectators. So you can Imagine the effect on the fielding side and the bowlers and this was no small factor in the Royal victory.

Gunasekera was in too much of a hurry to score again and so he was soon out. He nevertheless has the makings of a great batsman and I shouldn't be at all surprised to see him in a representative team five years from now. His score was 7 this time bowled by Lankatilleke. F. L. Goonewardena was most lucky to collect 14 runs as most of the runs came off mis-hits and snicks.

But a distinguished old Royal captain remarked that Goonewardena was a useful man to send in at that point. His virtue lay in his being lucky for aggravating "narrow shaves" which would to a certain extent demoralise the other side! The biggest partnership was between Rajaratnam and Belleth. Belleth made 32 and I think that was the best bit of play during the day. Eventually Rajaratnam made 43 and later N. S. Joseph made 21 runs, beautifully made, and Royal now was 152 for 8 wickets when they declared."

As stated by me earlier, the wicket at this stage was showing ware and tare and we had to play in the fourth innings on a breaking up fast wicket.

It was unfortunate that most of the stock bowlers could not bowl well and I had to keep on one side while changing the bowling on the other side.

The 'Authentic' in the Ceylon Observer adds:

"The Thomian fielding was not as good as on the first day but they certainly kept together well considering how things were against them. They were never slack and were keen right to the end which says a lot for their spirit. Cooke was brilliant again behind the stumps. His achieve­ment of 3 catches and I stump in each innings is quite a record for this series.

I hope he won't like most Thomian great stumpers, be lost to first-class cricket when he leaves school, but that he will be able to play for some club in Colombo.

The Thomian bowlers were not as effective as on the previous day and they have to thank the lack of enterprise of the early Royal batsmen or their average. Toussaint spoilt his bowling completely by changing from slow to medium while Koch was completely off colour. Lankatilleke was the only one with any sort of length and he did wisely in keeping himself on and his average at that time was 20 overs, 8 maidens, 39 runs and 4 wickets.

At 4 o'clock after tea the Thomians started their second innings. Lankatilleke also followed Dias' example and reverted to the usual order and sent in Udalagama and Kumaranayagam to open. The batsmen were rightly not taking any risks and the scoring was necessarily slow. They seemed to be settling down most comfortably when Udalagama tried an unnecessary snick through the slips and gave a catch to slip. Kanagasabai was deservedly promoted to No. 3 and he and Kumaranayagam held the bowlers at bay for nearly an hour. It is true that they did not put many runs on the board, to be exact 24, but they took the sting off the bowling and it was left to the fast scorers like Lankatilleke, Cooke and Koch to make the runs, if possible.  So when Kumaranayagam was bowled at 9, I thought it was a good thing for the Thomians. But at this point the treacherous patches on the far end of the wicket did their work and Dias deserves the credit for having had the initiative to put himself at silly mid-off. I do not know why people call it silly-point. Anyway this manoeuvre of the Royal skipper secured the wickets of de Saram and Lankatilleke in quick succession and it made a big difference.  

After that the Royalists played a winning game and the Thomians had to fight with their backs to the wall !

This effort of Dias makes me forgive all his silly juggling with the bowling on Tuesday. Kanagasabai who had been batting most calmly was bowled by Meedeniya at this stage, and 4 for 29 looked very bleak for the Thomians. Carl Cooke was as nervous as ever and he cocked up more than one ball towards mid-off. He had a gift of a full toss on the leg from Goonewardena which he promptly punched to the boundary but was eventually out to a dolly catch to the bowler. When Koch was in, I felt the Thomians might yet pull the match out of the fire but he hit a ball into Rajaratnam's safe hands at long on. There was plenty of room between this fielder and the deep mid-on, if Koch only cared to place his hit. 

Toussaint, the hero of the first innings, was bowled by the first ball he faced. Jayatilleke who went in after Koch was batting steadily all this time and with the advent of Pieris we saw the pluckiest stand in the whole match. It was twenty five minutes to six when the partnership com­menced and for these 25 minutes they defied the bowling and all the wiles of the Royalist captain to end the match. In fact at ten to six Jayatilleke was scoring so freely that a distinguished old Thomian captain forgot reason to the extent of telling his Royalist neighbour we have a chance of winning yet. There was great excitement at the end and, some feeling as most matches indicated that it was after six when the last three overs were bowled. It was a minute to six when the last over commenced, It was being told that it was the last over that unnerved Jayatilleke, but the finish was as it should have been. Royal winning on the third ball bowled by Cecil Dias for the day. There had been many Royal-Thomian matches but never a finish like this. On the whole it was a great disappointment for the Thomian captain as his team never played as a team. 

It could not have been a one-man show. All that was expected of regular batsmen failed. All that was expected of the recognised bowlers failed, and except for Jayatilleke and Pieris, the Thomian grit was never exhibited. 

In the Royal second innings, Lankatilleke had to satisfy himself by keeping himself on and tried no more than 5 other bowlers, but failed. Lanka's analysis was 20 overs, 8 maidens, 39 runs and 4 wickets in a Royal total of 152 for 8 wickets in the second innings."

So thus ended the 44th Royal-Thomian encounter. 

I should not fail to mention my gratitude to the Very Rev. F. H. de Winton, the Government Agent, Mr. C. R. Cumberland of Uva, and my father, J. C. Lankatilleke, Chieftain in Uva, for having obtained for me a place in the great school of S. Thomas' wherein 1 received my schooling, learning  and leadership from the Warden, Rev. W. A. Stone.

A. LANKATILLEKE

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