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The Kingswood-Dharmaraja match of 1958

by Herby Jayasuriya

The Kingswood vs Dharmaraja cricket match is the oldest school cricket match that is played amongst Kandy schools. In 1958 this match was played on Randles Hill. Kingswood College is located on a hill on 14 acres of land. All the college buildings are built on this hill. The playground too which is a part of the hill had been cut from it and levelled.

It is called "Randles Hill" because the land and the original buildings were donated to the Methodist Church which was responsible for the administration of Kingswood College in 1925 by an English benefactor named Sir John Randles. It is in memory of this benefactor that this hill is called "Randles Hill".

The Kingswood College ground and its vicinity was very well decorated for the big match that was played in March 1958. Further there were some bamboo huts put up for the occasion.

The Kingswood College team for this match consisted of the following:

C. Morris Fernando, Captain (all rounder), Godwin Manamperi, Vice Captain (all rounder), Wimal Fernando, the younger brother of the captain, an all rounder, Clifford Ratnavibushana, the wicket-keeper/batsman, G. Krishnaraj, batsman, P. Somakeerthi, left arm bowler, Nissanka Kumarasinghe, batsman, Cedic Augastine, spin bowler, Ranjit Dharmawardena, batsman, Hillarian Gunaratne, batsman and the writer who opened the batting with Morris Fernando.

I cannot remember the names of the players who represented Dharmaraja College except for their captain Wickramaratne who was their wicket-keeper, Marasinghe an elegant left-hand batsman, Navaratne, a very good all rounder, D. Alwis, a good left hand batsman and Fernando, a very good batsman. The match was played on a Friday starting at 12.00 noon and was continued on Saturday from 9.00 a.m.

The captain of Dharmaraja won the toss and elected to bat. They were not batting well and at one stage were 110 for 9 wickets.

However their last pair one of whom was the left hand batsman Fernando added 100 runs and Dharmaraja was able to total 210 runs in their first innings.

Morris and I opened the Kingswood innings. We went into bat at about 5.40 p.m. and when stumps were drawn were 24 for no wickets of which I had scored 18 runs and my friend Morris scored 6 runs. I also very well remember that I faced the bowling first and the first ball I dispatched over our Takaran pavilion for 6 runs.

On the following day when Morris and I went to bat, I was able to score 4 runs in the first over through an off drive. That was all that I was able to score because in the very next ball I played forward and snicked a catch to the 3rd slip and I was out.

Morris went on to score 36 runs which by his standard was a low score because by then he had scored 4 centuries for the season.

Finally we were able to score about 250 for 8 wickets mainly due to Ranjit Dharmawardena who came in one down scored an elegant 69 runs and Hillerian Gunaratne scored a quick 45 runs not out.

We declared shortly after lunch and was able to get Dharmaraja out at about 5.00 p.m. for 140 runs which was a low score. We had to score 101 runs in about 45 minutes to win the match. Morris and I opened and we made 102 runs in quick time. Morris remained unbeaten on 45 and I was unbeaten on 56 runs.

I will never forget the last stroke I played for my college which was a massive 6 over the principal's bungalow. This was the winning hit. Of course, there was a great deal of shouting and cheering and the spectators invaded the field and carried Morris on their shoulders while I quietly made my way to the pavilion.

Thereafter our whole team was taken in procession to the Kandy town along the Peradeniya Road. We were hosted to a lovely high tea at Paiva's Tea Room on Browngrig Road by Morris' father, the amiable Walter Fernando.

I also remember there were distinguished clergymen at this match of whom two held high office in the Baptist and the Methodist Churches. They were Rev. H. S. L. B. Welagedera who was attached to the tutorial staff of Kingswood College and subsequently became the President of the Sri Lanka Baptist Sangamaya. Rev. D. K. Wilson, a brilliant cricketer of Royal College who was our college chaplain and Rev. Soma Perera who subsequently became the President of the Methodist Church. I wonder whether the presence of these 3 distinguished clergymen made the almighty to assist us to win this match.

I also recalled on the following Monday when I went to school I met L. B. Fernando, one of our masters who was also one of my cricket fans. He told me "Herbert you were the hero of that match because you hit the first ball for a six and the last ball for a six". I was highly elated.

During the course of the match there was a great deal of singing and one of the songs that the Kingswoodians sang began with words "Ho Ho Ho Ho Dharmaraja Walastoppiya".

I am also reminded of one humorous incident of this big match of a previous year where we did not have independent umpires but when on occasions the old boys umpired. In one of these matches the first ball stuck the pads of the Kingswood opener and on the loud appeal the old boy who umpired for Kingswood said "not out".

Subsequently when he came to the pavilion one of the Kingswoodians present said to the umpire "Wasn't the first ball that stuck the pads of the Kingswood opener out"? The umpire said "yes". He was asked why he did not give it out. He said "How to give the first ball out?"

Reverting to the match in 1958 the happiest man with regard to our victory was our coach the late Mr. Winston Hoole. He made a great contribution to Kingswood cricket. I must also mention that in 1958 Morris Fernando was selected the schoolboy cricketer of the year and I was played 9th in the all Ceylon school batting averages.

I may also mention that since 1958 Kingswood has never won this big match. I will always remember that last cricket match I played for Kingswood against Dharmaraja. My hitting the ball for a 6 to gain victory for my school would always be in my memory and was the crowning glory of my school cricket career. This incident reminds me of the last verse of one of the famous poems of G. K. Chestertan which has been altered to read in this context as follows:

"Fools I also had my hour

One bitter hour and sweet

There was a shout above my ears

And cricket boots on my feet".

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