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Saturday, 6 August 2011

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Australia’s first visit to Sri Lanka was in 1884

The Australian cricketers open their tour of Sri Lanka today with a T-20 game at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, starting at 7 pm. This game will be 40 minutes after the Kandy SC - CR & FC rugger game in Kandy.

This is going to be the fifth tour of the Australians to Sri Lanka. So, all cricket lovers are waiting for a good series. Australians arrived last Saturday to play two T-20’s, five one days and three Tests.

The Australian - Sri Lanka cricket connection has a long history. It is said that Lord Harris the former England cricket captain speaking at a dinner at the Surrey Country Cricket Club in 1921 had said: ‘please visit Sri Lanka (Then known as Ceylon), more often for your cricket, in the presence of some Australian Cricketers.’

Since 1844 when the Australians first visited Ceylon, up to 1937 there had been eight stop over games by Australia, two privately sponsored tours and one in 1914 by Rev. R. Waddy’s team of New South Wales which had two test players. The second team was in 1935. The 1914 team won the unofficial Test after a hard fight and the 1955 match was won by the Australians by an innings.

In 1938, the Australians toured Sri Lanka, under Sir Don Bradman. The match was played at the Old SSC grounds (later known as Nomads Grounds.

All cricket lovers of that era were present to see Sir Don Bradman in action. Although his name appeared in the score sheet at No. 3 he did not play as he was indisposed and Stan MaCabe led the side and Australia scored 367 for 9 wickets in 210 minutes off 69 overs.

The opening stand saw 80 runs, between Jack Fingleton 49 and Bill Brown 53.

Lindsay Hasett 116 and C. Babcock 116 put on 217 for the third wicket. With all this hammering off spinner George Perera took 5 for 108, while Pat MacCarthy, George Hubert and L.D.S. Gunasekara all did well.

The last unofficial test match was in 1981, when Australians were on their way to England and played in Colombo. This unofficial Test totals were the lowest recorded in Sri Lankan by Australia in a three day game. Australia scored 124 and 178 to Sri Lankas 177. In this game Ajith de Silva and Lalith Kaluperma bowled best to take match bags of 9 for 100 and 8 for 109 respectively.

Sri Lanka had a good chance of winning. but rain spoilt all chances. Sri Lanka needed to score 125 runs to win but the weather finally won.

The 1983/84 tour by the Australians was for the inaugural test under Greg Chappell, where they beat Sri Lanka by an innings and 38 runs.

Australians scored 514 for 4 with Kepler Wessels 141, Graham Yallop 96 and David Hookes 143.

Sri Lanka were dismissed for 271 in the first innings and 205 in the second innings, and the game was over by lunch.

Then in the four one day games, Sri Lanka won two and the rest were washed off.

Cricket is certainly a game of records as almost every one regardless of age desires to participate in the sport to enter his name in record books. It is also one of the pioneer sports of Sri Lanka which was introduced to Sri Lanka around 1824 by the early English settlers who were coffee planters and also service personnel stationed over here.

It is also said that wherever the Union Jack was planted cricket too was given pride of place.

Looking back to the earlier games we could say that then matting pitches and turf wickets were unknown luxuries.

But from the few facts available it is known that it was played with real zest.

Some of the service personnel stationed here in the 1830’s and 40’s were competent cricketers and all credit is due to them for establishing the game in Colombo, Kandy and Galle and they even took the game to Radella (Dimbulla ACC, Darawella (Dickoya MCC and Badulla Uva Gymkhana Club. The early coffee planters were well known wielders of the willow and it is said that they would travel between 40 to 50, miles on horse back to play the game.

At the Dimbulla ACC club house in Radella there is an interesting picture of the two teams which played in the first match between the planters of Dimbulla and Dickoya in 1870 which shows the type of men who made planting and cricket a successful combination.

These bearded individuals were so dedicated to the game that there was hardly any difference in their approach to their work and cricket. Before air travel helped cricket teams from England and Australia travel it was by sea that they often broke journey in Colombo to play stopover matches with local teams in Colombo, Kandy, Galle, Radella or Darawella.

The first foreign team to stop over in Ceylon was the English team of 1882 led by Ivor Bligh on their way to Australia for the Ashes series.

At that time only England and Australia played Test cricket. Later nations like India, West Indies, Pakistan, South Africa and New Zealand also toured Sri Lanka. However now it is quite different as all test playing teams visit Sri Lanka.

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