Royal People

A dedication to those wonderful people who served Royal Primary School & Royal College, in Sri Lanka, since 1835, and, who will be remembered for their committment, sincerety and unselfishness.

Monday, March 02, 2009

My Most Memorable Game of Cricket 1962

When the Total stood still

The most memorable game I have played... by Darrell Lieversz

Whenever the 1962 cricket season comes up for discussion, the game against St. Peters is the one most often mentioned. Royalists were not accustomed to such a total domination of ball over bat, especially in a game that they came into as underdogs. I have been told by many Royalists who were present over those two days, that this particular game was one of the most sensational, uplifting and inspiring cricketing moments in their lives and which they feel privileged to have witnessed.

In fact many of them can still recall where they watched the game from. My cousin Eardley, who captained the Royal cricket team of 1969, admits that he never hero worshipped and idolised a Royal cricket team as much as the 1962 side, mainly because of our performance in the Peterite game. He never felt so proud to be a Royalist as he did in the aftermath of this game. In fact, the expectations raised by Royal’s performance made it very hard for Royal’s supporters to subsequently stomach defeat to Wesley on the Campbell Park mat and the failure to prevail over STC.

We had performed fairly well in the games leading to the game against St Peter’s. The first game of the 1962 season ended sensationally when Ananda, who dominated the game from the very beginning, fell 18 runs short of what seemed a relatively modest target of 88 runs. Thanks for the win go to Chanaka "CD" de Silva who took 5 for 16 and vice captain "Thiagu" Thiagarajah’s "break through" spell when he clean bowled D. Jayasinghe and had Sarath Wimalaratne beautifully stumped by Siri Jayaratne, finishing up with 3 for 16.

In the next game, against St. Benedict’s, we only conceded 11 runs in capturing their first six 1st innings wickets. We eventually beat them by 2 wickets in a hard fought game. We then went on to beat St. Anthony’s by 9 wickets and enforced the follow on against St. Joseph’s, who, to their credit, batted with a lot of determination in their second innings and left us with insufficient time to score the runs required for victory.

Royal was back on home soil for the Peterite game. Under normal circumstances St. Peters would have been outright favourites as they had cruised to an innings win over Ananda, the very side against which we had to dig deep in order to win on the Reid Avenue turf.

In that game against Ananda, St. Peter’s batting first scored over 300 runs with captain Richard Heyn scoring a century hitting a formidable attack to all parts of the ground, including a six over cover. A demoralised Ananda side offered very little resistance losing by an innings by as early as 2 pm on the second day.

On the strength of St. Peter’s performance against Ananda and Royal’s injury toll, the press, as indeed many Royalists, tended to play down Royal’s prospects.

Reporting on the first day’s play the Daily Mirror conceded its gross misjudgment in writing off Royal, in the following manner -"Royal playing without Jayaratne, Mendis, Withane and Kumar were expected to succumb to the mighty Peterite batting machine which had only the previous week annihilated the Anandians".

Team selection News that ‘S. S’ Kumar and Sunil Mendis were unable to play due to influenza was a shock to the selectors when choosing the team to play the Peterites. This information was rather depressing because Padde Withana and Siri Jayaratne were already on the injury list carried over from the previous week and were not available for selection. Freshmen Hamsa Macan Markar, "Sokka" Sockanathan as wicket keeper and Mohamed "Ganja" Mahroof (left arm spinner) were brought in to replace the three coloursmen out of action.

Royal struggle for runs

Because the English cricket team was scheduled to play a game against Ceylon on Saturday, this game was played on a Thursday and Friday, commencing at 1.30 pm and 10.00 am respectively. Winning the toss I decided to bat first on a fairly dry, flat wicket. "Shaw" Wilson and V. "Gowri" Gowrishankaran opened the innings against Maurice Decker and left arm seamer Travis Fernando.

After a steady start we lost our first wicket, that of Shaw at 33, when he was caught by Ravinda Fernando off the bowling of Tyrone Le Mercier in his second over. Hamsa Marcan Markar was in next but was also caught by Ravinda Fernando off the bowing of Kevin Ruberu. Vijaya Malalasekera livened the game up with some attacking drives but was out edging the ball to Richard Heyn at slip for a sparkling 17 runs. Finally, opener Gowri’s watchful innings of 20 ended when a throw from Maurice Decker found him short of his crease.

Wickets continued to fall at regular intervals but a characteristically tenacious innings of 32 not out by Roger Jansen took the score from 6 for 75 to 113 all out. Tyrone Le Mercier captured 4 wickets and three dismissals resulted from ‘direct hit’ run outs.

The game had progressed predictably and the Peterite bowling showed the same bite that it had displayed against Ananda. The three run outs were indicative of how competitive St. Peter’s were on the field. Everything pointed to them being equally competitive at the crease. Ominously for Royal, the stage appeared set for Richard Heyn to continue from where he left off the previous week and enable his team to quickly overhaul Royal’s modest total and set themselves up for an innings win. Royal in turn would have hoped to restrict the lead of St. Peters and stay in the game.

The best case scenario from Royal’s perspective would have been to capture early wickets and at best, slow St. Peter’s progress. No one, least of all Royal, could have predicted the mayhem that lay just around the corner. Defending a modest total St. Peters went into bat a little before 5 PM. I had picked the College end from which to open bowling but due to an unexpected change in wind direction, decided to take the other end.

The batsmen were already at the wicket, and the field almost set. Instead of wasting time changing ends, I gave the ball to Chanaka "CD" de Silva to open the bowling. CD bowled a superb first over with the ball swinging beautifully away from the right handed Adithiya de Silva. In the course of the first three overs, the score crawled to 6 and consisted of many ‘play & misses’. In the last ball of my second over, without any addition to the score, Adithiya de Silva did not offer a stroke and was clean bowled by a ball that swung in late. Tyrone Le Mercier was next to go, LBW in the third ball of my fourth over (the eighth over of the innings). With the score at 2 for 10, Richard Heyn the Peterite Captain, brimming with confidence walked to the wicket whistling and twirling his bat.

Eye witness accounts describe a surge of optimism amongst the Peterite supporters watching the game from Reid Avenue. He took his guard, looked around the field and settled into his stance. He attempted to leave a ball from me that appeared to him to be wide outside his off stump. However, much to his surprise it dipped in and knocked back his off stump, clean bowled by the first ball he faced. First to give me pats on the back were my deputy Thiagu and CD followed by the rest of the team. The cheers and applause from spectators all around the ground were pretty exhilarating. Two wickets had fallen with the score at 10 and four more were to follow with no addition to the score.

St Peter’s in total disarray Left hander David Heyn replaced his brother and prevented a hat trick. Heyn and Fernando didn’t score off the next four overs which meant that the overs (12) exceeded the runs scored (10) to that point. In CD’s 7th over Fernando lofted the ball over my head towards the mid off boundary at the College end. Instinctively, I turned around and chased after the ball hoping just to save a boundary. Looking up I found the ball still in the air and falling fast. Keeping my eye on the ball I reached for it desperately twisting my body and right arm. It was freakish luck that the ball stuck in my right hand completing the catch to dismiss Fernando. But the effect was sensational and it seemed like Royal could do no wrong. As Fernando and Heyn had crossed, Heyn, rather than new batsman Tissa Jayaweera, had to face the next ball from CD which was the last ball of his 7th over. He was clean bowled by a beautifully pitched up ball that swung in late hitting his middle stump. The first ball of CD’s next over was played down preventing a hat trick.

Eardley described to me the emotions of the Royalists in attendance at this stage of the game in the following manner. To quote - "Royal’s supporters were equally astounded by the scale of the stranglehold Royal’s bowlers had over the Peterite batsmen. The frequency with which wickets fell, and the ratio of wickets and overs to runs, was an unprecedented cricketing occurrence in the lifetimes of most cricket enthusiasts. Royalists were in turn elated and astonished by a turn of events which was inconceivable and unimaginable at the commencement of the Peterite innings.

To many Royalists there was an air of unreality to what was taking place in the middle". Maurice Decker then joined Jayaweera who was next to go, LBW for a duck in the 2nd ball of my next over. C. Bartlet the new batsman, and Decker immediately appealed against the light but the appeal was not surprisingly disallowed. At a little after 5:30 PM the light seemed to be pretty good and clearly the morale of St Peter’s was in tatters. On the last ball of my same over Bartlet was bowled between bat and pad for another ‘duck’. The score was still 10. In the 4th ball of my next over with the score at 12, Travis Fernando was bowled in a similar manner for yet another ‘duck’. A telling indication of how dramatically the game had swung around was that with 2 wickets remaining St. Peter’s still needed four runs to avert a follow on when an hour earlier Royal expected to have a fight on her hands in order to avoid an innings defeat.

On Thiagu’s suggestion, to forestall another appeal against the light I replaced CD and myself with "Sugi" Rajaratnam and Thiagu. Kevin Ruberu had come in to join Decker and together they took the score to 20 without further loss by close of play on the first day. At this stage, CD had bowling figures of 9 overs, 5 maidens, 12 runs, 2 wickets and I had figures of 8 overs, 7 maidens, 3 runs, 6 wickets.

Talking things over breakfast Early next morning Thiagu and I met Mr. Mahes Rodrigo (our coach) at his home for our usual mid match meeting when his wife Yoges always provided us with a scrumptious breakfast. This was where the previous day’s play was assessed, and tactics to be employed on the second day were discussed. Mahes very rarely visited the team’s dressing room unless there was something very urgent to convey. He encouraged us to make our own decisions and work things out ourselves perhaps preparing us for the tougher innings of life. Although the newspaper reports laid out in front of us highlighted how well Royal was placed after the first days play, Mahes urged us to disregard the press and concentrate on getting the Peterites out twice before the end of the day. He said he was happy with our performance but would have liked us to have got a few more runs when we batted. When I asked him "What would be a good total to declare the second innings", he smiled and said "One step at a time Darrell". The meeting concluded with Mahes reminding us how important it was to maintain the pressure by capturing the two remaining wickets as quickly as possible. He wished us luck and we were away.

Mahes is of legendary status to the 1962 Royal team for being inspirational without being either obtrusive or patronising. Play started on time at 10:00 am on yet another fine day. Kevin Ruberu faced the first over of the day from me and in the fourth ball of the over he played down an in swinger towards Gowri at short leg, who, seeing Ruberu outside his crease, picked up the ball and tried to run him out but missed the wicket. With no one covering up, the ball reached the boundary giving Ruberu four free runs. However, CD soon cleaned up the innings. In the first ball of his second over of the day he had Kevin Ruberu out LBW for 12. The last man R. Abeyasundera played down his first ball from CD but was clean bowled by the next. St. Peter’s were all out for 30 runs. Although the last two partnerships doubled her total, it was a paltry score from a team with a much vaunted batting line up. CD finished the innings with 4 wickets for 14 runs and my final figures were 6 wickets for 7 runs.

Putting the game out of St Peter’s reach With a handy lead of 83 runs, twice St. Peter’s total, Shaw and Gowrie again put on 33 for the first wicket. Shaw was bowled by David Heyn in his first over. Ten runs later Gowrie was out stumped by Ravinda Fernando off the bowling of Travis Fernando. However, cushioned by a handy lead we were never under the same pressure as we were in the first innings. Hamsa and Vijaya took the score to 67 with some positive cricket when Vijaya was bowled by Maurice Decker who seemed to be bowling with increased pace. Sugi joined Hamsa and they batted steadily until Hamsa got an edge and was caught behind by Ravinda Fernando off Decker for 26. CD was in next, mistimed a hook off a short pitched ball from Decker and was caught by Abeyasundera with the score at 93 for 5. Sugi was out next bowled by Travis Fernando after making a useful 16. The next two wickets fell in rapid succession and I declared our second innings closed at 121 for 8 wickets.

Another early collapse Set a target of 205 in a little over 3 hours, the Peterites made another disastrous start when in the second over of the innings Ravinda Fernando hit a swinging full toss from CD to Thiagu’s safe hands at mid on without a run on the board. Tyrone Le Mercier was in next and along with Adithiya de Silva, immediately adopted the usual tactic of batting outside his crease in an attempt to counteract our swing bowling. However it made no difference. In the second ball of my fourth over I clean bowled Adithiya de Silva who was responsible for all four runs of the total up to that point. In walked a nervous looking Richard Heyn. He was clearly feeling the pressure and played down the first ball. He appeared to be shaping to cover drive the next delivery but the ball dipped in late and he was bowled for another duck. Le Mercier was next to go when CD trapped him into giving Vijaya a catch at slip. Losing 4 wickets for 4 runs was a worse start than the first innings and not what St Peter’s had hoped for. David Heyn hit me for a four to the cover boundary but played and missed several balls that were swinging away from him. A straight ball in the same over knocked back his middle stump with the total at 12. CD and I had bowled eight overs each and I thought we should have a break. Sugi, "Ganja" Mahroof and Thiagu shared the next nine overs, five of which were maidens and conceding only nine runs. CD and I then came back on.

Mopping up the tail Tissa Jayaweera and Maurice Decker slowly took the total to 37. Off the first ball of my eleventh over, another overthrow gave Decker a free 5 runs. This brought Jayaweera to face my next ball and he was bowled. The score became 7 for 42 when Bartlett was clean bowled off the first ball he faced giving me my second opportunity for a hat trick in the game. Kevin Ruberu played down the next ball to avert a hat trick, but was out in the last ball of my next over. Three wickets had fallen with the score at 42. The last two wickets fell at 44. A no ball and a single in CD’s eleventh over added to the total but Travis Fernando who had come in at the fall of the 8th wicket was clean bowled in the last ball of the same over.

Decker who was not out in the first innings was the only batsman to provide some resistance but seeing his efforts coming to naught and now joined by the last man he seemed to lose concentration and was well caught by Thiagu off my last ball of the game. We had won the game with an hour to spare. CD finished up the second innings with 3 wickets for 13 runs and my 7 wickets cost 17 runs.

A team effort

They say opening bowlers click in pairs and serve as an inspiration towards each other. I firmly believe that this was the case with CD and me in the years we opened bowling for Royal. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to members of the 1962 cricket team for their unreserved support at all times, on and off the field. Their loyalty is greatly appreciated to this day. I went on to produce bowling efforts which contributed to victories by teams at both club and national level. But no bowling and team effort gave me as much satisfaction as the victory against St Peter’s. As my cousin Eardley often reminds me - "It was not so much that St Peter’s failed to reach 50 in either innings, but that we throttled their batsmen to such an extent that dismissing them seemed an act of mercy".

It was truly my most memorable game of cricket.


Anyone who attempts to accurately capture events which took place 46 years ago is hugely indebted to the journalists of the time and their newspaper coverage. I am no exception. I wish to thank Thiagu and Eardley for their editorial assistance and for casting a critical eye over numerous drafts of the article. Eardley was one of the many excited spectators who cheered Royal on over the two days of February 1962 and relished the opportunity to relive that famous game through his involvement in the article.

I wish to thank Shaw, Vjjaya, Gowrie, CD, Thiagu and Tyrone Le Mercier (of St Peter’s domiciled in Melbourne) for filling information gaps and sharing their experiences of the match with me. Most of all, I wish to thank every person who represented Royal during the 1961-2 cricket season without whom it would not have been possible to develop the camaraderie that was so evident in the Peterite game when the game appeared to be slipping from our grasp during the early stages. I feel privileged to have played alongside such a talented and spirited bunch of cricketers.

R * O * Y * A * L - ROYAL!!!


Blogger Roger La Brooy said...

My father was also Eardley La Brooy who went to Royal Collge. He held many Ceylon Records in the High Jump (6'2 1/2" jumping scissor style) and in the 440 yds hurdles. I believe that he coached Duncan White to a silver medal in the '48 Olympics.

5:42 AM  
Blogger Saleem Islam said...

Some College, some team! These guys were my heroes; I even remember their bowling actions. Don't recall being at this particular match though - sad! I was at Royal Primary, Standards 5 and 6, 1961 and '62. At Royal College for 8 months in 1963 - before we left Heaven (Ceylon!). My late Dad was Acting High Commissioner for Pakistan in those days.
Would LOVE to connect with Classmates - Fernando (Class skipper at School), Steven, Akbar (Akki), Gunasekara (son of the Doctor/Cricketer), Hing Sing Chee, Rohan, Misbah, Macan Markar, 'Bandi' (can't remember the actual name), Hashim, Brian(?) ...

5:59 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home