St. Joseph’s all out for 23 runs. That is what we read in the newspapers a few weeks back. It happened during the 1st innings of St. Joseph’s College (SJC), Maradana, against Thurstan College, in the Under-19 Division 1 inter-school match played at Thurstan grounds. The SJC scorecard was reminiscent of a mobile phone number: [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

St. Joseph’s shot out for 23 in 1926, and again 90 years later


Dineth Madurawala became the timely hero for the depleted Josephians

St. Joseph’s all out for 23 runs. That is what we read in the newspapers a few weeks back. It happened during the 1st innings of St. Joseph’s College (SJC), Maradana, against Thurstan College, in the Under-19 Division 1 inter-school match played at Thurstan grounds. The SJC scorecard was reminiscent of a mobile phone number: 0 4 2 0 1 0 4 5 1 4 0.

The additional 2 runs that came off as extras turned out to be a bonus. The highest scorer of the innings was No. 8 batsman Jehan Fernandopulle who remained unbeaten on 5!

Medium pacer Charana Nanayakkara who was introduced into the attack as first change, returned with the incredible figures, 8 for 15 in just 4.5 overs.

Surprisingly, at stumps, on the first day, SJC were batting again, 120 runs behind with only 6 wickets in hand.

Meanwhile, Thurstan had been all out for 227- (Yeshan Wickramarachchi 69, Nipun Lakshan 38, Charana Nanayakkara 20, S. Prabash 19, Kasun Abeyratne (Capt.) 18, Nimesh Lakshan 18, Jehan Daniel 5 for 81).

History reveals that, there was another identical innings in SJC cricket; a similar batting debacle. In 1926, at Bogambara grounds, Kandy, SJC were bundled out for a meagre 23 runs, by St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota (SACK). Led by Peter Halahackone, SJC batted first and totalled 60 runs. Only three batsmen, wicket-keeper F. Goonewardene (11 n.o.), H. Sproule (11) and No. 10 W. Abeysekera (12) entered double-figures. Bowling honours were shared by G.R.S. Baie (3 for 20) and W.N. Perera (5 for 15).

SACK replied with 136 (G.R.S. Baie 29, R. Bolling 30, V. Henley 15, A.K. Omar 17, G. Meynert 13, V.S. Samaraweera 5 for 49) and thereafter, caused a dramatic SJC batting collapse in the 2nd innings. Recording one of the lowest team totals in their cricket history, SJC mustered only 23 runs in their 2nd essay. H. Sproule and U.C. Fernando shared the highest score of the innings with 6 runs each! SACK winning by an innings and 53 runs.

The SJC scorecard in the 2nd innings read: P. Halahackone 0, V.C. Samaraweera 3, B. Perera 1, M. Vanrooyen 0, H. Sproule 6, H. Mayo 3, F. Goonewardene 0, S. Dissanayake 3, U.C. Fernando 6 not out, W.D.M. Abeysekera 0 and H.E.W. de Zylva 1: Total 23.

V. Henley (9-4-7-3) and SACK skipper G.R.S. Baie (11.5-7-10-4) were the chief wreckers.

Until then, it was the lowest score by an SJC cricket team against any school at senior level cricket. Prior to that 1926 match, their lowest total against SACK was in 1915, when they were routed for 49 runs in a “Whole Day” match played at Bogambara grounds. Incidentally, the credit of being the highest scorer of this total of 49 was shared by the SJC last pair in F. Peiris (10 n.o.) and B. Gunewardena (10). In turn, SACK spared only the opening bowling pair to rout the opponents in less than 20 overs; J. Carter 10-4-22-6 and V. Rosayro 9.1-3-23-4. Brief scores of the 1915 match: St. Joseph’s 49 and 195 (Oswin Wright 49, G. Ranawaka 41, J.P. de Fonseka 34) lost to St. Anthony’s, Kandy (122 and 127 for 2 – Jack Anderson 58 n.o., C.P. Stephens 59 n.o.) by 8 wickets.

A list of low scores in SJC cricket against other traditional rivals till that batting debacle in 1926 read: 46 against St. Benedict’s in 1916, 56 against St. Thomas’ in 1907 at Victoria Park, 52 against Trinity in 1923 at Asgiriya and 86 against Wesley in 1905 at Darley Road. In February 1909 at the SSC grounds – Victoria Park, SJC were restricted to a modest score of 44 by the Royal College bowlers in a historic match where both schools were unable to reach the 100-run mark in their respective innings. The result: Royal College 91 (J.M. Arunachalam 36, R.V. Britto 7 for 45) and 75 (E. Samarasinghe 15) beat SJC (58 and 44) by 64 runs. W.G.L. Wambeck of Royal College claimed a match bag of 9 wickets. Amazingly, not a single SJC batsman was able to enter double figures in fully completed two innings; highest scorers being openers I. Abeywickrema and S.A. Silva with 9 runs each in the 1st innings and tail-ender D. Walles also with same score in the 2nd innings. Interestingly, a few weeks later at the same venue, Royal College opening bowlers W.G.L Wambeck and J.M. Arunachalam bowled 49 overs unchanged against Wesley College!

In comparison to the SACK match in 1926, where SJC defied the SACK attack for 35.5 overs to score 23 runs, in their recent match against Thurstan College in October 2016, the SJC batsmen were able to occupy the wicket only for 13.5 overs! Perhaps, this is the shortest innings at senior level in SJC cricket history dating back from 1898. Another amazing feature was that only the SJC opening batsmen Nipun Samarasinghe and Revan Kelly were able to stay at the wickets for more than 10 deliveries.

Anyhow, unlike the 1926 match against SACK, the recently concluded SJC-Thurstan match was to provide more sparkling moments, contrary to expectations.

With SJC losing the top four batsmen Thashan Perera (12), Revan Kelly (5), Nipun Samarasinghe (9), being victims once again of Thurstan pacie Charana Nanayakkara and Jehan Daniel (21), experienced U-19 national player, early in the 2nd innings on day 1, the scorecard itself indicated what the result of the match would be.

The SSJC-Thurstan cricketing rivalry which commenced in 1974, is replete with a good number of matches ending as “tame draws”. Hence, at the conclusion of the 1st day’s play, it looked as if the chances were very remote for SJC even to escape with a draw.

How could you expect a fight back, with over 100 runs in arrears and four top-order batsmen back in the pavilion, and above all, with one whole day’s play remaining? The match looked all over. The visiting team looked doomed even before the commencement of the 2nd day’s play. But amazingly, it was not to be. SJC batted throughout the day with great resolve to save the match and created history.

When play resumed at 84 for 4 on the 2nd day morning, overnight batsmen Dineth Madurawala and Pahan Perera continued their innings calmly, as if a new match had just commenced. It was the beginning of a fighting yet, exciting rearguard action. They carried the score up to 153 in a partnership of 84 runs, before Pahan Perera was out for a well compiled 42. Another classic partnership was to follow, between Madurawala and Shevon Fonseka.

At 208, SJC lost their 6th wicket, Shevon Fonseka for 44 runs. Newcomer Jehan Fernandopulle settled down for a while, showing the face of his bat back to the bowler, again and again, and was out for 9 runs off 57 balls, when the new ball was taken just before the tea break. At tea, SJC were 232 for 7- only 28 runs ahead with 3 wickets remaining- still facing certain defeat. Overnight batsman Dineth Madurawala was there at the crease, 78 not out.

Another long partnership was to follow. Skipper Harin Cooray replicating his defensive approach shown during the latter stages of the ‘Joe-Pete’ match last year, was involved in another invaluable partnership of 32 runs. Although his contribution was only 4 singles, importantly, he defied the attack for nearly one-and-a-half hours, facing 41 deliveries. Patience was the hallmark of his innings. With his departure, the scoreboard read 263 for 8; a slender lead of 59 runs. At that stage, time permitted at least another 22 overs. SJC were yet to enter calm waters and absolute safety.

At 268, SJC lost their 9th wicket- Havin Perera, and it was left to the last pair in Dineth Madurawala and Ruchira Ekanayake to negotiate the remaining 19.3 overs.

Associating themselves in a gallant match-saving partnership, they remained unbeaten till the end, thus preventing a possible outright defeat. Dinesh Madurawala 144 n.o. and Ruchira Ekanayake 7 in 47 deliveries.

Dineth Madurawala’s unbeaten knock of 144 in 361 balls amply depicts his staying power at the wicket, a rare ingredient in modern day school cricket. As pointed out by former SJC cricketer and sports coordinator at SJC, Susilough de S. Wijeyeratne, this youngster had faced exactly 50% of the deliveries bowled by the opponents in the 2nd innings. During SJC’s 2nd innings, he was at the wicket for nearly one hour on day 1 and, as the overnight batsman, occupied the crease whole of day 2, making it an overall 483-minute stay at the middle. Certainly, it will be recorded as one of the finest match-saving knocks in recent times in school cricket in Sri Lanka. It is also recorded as one of the longest individual innings played by an SJC batsman; also one of the longest team innings seen in SJC cricket. Unbelievably, the match also had the shortest innings in SJC cricket (all out in only 13.5 overs) as well as one of the lowest team totals in their cricket history. It all happened in one and the same match!

When talking about long match-saving innings in SJC cricket, it reminds me a couple of classic instances; SJC vs Wesley College in 1983 and the Joe-Pete match in 2005. In 1983, at Campbell Park, SJC skipper Hiran Cabraal and Brian Rajadurai performed a “marvelous rescue act” to save their team, after being placed in a precarious position of 69 for 5 wickets at one stage in their 2nd innings, early in the day. Their long partnership saw SJC escape possible defeat, and also passing the 300-run mark. Skipper Hiran Cabraal top scored with a majestic 174 (a six, 20 fours and a five) whilst Brian Rajadurai, who is better known as a spinner, also recorded a fine century- 118 runs with 17 boundaries.

Similarly, at the Colombo Oval in the 2005 Joe-Pete match, with SJC reeling at 94 for 4 in their 2nd essay, and ample time remaining, Angelo Mathews (102 n.o.) held the innings together with Roshane Silva (58), not only to save SJC from an embarrassing position, but also set St. Peter’s a target of 210 runs.

The result of the SJC-Thurstan match (2016): As per tournament rules, Thurstan College won on 1st innings. Traditionally, a 2-day schools’ encounter with no outright result, is considered as ‘drawn’. But for SJC, I believe, that ‘draw’ is worth a great victory. Anyhow, the fact remains that never an SJC team struggled so much against Thurstan College, as it did in the recently concluded match.

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