Cricket hits of the ’60s
ST Peter’s has a proud sporting heritage, with cricket and rugby holding sway in the near nine decades of its existence.
The college can parade an impressive line-up of old Peterites who have gone on to cover themselves in glory at national and international level. Cricket, by virtue of its annual big match, has been the biggest drawcard and some memorable performances have gone into the pages of our history.
So, which decade has produced the best cricket teams?
I believe the best have been the 1950s and ‘60s, with the latter gaining a slight edge because of the surge in the game’s popularity in the country.
My first introduction to cricket at St Peter’s was as a nine-year-old when I watched Adiel Anghie fluently stroke his way to a century in the big match against St Joseph’s at Bambalapitiya. Anghie was all elegance and his 101 was spiced with some wonderful cover drives.
My interest peaked when my two cousins Richard and David skippered teams in the early ‘60s and there were some big hitters in the teams. I remember Richard playing a straight lofted drive for six, with the ball being fished out of the canal by our groundsman.
Cricket, to me, took on a magical quality in 1965. It was the last time the big match was played at Bambalapitiya and skipper Travis Fernando signed off in style. The left-armer mesmerised the Joes with his spin and then opener Darrel Wimalaratne led a dashing chase of a victory target of 94 runs in 50 minutes. The first ball Wimalaratne faced was hooked for six, with the ball landing in the pavilion’s upper level among the feet of the dignitaries.
As I moved into the First XI late in the decade, I was privileged to see the development of the most technically proficient batsman Sri Lanka has produced. Roy Dias was a master of timing and his fluency on the offside was a treat to watch.
Dias went on to be a part of the national team that set the platform for the great things that followed. One of the most endearing sights for me are the three consecutive fours he struck off Ian Botham – all perfectly timed cover drives – to reach his half century in the inaugural Test against England in 1982. Dias’s innings of 77 can be viewed on YouTube.
After seeing so much of the cricket in the ‘60s, I found it an interesting exercise to pick the team of the decade.
It is also interesting to note that a high proportion of ‘60s players would be included in an all-time great Peterite side.
Two players from the ‘50s who would walk into the side are Clive Inman, who hit an unbeaten 204 in 1954, and H I K Fernando, who in later years was widely regarded as the best wicket-keeper in Asia. Then adding venom to the team is that magnificent left-arm paceman Dion Walles who captured 21 Josephian wickets in 1946-47.
Clive Inman, by weight of his huge cricketing exploits (he once held the world record of 32 runs in an over, subsequently broken by Sir Garfield Sobers) gets the nod as captain.
Cricketers from later years making it into the side are Rohan Buultjens and national caps Russell Arnold and Rumesh Ratnayake.
As a journalist, I covered the Joe-Pete encounter in 1979 and watched in awe as Buultjens tore into the Joes to register twin unbeaten centuries.
PETERITE TEAM OF THE ‘60s
Adiel Anghie (wicket-keeper), Darrel Wimalaratne, Roy Dias, David Heyn, Peter De Niese, Tyrone Le Mercier, Rodney Paternott, Travis Fernando (Captain), Tony Opatha, Maurice Deckker, Anton Perera. 12th man: Rory Inman. Reserves: Hamish Paternott, Denham Juriansz and Stephen de Niese.
ALL-TIME GREAT TEAM
Adiel Anghie, Russell Arnold, Roy Dias, Clive Inman (Captain), David Heyn, Rohan Buultjens, H.I.K. Fernando (wicket-keeper), Tony Opatha, Rumesh Ratnayake, Travis Fernando and Dion Walles. 12th Man: Rory Inman. Reserves: Rodney Paternott, Tyrone Le Mercier and Peter De Niese.
Join the discussion: Who would you nominate in your Peterite all-time great team? Send us your teams of the 1950s, ’70s, 80s, ’90s, or 2000s. Write to us at email@example.com.