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February 2011
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oldie cricketers Oldies step up to the crease
Jon Swain continues his recollection of the U-17s’ Sri Lanka cricket tour

St Anthony’s School proved too strong batting first, which again meant our boys were exhausted in their innings, losing by a large margin, with the spinners proving deadly in the high temperature.

We moved on to Colombo, where we stayed at a ‘Five-Star’ hotel which could have shown Basil Fawlty a trick or two in dealing with its clientele. We re-named it in a competition, with ‘The Imodium Palace’ winning from other suggestions that cannot be printed in a family publication. The result was disastrous for some of our players, who succumbed to ‘Delhi Belly’ in droves. After we won the third match against Thurston College, with a magnificent maiden century from one of the players, the rot set in and the next day our team was significantly depleted. One of the fathers (your correspondent) was pressed into action, nervously contemplating his international debut at the age of 51…

Matters took a turn for the worse as another player was stricken on arrival at the wonderful Tamil Union Stadium, one of two Test venues in Colombo. Another father, Guy Morgan, also of The Lee CC, was the second adopted ‘U17’ as a result.

Whilst both of us were envious of the players performing in earlier games, malicious gossip that we had spiked the food of the boys so we could get a game was completely without foundation. Both of us felt we fielded with some agility and despite losing the toss and fielding first we kept the score to a manageable level. Two of the players from The Lee, Alex and Matt, bowled magnificent spells, Alex leading by example as captain for the day.

Spinners played hardball
Our innings began really well, the openers putting on 96. However those dastardly spinners got to work again, and we fell behind the rate. Matters were not helped when the author ran out the centurion from the previous match. Clearly 17-year-olds aren’t as fast as they used to be. This proved fatal to the run chase, although light relief was provided by the sight of a 51-year-old clubbing two sixes off a diminutive 13-year-old leg spinner.

We fell a little short of our target, with Guy Morgan facing allegations of hiding from the bowling in a last wicket partnership. We were both delighted and felt privileged, to have the chance to play on a Test ground where the world’s greatest have performed: from Don Bradman to Ian Botham, Shane Warne et al. Only in August, VVS Laxman scored a century and Sachin Tendulkar 90-odd for India on the same ground.

Five players from The Lee CC were in the team, even though Matt and Jules were suffering from the bug, showing that we breed ‘em tough in the village. Happily the lads who’d been too ill to play recovered to take part in the next game against Wesley College which resulted in another good win, with another wonderful century (160*) from Henry. Alex scored an excellent 50 too, to follow others earlier in the tour.

Rumble in the jungle
We then left the delights of Colombo and headed for Beruwala on the south-west coast, where we saw grim reminders of the Tsunami damage when so many lives were lost. Our last game was a marvellous 20/20 match when, chasing 184, we fell nine runs short after a great start by Henry again (63 this time) and Jules (48) put on 117 in 10 overs. Sixes disappeared into the jungle repeatedly.

A great tour: wonderful opponents, superb curries (for breakfast if you were brave enough), magnificent venues (can you imagine a junior club side from Sri Lanka getting the chance to play at Lords and Old Trafford?) and above all, the chance to experience a wonderfully diffuse culture at first hand. Our young players learnt a lot, particularly when we handed over donations of kit to two young Tamils from the north, representatives of those orphaned by the terrible civil war, and coming from internment camps. All they want to do is to be allowed to play cricket. That reminded us all how lucky we are.
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