THE GLORY DAYS OF ANTHONIAN CRICKET – BY Bernard VanCuylenburg
It seems that we are reliving the glory days of Anthonian cricket thanks to Tilak and now Frankie Amerasinghe, who have taken us back to that great College by the mighty Mahaveli where “we had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun” to quote the lines from a hit song of yesteryear. Recently Tilak and Frankie sent me interesting information of cricket in the mid fifties which I am forwarding to you. I am sure it will be appreciated by cricket enthusiasts and all true blue Anthonians.
Photos courtesy of Afzal Laphir’s book on Antonian Cricket compiled for the 100 years of Trininity vs Antonian Cricket.
GLORY DAYS THE FIRST INNINGS.
We have just lost a wicket and a deafening roar reverberates around the ground as the batsman just out, walks forlornly back to the pavilion regretting having lost his wicket by chancing his arm with a shot he might well have left alone. However, the ‘deafening roar’ is soon drowned out by waves of hearty applause for the new batsman walking in. He is Frankie Amerasinghe and he joins his partner at the other end Tilak Pananwala, hoping that they could get some runs on the board to bring up a respectable score.
That was the only metaphor I could conjure up to highlight Tilak and Frankie’s recent contributions which keep the dreams of the glory days of Anthonian cricket alive, and for the information they sent me which is reproduced here.
The following is the account which Frankie sent me from a magazine in his possession titled “Today at St.Anthony’s “. It was published in the first term of 1956 and makes special mention of one of the finest cricketers in the schoolboy cricket circuit that year, Anton Rambukpotha. Frankie states that the team in 1956 had three second year players. The rest were all ‘Freshers’. Wijeypala Premaratne, Anton Rambukpotha, and Adrian Berenger were some of the standout players that season, specially Anton due to his prowess with the bat. He is the focus of this article.
In the match against St.Peter’s college Anton scored 89. He followed this up with a scorching 122 in the match against St.Benedicts at Kotahena which the newspapers rated as ” the fastest century scored by a schoolboy this year”. Even today some Benedictines still remember this innings. Against Ananda college he scored 48. The Trinity – Anthonian “Big Match” was not played that year following a disagreement whether W.Premaratne could play or not, due to the age factor.
But harking back to the “Big Match” in 1955, Anton top scored in both innings. But the Trinitians had a stronghold on this game and it was only bad light which saved college ! We scored 167 and 128 for 8 wickets. Trinity scored 257 in their first innings. Anton scored 43 in the first innings and 50 in the second in which he was involved in a partnership of 90 for the first wicket with Srilal Seneviratne, before the rest of the innings began to totter ! Anton was also a brilliant wicket keeper, arguably the best in his time. At the university and in club cricket he brought much credit to college. He was also a brilliant soccer player and represented college playing centre forward.
Frankie’s boss was the well known legal luminary cum Industrial relations Guru Sriyan de Silva, who said that Anton was much loved in the university and later at The Land Reforms Commission where he was a director until his untimely death. I remember the day of his passing well. It was a Saturday morning. He developed a chest pain after a game of tennis at the Queen’s Club and Ranjit Samarasekera took him to hospital for a ‘check up’ hoping to pick him up later and take him home. But fate decreed otherwise. Anton passed away that same afternoon in hospital to the dismay and eternal sorrow of the Anthonian community and everybody who knew him. I was in town that morning and was aware that he was taken to hospital. It was an old Josephian who informed me of his death in the evening.
I was in the Junior “Mansion” when Anton was in “The Journey’s End”. But each time I met him he was the epitome of humility, and good manners – in a nutshell a ‘Gentleman’ in every sense of the word. It was William Shakespeare who said ” The Heavens themselves blaze forth the death of a Prince”. To which I can only add quoting from Shakespeare’s HAMLET, “Sleep on sweet Prince – may hosts of Angels sing thee to thy rest”.
THE SECOND INNINGS.
The following information which Tilak sent me highlights some interesting information on matches played between St.Anthony’s and St.Josephs. There are also fascinating “parallels”.
- – In our encounter against St.Josephs this year, they had to get 123 for victory and
failed. In the 1956 match against St.Joseph’s we had to score 123 for victory and
reached this total after a loss of seven wickets. It was M.Sherifdeen (later
Professor of Surgery) and Heen Banda who were at the crease and took us to
- – This was a game in which we suffered a heavy defeat with St.Joseph’s scoring
452 runs in the first innings against which we could manage only 142. Ronnie
Stephen (48) and Tom Deen (35) bolstered up our meagre total after Lafir was
dismissed facing the first ball of the innings. The saving grace was Lafir’s
fighting 99 in the second innings with 14 fours from a total of 219. Skipper
Bernard Weerakoon scored 53.
1954 – In the encounter with St.Joseph’s this year, the Anthonian last pair Sivananthan
and Cuthbert Pereira saved the day for us by hanging in there and playing for
time just as the Josephians did in 1948. But this game is remembered by
Anthonian and Josephian supporters alike for one redeeming moment – the
scintillating 6 sixers scored by Tom Deen when he despatched the ball to all parts
of the ground well over the ropes. One landed on the Bonjean tower, one in a
cycle repair shop on Darley Road directly opposite, and another in “The Home for
the Aged” in another area outside the ground. One could almost hear Judy
Garland singing (or rather paraphrasing !) the hit song “Somewhere over the
rainbow, balls fly high……!!!” The other three sixers were in a geographical sense
propelled by Deen using his bat like a magic wand, in completely different
1956 – This thrilling encounter resulted in a handsome win for college by three wickets.
In their first innings St.Joseph’s were bowled out for 51! The “Ceylon Daily News”
sports page carried the following headline ” Berenger and Joseph bowl with
venom as the Joes crash for 51 !” Our “much vaunted batting machine was
brought down to earth for 149,” to quote from Afzal’s book THE STORY OF
ANTHONIAN CRICKET. We got St.Joseph’s out for 221 in the second innings and
in reply the “Anthonian batting machine” almost ground to a halt when we were
reduced to 34 for 5 at one stage ! But quoting Afzal again, “Ranjit Doranagama
(47) and Srilal Seneviratne (33) helped stage a superb recovery and Charlie
Joseph and M.Sherrifdeen finished the game giving us victory by 3 wickets”.
1960 – In the 1960 encounter, the Josephian last pair dug in and saved the
game, just as Cuthbert Pereira and Sivananthan hung in strubbonly and saved
the game for college in 1954. This year, Charlie Joseph and Tissa De Zoysa
(St.Josephs) were heading the school batting averages and competing for “The
Schoolboy Cricketer” of the year award. Charlie scored 73, but Tissa was
dismissed cheaply and Charlie won the award. The icing on the cricketing cake
was that he won the “Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year” award in 1960 for the
second year in succession.
T.M.A.Cooray who was a member of the great 1948 team was the successful
coach of the teams in 1956 and 1960. The 1956 team has been considered by
many as the best ever, even better than the 1954 team ! It included a galaxy
of outstanding players : W.Premaratne (Captain), Ranjit Doranagama, Anton
Rambukpotha, Srilal Seneviratne, Adrian Berenger, Steven Joseph, Charlie
Joseph, Ranjit Samarasekera, A.F.Sheriffdeen, Heen Banda, Nihal Fernando, and
Thirunavakarasu. Premaratne became the first “Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year”
and the team comprised six centurions. The team was unbeaten and had victories
against St.Josephs, St.Peters, Kingswood, Dharmarajah, and Ananda.
St. Benedicts were saved by time and Trinity “escaped” because they withdrew
from the “Big Match” as Premaratne turned 20 on the day of the match !
As Tilak and Frankie walk back to the pavilion following a declaration, they are greeted with resounding applause. And I end this innings with the concluding lines from that song (Seasons in the Sun) which I quoted before: “But the wine and the song like the seasons have all gone……”
As long as cricketers like Tilak and Frankie play the gentleman’s game, there will be many more seasons in the sun, for all Anthonians and the cricket loving public to enjoy.