The 1st XI squad arrived at Heathrow on Boxing Day full of enthusiasm for a 12-day tour to Sri Lanka. Despite this being out of season, the squad had prepared diligently in the indoor nets during the autumn term. However, there was not a lot that could be done to prepare for the intense heat and humidity that greeted us as we landed on Sri Lankan soil.
The first fixture of the tour was against St Anthony’s College, Kandy - just down the hill from our beautiful hotel in the Amaya Hills. This is a Catholic school of 6,000 pupils, with their most notable alumnus being the great Muttiah Muralitharan who still holds the record for the most number of test wickets. A fantastic bowling and fielding display saw us restrict our opposition to 195-7. However, our first experience of some highly skilled Sri Lankan spinners was too much for our batsman to handle and we fell to a convincing defeat.
Our second fixture saw the squad privileged to play at the Asgiriya Old Test Stadium and they did not disappoint. Keen to rectify the batting fragilities from the previous game, Captain Sinan Mahmud took the bold decision to bat first after winning the toss. An excellent 73* from Will Ellis ably supported with 46 from Ivan Barker saw us post a competitive 205-8. Despite a few wobbles late on, we held our nerve with the ball to record an outstanding victory. We subsequently enjoyed a traditional Kandyan dance show back at the hotel followed by a lovely BBQ that the hotel staff kindly put on for us before we departed to Colombo for the second leg of the tour.
The journey to Colombo was broken up by visits to the Pinnawalla Elephant Orphanage, a rural tea factory and a spice garden, which all provided a great insight into the local Sri Lankan culture. The squad then checked into the grand Mount Lavinia Hotel, a former colonial residence, which would be our base for the next two fixtures.
Fixtures 3 and 4 followed a similar pattern. Fantastic bowling and fielding displays were not enough to mask the struggles that the batting line up had against some very skilful bowling. Fixture 4 against Hemantha Devapriya College was the most exciting. A meagre total of 130 all out left us with a very slim chance of victory at the lunch interval. Our opposition were cruising at 90-3 - however, an unbelievable spell of 6-15 from Ollie Olby (who was hugely impressive throughout the tour) saw us reduce them to 124-9 placing us on the brink of a remarkable victory. Unfortunately, we could not quite claim the all important 10th wicket and we fell to an agonising defeat. The squad did not let this dampen their spirits and we enjoyed a wonderful banquet and firework display at the hotel to see in the new year 2019 together.
Before the journey south to Beruwala for the final leg of the tour, we stopped off at some markets in Colombo. The boys enjoyed haggling with the locals for the best prices and some interesting purchases were made!
Matches 5 and 6 were played at a wonderfully picturesque ground funded by the MCC and Surrey cricket. However, the heat down south intensified and the physical effects of a heavy fixture load took their toll and we were beaten by strong opposition in both games. Ernest Pretzlik’s 62 in a mammoth 34 over innings was the standout individual performance. A special mention must also go to Sacha Banks and Elliot Powell who both bowled brilliantly for the duration of the tour.
However, the lasting memory of our stay in Beruwala was visiting the Bhamian Buddha Statue, which was erected to commemorate those villagers that lost their lives in the 2004 tsumani. Even though the limited infrastructure in the area had recovered, there were still visible signs, 14 years later, of the sheer devastation that the tsumani caused which was incredibly sobering to see.
I would like to thank the whole squad who all worked hard in the lead up to the tour to raise charitable funds for cricket equipment that we could give away to our Sri Lankan hosts. Many of the boys also donated much of their own equipment and our hosts were very humbled by this generosity.
This was a fantastic experience for all concerned and the squad were a credit to both themselves and the school throughout the tour. I would also like to thank Mr Hanson for his sterling work in managing the logistics of the tour while the boys were focused on the cricket.
We cannot wait for the summer term and the school season to begin!
Mr Gwynne (Director of Cricket)
Upper sixth: Sinan Mahmud, Sacha Banks, Ivan Barker, Will Ellis
Lower sixth: James Ash Vie, Julius Bennett, Ben Emerson, Ernest Pretzlik, Ben Thesiger, Ollie Olby, Jake Shaw
Year 11: Jude Todd-Warmoth, Elliot Powell