Mevan Pieris, in an email note to a relative who sent him the first of these images
“I remember the incident very clearly. Duleep Mendis was batting superbly, striking the Australian bowlers with great ease on a perfect and placid London Oval pitch. He was about 35 runs when Thompson was re-introduced into the attack for his second spell. Thompson was unimaginably fast (100 mph) and deadly as the ball was slung by him with a whipping action and would cut back to the right hander off the pitch. The particular delivery which felled Duleep I saw clearly: it was pitched short outside the off stump and Mendis shaped for a sizzling cut which was his favourite shot. But alas, the ball cut back and struck him right in the centre of the temple.
Our dressing room was upstairs in the main Oval Pavillion. As Mendis sank to the ground, Denis Chanmugam and I ran to the pitch instantly. I found Duleep in a hopeless situation with his eye balls turning upwards. Denis and I lifted him up and carried him back to the pavilion. Mendis was made of steel and you can see him even in this hopeless situation shielding his eyes from the burning sun.The guy immediately behind Mendis is the manager KMT Perera and the other batsman is Anura Tennekoon who was batting with Duleep at that time. First aid at the Oval was hopelessly organized and not even a stretcher was available to carry him back. London Oval is one of the largest grounds in the world. As Denis and I were in prime condition we were able to carry him a 100 yards to the pavilion in this way without straining ourselves. You can also see Duleep clinging on to my shoulder which meant he was sufficiently alert and indeed he recovered pretty fast to continue with the tour.
These were days when the batsmen faced the fastest bowlers in the world sans protective gear that’s seen today. This is one of the main reasons why batting performances of today cannot be compared with the great performances of the past. This incident led to the introduction of protective head gear.
Receiving this image stoked old memories, thanks. Such memories from my cricketing days still linger often in my mind.”
EDITORS’S NOTE: Mendis was 32 not out when hit. Earlier in the innings Sunil Wettimuny was hit on the ankle by Geoff Thomson after scoring 53 runs and had to retire. I believe Thomson threw the wicket down and appealed for run out as Wettimuny was writhing on the ground, but the two umpires would have none of that. Australia had batted first and amassed 328 runs for the loss of 5 wickets (60 overs). Sri Lanka responded bravely and ended with 276 for 4 wkts – even after two of their batsmen were rendered hors de combat. The score table is reproduced at the end of the article.
The Australian players gather around Sunil Wettimuny after he was struck in the chest by a Jeff Thomson delivery, Australia v Sri Lanka, World Cup, The Oval, June 11, 1975 ©PA Photos
Note that Sri Lanka had been shot out for 86 runs by the West Indian pacemen at the Old Trafford in Manchester earlier in the series.
I insert images of the tour in reverse order, beginning with the cricket at Kennington, including the ‘prelude’ when young Tamil men invaded the field in a political protest, and photographs of the Sri Lankan squad before they left for England where they played in the ICC tournament before participating in the inaugural World Cup. Anura Ranasinghe bowls–PAPhotos Rick McCosker is bowled–Getty
A Tamil protester is forcibly carried away –Getty Images. HSM Pieris can be seen in the left background.
This leaflet is an invaluable historical document (of the type normally lost) that has been recovered by the awareness of SS Perera. It is also reproduced in Michael Roberts, Crosscurrents. Sri Lanka and Australia at Cricket, Sydney, Walla Walla Press, 1998
Standing L-to-R; Duleep Mendia, Lalith Kaluperuma, Sunil Wettimuny, Tony Opatha, HSM Pieiris, DLS de Silva, Dennis Chanmugam, Anura Ransinghe, Bandula Warnapura, Seated L-to-R: David Heyn, Anura Tennekoon, KMT Perera, Michael Tissera, Ranjit Fernando.
The training squad with the bus that took them up to Nuwara Eliya for seasoning and training under a rigorous regime directed by Raja Wickremesinghe (ex-Richmond & Peradeniya & SLAF). Raja and KMT Perera (Manager) are standing on the right with HSM Pieris squating on the extreme right and Anura Tennekoon & Tony Opatha just in front of them –Pic courtesy of Anura Tennekoon
The initial training squad after a practice match in Colombo Duleep Mendis of St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa and S. Thomas’ College, Mount seen batting against India
Prudential World Cup, 7th Match: Australia v Sri Lanka at The Oval, Jun 11, 1975
|Australia innings (60 overs maximum)||R||B||4s||6s||SR|
|RB McCosker||b de Silva||73||111||2||0||65.76|
|A Turner||c Mendis b de Silva||101||113||9||1||89.38|
|IM Chappell*||b Kaluperuma||4||7||1||0||57.14|
|GS Chappell||c Opatha b Pieris||50||50||5||1||100.00|
|KD Walters||c Tennekoon b Pieris||59||66||5||0||89.39|
|JR Thomson||not out||9||7||0||0||128.57|
|RW Marsh†||not out||9||7||0||0||128.57|
|Extras||(b 1, lb 20, w 1, nb 1)||23|
|Total||(5 wickets; 60 overs)||328||(5.46 runs per over)|
Did not batR Edwards, MHN Walker, DK Lillee, AA Mallett
|DS de Silva||12||3||60||2||5.00|
|Sri Lanka innings (target: 329 runs from 60 overs)||R||B||4s||6s||SR|
|SRD Wettimuny||retired hurt||53||102||7||0||51.96|
|ER Fernando†||b Thomson||22||18||4||0||122.22|
|B Warnapura||st †Marsh b Mallett||31||39||5||0||79.48|
|LRD Mendis||retired hurt||32||45||5||0||71.11|
|APB Tennekoon*||b IM Chappell||48||71||6||0||67.60|
|MH Tissera||c Turner b IM Chappell||52||72||7||0||72.22|
|AN Ranasinghe||not out||14||18||3||0||77.77|
|HSM Pieris||not out||0||3||0||0||0.00|
|Extras||(b 6, lb 8, w 8, nb 2)||24|
|Total||(4 wickets; 60 overs)||276||(4.60 runs per over)|
Did not batARM Opatha, DS de Silva, LWS Kaluperuma
Points – Australia 4, Sri Lanka 0
Player of the match – A Turner (Australia)
- LRD Mendis retired hurt at 150/2
- SRD Wettimuny retired hurt at 164/2