Errol Fernando: BIG MATCH 1959
My strongest memory of the Big Match 1959 is that our captain, Nimal Maralande, was banned from playing because he would be twenty on the second day of the game. This rule had been implemented by the Principal of Trinity because for years we suspected that the Anthonians included overage players in their teams. It was therefore ironical that in 1959 this very rule dealt a massive blow to Trinity.
I was particularly devastated because I had known Nimal from my very first day at Trinity as a seven-year-old in Matron’s Dormitory. He was my cricket captain in Junior School, Ryde House and for two years in the First Eleven and was the only captain I ever played under.
The player who took over the captaincy for the Big Match was Malsiri Kurukulasuriya. He was our star batsman and probably one of the finest batsmen Trinity ever produced. My greatest joy was to bat with him and watch him from twenty-two yards! He had no experience as a captain, however, and this made us very apprehensive.
The Anthonians won the toss, batted first and made a challenging total. Star bowler Eric Roles was not at his best probably because he was trying too hard, as he later told me. I recall, however, that Russel van Rooyen bowled magnificently and took four wickets. The delivery that clean bowled Charlie Joseph was superb.
When it was our turn to bat I am sure that I was more tense and nervous than usual as I prepared to face the first ball of our innings. I felt even worse when we lost early wickets including the prize wicket of captain Malsiri. The Anthonians, of course, were ecstatic. I do not recall any actual sledging but they made it very clear to me that they were absolutely sure of winning the match. The effect that this had on me was to increase my concentration and make me more determined than ever. If Trinity was going to lose then they would lose over my dead body!
I had two very useful partnerships with Seneca de Chickera and Eric Roles who both batted beautifully and enabled us to eventually save the game. Recently Eric told me that when he came in to bat I walked up to him and instructed him to say the word “concentrate” three times before facing each ball. My advice, however, did not stop him from hitting a towering six over midwicket in the direction of the jacaranda tree. The ball was lost and Eric was promptly dismissed with the softer replacement ball. When he returned to the pavilion he inevitably received a severe reprimand from coach Tuffy. He was fortunate not to also receive a Tuffy kanay!
Apparently, my instruction greatly helped Eric not only during his innings in the Big Match but also during his entire cricket career. At present he is a cricket coach in Perth and has coached Australian opening batsman Cameron Bancroft. I am not sure whether Eric ever passed on my advice to Cameron!
Another very strong memory I have of the Big Match is that after I was eventually dismissed for 86 and returned to the dressing room I was met by coach Tuffy. No word was spoken but he simply walked up to me and shook my hand. When I mentioned this to Eric recently he was completely overcome. The hand that dished out innumerable kanays had been silently extended to me after my innings. To Eric this was the greatest honour I could ever have received!
I left school about a week after the Big Match. I was glad to have made a contribution in such an important game and it was a good way to end my stay in the Best School of All!