Sri Lanka’s International Cricket Venues Yesterday and Today

Andrew Fidel Fernando, courtesy of The Lions of Sri Lanka, where the title is “Sri Lanka’s international venues”

P Saravanamuttu Oval

The most storied of Sri Lanka’s venues, the Oval has seen some of Sri Lanka’s greatest Tests. It is the only Asian venue to have been graced by the legendary Australian batsman Don Bradman, who brought his 1948 “Invincibles” side to play a match at the Oval, during their stopover in Colombo, en route to that year’s Ashes in England. The Oval also hosted Sri Lanka’s debut Test, against England, in 1982.

Sathi Coomaraswamy beats Bradman at the Oval 1948

 

A scene at the Oval in 2017 with Luke Slattery at his best ….

Through the years, some exceptional Sri Lanka players have honed their craft at this ground. The game’s most prolific international bowler Muttiah Muralitharan played much of his first-class cricket at the Oval, and the ground was also a home venue for Rangana Herath, Test-cricket’s most-successful left-armer. M Sathasivam, who is widely believed to be Sri Lanka’s greatest pre-Test batsman, played the majority of his cricket here as well.

Though several new buildings have been erected on the ground’s periphery, the Oval retains much of its old world charm. The ivy-covered scoreboard is a particular delight, as is the low-slung Tryphon Mirando stand, lined with rows of mahogany benches.

Owing to the bowler-friendly nature of the Oval’s pitch, it is perhaps the most result-oriented venue in the world, with only one draw having taken place there in the last 22 years. Although the Oval offers plenty of turn to spinners, it is also renowned for bounce and carry, which means that fast bowlers generally enjoy bowling there as well.

Sinhalese Sports Club

Wide open grass banks and rustic stands characterise this venue, which has been home to the Sinhalese Sports Club since 1952. Once the site of a World War II aerodrome, the SSC hosted its first Test in 1984, and is now also a hub of cricket administration – Sri Lanka Cricket and the Asian Cricket Council having set up their headquarters in buildings adjoining the ground.

The venue has been a breeding ground for some of Sri Lanka’s best. Two great captains, Arjuna Ranatunga and Mahela Jayawardene, both played their first-class cricket at the SSC, while the likes of Duleep Mendis, Thilan Samaraweera, and Roy Dias have also called it their home ground. Located in one of Colombo’s leafiest neighbourhoods, the SSC is also set adjacent to a number of first class venues; Nondescripts Cricket Club is next door, Colombo Cricket Club across the road, and Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club only a few minutes’ drive away.

The pitch here is more suited to batting than most in the country, but still generally offers fast bowlers plenty of movement on the first morning of a Test, before spinners gain rapid turn on later days.

 R Premadasa International Cricket Stadium

The most-recognisable limited overs venue in Sri Lanka; one which has hosted a World Cup semi-final and a World T20 final, the R Premadasa Stadium – colloquially called Khettarama – has seen more than its share of thrillers. Set in Colombo’s northern reaches, Khettarama has gained a reputation as a people’s ground, with the venue easily accessible to residents of nearby neighbourhoods. At capacity it stands and terraces can hold 35,000 spectators, delivering a vibrant atmosphere unlike any other in the country.

Khettarama hosted its first ODI in 1986, and in the early nineties, became the first Sri Lanka venue to be fitted with floodlights. The record for highest Test score was set here in 1997, when Sri Lanka made 952 for 7 against India.

In 2010 the Khettarama outfield and stands were overhauled in preparation for the 2011 World Cup. Sri Lanka won the quarter-final and semi-final of that tournament here – Muttiah Muralitharan taking his last international wicket on home soil in the process.

Galle Cricket Stadium

One of the most unique vistas in cricket, with the brooding grey of the sixteenth-century Dutch Fort in the background and the cobalt of the Indian Ocean on either side, Galle is a favourite ground among many players, and is a destination venue for international fans. The ground also offers perhaps the best free view in cricket, with matches visible from the Fort ramparts, which overlook the ground.

The ground hosted its inaugural first-class game in 1984, before becoming a Test venue in 1998, but having hosted 11 Tests, the venue faced disaster in 2004, when it was caught up in the devastating Asian Tsunami. Thanks to fundraising efforts, however, it has since been restored to its former glory. Test cricket resumed there in 2007.

The surface at Galle has become reputed as one of the toughest examinations of batting technique against spin. Muttiah Muralitharan claimed more than 100 wickets at the venue, and it was here that effected took his 800th dismissal. In the years since Murali’s retirement, Rangana Herath had made Galle his favourite hunting grounds as well, also claiming 100 wickets at the venue.

Although it is the spinners who are often the greater threat at Galle, reverse swing has also been regularly seen, ensuring that seamers are not completely without assistance at this venue. The sea breeze that blows across the ground can also aid conventional swing with the new ball.

the PIC in Lions of Lanka – a professional shot …. in contrast to the two in my computer files “

Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium

Dambulla Stadium was Sri Lanka’s first dry-zone venue, and as such is capable of hosting matches when the Colombo, Galle and Kandy venues are beset by bad weather. Set in a beautiful location overlooking the Dambulla reservoir, the ground is also situated near the town’s cave temple, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The ground hosted its first ODI in 2001, before receiving its first set of floodlights two years later. The floodlights were later upgraded in 2016, to bring them into compliance with international standards. The venue now regularly hosts limited-overs internationals.

 Pallekele International Cricket Stadium

Another of Sri Lanka’s endlessly captivating venues, Pallekele stadium is perched amid the peaks east of Kandy, and offers sensational views of the Hunnasgiriya range. Although initially built for the World Cup, it has taken over from the Asgiriya Stadium as the hill country’s premier Test ground as well.

The surface at Pallekele often excites quick bowlers, with seam and swing on offer, especially under lights. The cooler temperatures in the hills also provide relief from the heat and humidity of the low-country venues

Fringed by grass banks, and with stands at either end, Pallekele features one of Sri Lanka’s biggest and most-detailed scoreboards, the top of which offers breathtaking views towards the west. Of Sri Lanka’s Test-match venues, Pallekele boasts the best facilities for teams, media and broadcasters.

Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium

With towering stands, and an enormous playing area, this stadium dwarfs the surrounding jungle, and presents unique challenges to players. Often beset by a crosswind in the afternoon, teams often form their strategies to take advantage of the conditions – batsmen often aiming to hit with the wind, while captains protect one side of the field heavily.

Having been built for the 2011 World Cup, the Mahinda Rajapaksa Stadium is the most far-flung of Sri Lanka’s major venues, with no cities of substantial size in the vicinity. Due to the size of its main grandstand, and the sweeping grass banks that fringe the venue, the ground has an estimated seating capacity of 35,000.

SOORIYAWEWA” as I call the place as displayed in the LIONS book

ENDS 

A NOTE = the three photographs of the stadiums are from LIONS OF SRI LANKA; while the rest are from my computer files (with two at the Oval being my own shots) …. Michael Roberts

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Filed under Andrew Fidel Fernando, Sri Lanka Cricket

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