Sidarth Monga, courtesy of cricinfo.org, 23 July 2010
P Sara Oval, the venue for the third Test of this series, is the only ground in Asia where Don Bradman played. He did so on a 20-yard pitch. In Brightly Fades the Don, Jack Fingleton writes: “It is possible one of her male assistants (the round had a lady curator) measured the pitch and not she. The Australian batsmen found the going rather tough in the morning. It was hard to get the ball away, and it was Ian Johnson who discovered largely why.
The Don and Satha at the toss
Sathi Coomaraswamy beats Bradman
“He had his doubts about the pitch, measured it and found it was only twenty yards. From that point onwards the Australians bowled from two yards behind the crease and everybody was happy.”
An 18-year-old who saw the match live from a crowd of 20,000 which, according to The Janashakthi Book of Sri Lanka Cricket, occupied every inch of space right up to boundary line, has a slightly different account. That 18-year-old was Chandra Schaffter, of the Tamil Union Club, who played three first-class matches in the fifties and also hockey for Ceylon. “Bradman, I think with all his experience, realised it was short, and he was the one who pointed it out,” says Schaffter. “He mentioned it to the umpires, they measured it again, and then rectified it.” Take your own pick, Fingleton’s realism, or Schaffter’s romanticism.
SP Foenander gifts Bradman a replica of the Dalada Maligava —now in the collection of memorabilia in the Mortlock Library, Adelaide
Regardless of what happened and how it happened, the match – a “whistle-stop tour” – was a huge event in Sri Lanka. “It was like Michael Jackson coming,” says Schaffter. Bradman had passed the country on three previous tours without playing, but this time he was supposed to play, making March 31, 1948 a landmark day in Ceylonese cricket.
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