Reflections on a Legendary Sara Trophy Season in 1962/63 .. … with Darrell LieverszApril 15, 2016
The Colts, University of Ceylon, N.C.C. and S.S.C. played each other once in the finals. I am not sure as to the venue of the Colts game against the S.S.C. but the last two games of the season were played at Havelock Park. The Colts started off badly losing by an innings to the S.S.C. but subsequently beat the N.C.C. convincingly (See below). While Darrell wasn’t economical against the S.S.C. (5 – 78) he fared much better against the N.C.C. (6 – 45). The S.S.C. subsequently lost to Varsity on the latter’s matting wicket. The Varsity now took on the Colts who had been no match for the S.S.C.
When the season commenced Saliya Dorenagama and Lieversz opened the bowling with Burke coming in first change. Yet, Dorenagama who fared better than Lieversz at the commencement of the season did not play in any of the finals’ games. He surely would have made a difference considering that there was no real back up to Lieversz and Burke. Two of the five bowlers used against the Varsity were part timers (D.P. de Silva and Brian d Silva). It is possible that Dorenagama who was in army couldn’t obtain leave or was stationed too far away. Another useful fast bowler, Samsudeen, who I believe played in the early part of the season, was absent. However, the most notable absentee was the country’s number one spinner, Abu Fuard.
Was there any animosity between Fuard and Premaratne? Did Fuard feel that he should have been captain? Did Premaratne, with the help of Anthonians such as Dorenagama, Burke and Samerasekera, engineer a coup? I do know that although it was expected that Premaratne would hold on to the captaincy for the next season Fuard successfully challenged Premaratne amidst much controversy and bitterness.
Fuard played against Ted Dexter’s touring side in February 1962. He probably played against the M.C.C later in that year in a one day game at the Oval in which L.R. Goonetilleke clean bowled Dexter. So, there must have been a good reason for Fuard to be absent from the Colts team when the premier trophy was at stake.
While P.N. Fernando appears to have been a useful bowler going by his 3 for 28 in the second N.C.C. innings, if either Dorenagama, Samsudeen or Fuard were available Varsity would have struggled to reach 70 or lost another wicket, probably both, in its second innings.
However, in the two previous games which were not rain interrupted, more overs were bowled by the Colts. Under these circumstances, if the three missing bowlers were available it would have taken some of the burden off Lieversz and Burke and presented a more balanced and varied attack. After facing four fast bowlers the batsmen would have found Fuard deceptive.
If the Colts had curtailed the S.S.C. batting and obtained more N.C.C. wickets, she would have trailed by far fewer points coming into the final game of the season. Colts needed to be at full bowling strength much more than her three opponents because her batting was notoriously fragile which placed an extra burden on her bowlers. Hence, the absence of three of her top line bowlers was a tragedy.
The legendary finish
Cricket is often criticised for being slow and of long duration with nothing to show by way of completion. However, the very unplanned nature of the flow of the game occasionally make for tense finishes fraught with excitement. The game between the Colts and the University of Ceylon played in March of 1963(?) was one such game because it involved deft calculations by both captains and technical skills on the part of batsmen to deny opponents match points and to maximize the points accruing to one’s own team.
It took 119 years for the Colts to win its first major premier trophy. But it could have taken place 29 years earlier if the gods had looked down favourably on the Colts. However, it can still take pride in being involved in one of the greatest games of cricket in the history of first class cricket in Sri Lanka and one which will never stop being spoken of by people who follow cricket at that level. The club was disappointed, but nonetheless ennobled by contributing to making the game a winner.
At the beginning of the second day of the Royal game versus Wesley in 1969 my mind was solely on averting the follow on saving the follow on. I hadn’t counted on being a position to pursue victory and open my team to defeat after rescuing my team so gallantly. However, Wesley never stops talking about this game and as a result Royal is praised for her magnanimity in defeat. I guess to end a disappointing season with a defeat and victory which are still etched in people’s minds, is a victory of sorts.
Losing is always hard, particularly when one either has had the better of the exchanges or has contributed to one’s own demise by playing in a sportsmanlike fashion, because history is inevitably authored by the winners, or their spin doctors. And this certainly is the case with the final game of the 1962-63 Sara season when Chase a crooked shadow was screening at the Liberty and David and Goliath at the Odeon, Kandy.
The following pages feature two articles which described what was at stake for the teams involved and analysed their prospects. The article by E.W. Rulach titled “Lieversz – Bulwark against the Varsity” appeared the Observer. The other article titled “Toss-luck will be an advantage” also appears to be an observer article.
The Colts had to win on the first innings to have any chance of bridging the gap and commenced the process by declaring her first innings at 144 for seven wickets. At this point Varsity led by 8.39 points compared to 8.41 points before the start of the game. If the rain returned at this point Varsity would have claimed the trophy.
No doubt Varsity intended batting out the game and possibly gaining first innings points. But losing three wickets before lunch and five more after lunch and then declaring at 54 for 8 Varsity led the Colts by .58 points. If Varsity hadn’t declared and she was dismissed for say 60 runs, which was very likely the way in which Darrell was slicing through the Varsity batting, the Colts would have actually led by 0.31 points. Hence, the declaration was strategic more than sportsmanlike.
When the Colts declared her second innings at 42 for 4 Varsity led by a mere 0.05 points. During the Varsity second innings, Colts obtained .40 points to Varsity’s .37 and therefore lost by .02 points.
Darrell describes how he perceived the unfolding points situation – “I am not sure what the points situation was before the game. As far as I can remember (very vaguely), we had to get first innings points first. This happened when they suddenly declared before being all out. They must have had “bonus points” on their mind when they did this. Then the bonus points fun started after Colts went into bat. There were no electronic calculators around at that time and I could see all the budding accountants and academics getting together with pencil and paper planning the next move. All I remember when we were walking out to field for the final inning was that for every 20 runs they scored we had to get 1 wicket. The rest is sad and frustrating history.”
When four Varsity wickets fell with 35 runs on the board Colts would have appeared to have been home and hosed. But Reid and Gurusinghe held on to take the score to 74 without further loss by close. However, if the Colts had obtained a wicket on the last ball of the day she would still have made it. She would have obtained an extra 0.50 bonus points to Varsity’s 0.37, and a competition lead of 0.08 points, enough to get her over the line. How Varsity managed to survive makes interesting discussion.
All three of Darrell’s second innings wickets were to catches in the slips cordon. Hence, according to paper reports the batsmen left alone balls going down the leg side. But even when Darrell had batsmen caught at short leg, they were to balls that were directed at the stumps. Indeed, he clean bowled four of his five first innings victims.
The batting technique of Reid has been complimented as highly as Carlyle Perera’s captaincy. But in Darrell’s view the main culprit was the L.B.W. rule strictly implemented by the umpires. Here is his view in response to my query as to whether pretended to offer a shot or blatantly padded deliveries –
“No they were NOT offering a stroke. Their bats were up in the air and most often above their shoulders. Another thing they were doing was batting outside the crease and taking a “gigantic” step forward and not offering a stroke when they faced the delivery, probably to negate being caught by 2 leg slips and a short leg. Maybe the balls had pitched outside the line and hit the pads in line, but some umpires at the time preferred to turn down any LBW appeal if a batsman played so far forward even if it was a straight ball pitched in line with the stumps. It was very frustrating but I suppose “that was Cricket” at the time.
That used to be the rule but not today as you know. I can’t imagine how many more wickets we as bowlers could have got.!!!!”
Today, a batsman can be adjudged L.B.W. when not offering a shot to a ball pitched outside the off stump. Furthermore, if there is little bounce in the wicket a batsman is at risk of being given out L.B.W. to balls which hit the front pad and the ball was pitched in line with the stumps.
To my way of thinking good technique is about the skillful use of the bat in association with good footwork. I am talking about batsmen who shuffle back and then move to hit the ball after it has completed its movement, rather than commit to a shot when the ball is in its initial line. Good technique is also playing the ball into the ground to smother movement. In all instances, it is about using the bat rather than relying on outmoded and unfair L.B.W. rules.
Because there were three close in fieldsman on the leg side, did the umpires assume that all of Darrell’s deliveries would have missed leg stump? Did Darrell’s bowling tactics in the second Varsity innings differ from that of the first innings?
In August of 2013 I noticed Darrell and Buddy (now doctor) in conversation at the wedding of Darrell’s niece. I politely refrained from remarking that Buddy would probably have been given out L.B.W. by today’s umpires. And if rain hadn’t interfered, given that the Colts controlled the game for the most part, the Colts would have won the game outright. Anyway, the Ceylon University no longer fields a cricket team while the Colts is today a very competitive side.
The newspaper cuttings of the time make interesting reading and I am grateful to Darrell for allowing me access to them. The article below titled Margin of triumph .02 of a point probably appeared in the Observer going by the font and format. The article by “Wrong Un” titled Varsity win Sarah Trophy in photo finish probably appeared in the Times of Ceylon. The article by Eustace Rulach appeared either in the Daily News or the Observer, probably the latter. And I suspect that article titled Varsity are champs appeared in the Daily Mirror, the sister paper of the Ceylon Times.
In their last game which wound up the season it was not the result that mattered, but the bonus points tally. The Varsity lost this Havelock Park match on the first innings but snatched the Trophy on bonus points by the narrowest of margins – 0.02.
Thawfeeq (2010) describes the last game of the season as related to him by Darrell: “Lieversz recalls: It was the final game of the season and was referred to as the most sensational game ever in the Sara series. Praise must be given to the two captains, W. Premaratne of Colts and Carlyle Perera of the University for their intelligent declarations during the course of the game. It was cricket at its glorious best wrote one sports journalist. We had the better of them throughout the game until Premaratne declared the Colts second innings with three wickets remaining which deprived the University of valuable bonus points if they had got the entire side out.
Darrell reflected back on that game, and the season, in 2014 –“After leaving school in 1962 I played my first Sara Trophy season for the Colts Cricket Club. This was the year that the Colts missed winning the Sara Trophy by a mere 0.02 of a point to the University. It was the final game of the season and was referred to as the most sensational game ever in the Sara series. Praise must be given to the two captains, W. Premaratne of the Colts and C. Perera of the University, for their intelligent declarations during the course of the game. “It was cricket at its glorious best” wrote one sports journalist. We had the better of them throughout the game until Premaratne declared the Colt’s second innings with three wickets remaining which deprived the University of valuable bonus points, if they got the whole side out. This was when the battle for bonus points began. When the University batted for the second time, they needed to score 20 runs per wicket to keep ahead of us in bonus points and all we needed was 5 wickets, and the Trophy would have been ours. It went down to the last hour when they were 4 wickets down for 34 runs. At this stage their target was 70 and we needed only one more wicket. However, Buddy Reid who was one of the most technically perfect batsmen and Nihal Gurusinghe not only deprived us of that one wicket but with some stubborn batting managed to get the 70 runs needed for the bonus points for them to beat us by 0.02 of a point. At the end of the day all credit must go to the wonderful game of Cricket. It was an excellent season for me as I had set a new bowling record of 72 wickets at 9.78 runs each. It would also have been my father’s first Sara Trophy win while being President of the Colts.”
Darrell Lieversz (centre middle row) was in the Sri Lankan squad that toured India in 1964/65 … and so too Abu Fuard (2nd from left front row) — a famous squad (captained by Michael Tissera) because they beat India in one “unofficial Test”
P. Saravanamuttu Trophy
|1950-51||Tamil Union C & A Club|
|1951-52||Sinhalese Sports Club|
|1952-53||Nondescripts Cricket Club|
|1953-54||Nondescripts Cricket Club|
|1954-55||Nondescripts Cricket Club|
|1955-56||Burgher Recreation Club|
|1956-57||Nondescripts Cricket Club|
|1957-58||Nondescripts Cricket Club|
|1958-59||Sinhalese Sports Club|
|1959-60||Sinhalese Sports Club|
|1960-61||Nondescripts Cricket Club|
|1961-62||Sinhalese Sports Club|
|1963-64||Bloomfield C&A Club|
|1964-65||Nomads Sports Club|
|1966-67||Sinhalese Sports Club|
|1967-68||Nomads Sports Club|
|1968-69||Sinhalese Sports Club|
|1969-70||Nondescripts Cricket Club|
|1970-71||Nondescripts Cricket Club|
|1971-72||Sinhalese Sports Club|
|1972-73||Sinhalese Sports Club|
|1973-74||Sinhalese Sports Club|
|1974-75||Sinhalese Sports Club|
|1975-76||Nondescripts Cricket Club|
|1976-77||Nondescripts Cricket Club|
|1977-78||Sinhalese Sports Club|
|1978-79||Nondescripts Cricket Club|
|1979-80||Colombo Cricket Club|
|1980-81||Bloomfield C&A Club|
|1981-82||Bloomfield C&A Club|
|1982-83||Bloomfield C&A Club|
|1983-84||Sinhalese Sports Club|
|1984-85||Colombo Cricket Club|