The glorious uncertainties of cricket
MCC’s thrilling victory in Ceylon

by Gerry Vaidyasekera

The most thrilling and exciting match, ever played by the MCC, in Ceylon was a three day first class match at the Colombo Cricket Club Grounds on February 22, 23, and 24, 1934 - the last match of the MCC tour of India, 1933-34.

To strengthen the local side, the late E. M. Karunaratne, a popular proctor of Galle and President, Ceylon Cricket Association, now the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka, extended an invitation to five Indian cricketers, who fared well against the MCC, a few weeks ago. The tall and handsome Colonel C. K. Nayudu, who led several sides in Ceylon, was offered the captaincy. He declined the honour. Dr. Churchill Hector Gunasekera of Middlesex fame, led the side. So strong was the batting in the combined eleven that Dr. Gunasekera, the captain, batted at number eleven; creating history.

The five Indian cricketers who joined the team were:— Dilawar Hussein and S. Wazir Ali, the opening pair; C. S. Nayudu, the spin bowler and brother of Colonel Nayudu, C. S. Nayudu; India’s best bowler of the time, L. Amarsingh and the young Lal Amarnath, who scored 118 at Bombay on his Test debut against the same MCC side.

The five players besides the captain were Vernon Schokman of the Police and a Trinity Lion; our second best wicket keeper to my good friend, Ben Navaratne; Captain Brindley also of the Ceylon Police, a good all rounder, Neil Joseph, a contemporary of our late President J. R. Jayewardene at Royal, and to whom he had a great respect as a cricketer; Edward Kelaart, a Josephian who coached the Benedictines; and the tall dark Sargo Jayawickrema, just out of Royal. Schokman was felled by a sharp rising ball from Nobby Clark in the previous match. The combined side was styled Indo — Ceylon Combined XI.

Douglas Robert Jardine, the selected captain, who put leg theory or popularly known as body line, a term coined by the Australian press, was very unpopular in Ceylon at the time. The team on their way to Galle was greeted with black flags; a campaign sponsored and directed by the late Wijayananda Dahanayake, a good cricketer in his day.

The match was marred by an ugly incident, unbecoming of an Englishman; when their fast left arm express, Edward Winchester Clark also known as "Nobby" going in last in the batting order, dug up the pitch at the wicket to suit his bowling. This incensed the large crowd and the Ceylon press gave it headlines. The MCC captain, acting for Jardine, Bryan Herbert Valentine, a gifted athlete, apologised to Dr. Gunasekera and Charlie Marriott, the spin bowler, joined in the apology.

But the next day, the late Proctor Roland E. W. Perera from Moratuwa and some youngsters greeted tne spin bowler with bursts of laughter and sang, "Nearer My God To Thee" whenever a MCC wicket fell. Marriott danced a tap dance when delivering the ball and that amused the crowd.

Bryan Valentine won the toss and decided to bat first. In a low scoring game and on a tricky wicket, MCC totalled only 155 runs; Leslie Townsend batted stubbornly for a grand 56; Amarsingh bowled well to take 6 for 62 and Edward Kelaart with his left arm slows 2 for 22. Sargo Jayawickrema bowled well to take one for 3 runs with three maidens.

We fared worse and were all out for 104; 51 runs behind; the Indians falling cheaply. Schokman top scored with 38, facing bravely, as befits a policeman, the fast expresses of Nobby Clark. Marriott took 4 for 37, Hedley Verity, killed in Second the World War, 3 for 38 and Clark 2 for 12.

Our own Edward Kelaart, 5 for 17 and Amarsingh 3 for 23, dismissed the MCC for a paltry 78; leaving the Combined Side to score 129 runs for victory, not beyond their prowess.

When bad light stopped play on the second day, the Combined XI were only 36 runs short for victory with 8 wkts. in hand.

But fate willed otherwise and M.C.C. won a hard fought victory by 8 runs. Sargo Jayawickrema was shaping well against MCC bowlers, when Dougals Jardine, the captain of the team and in the pavilion, sent a note to Bryan Valentine, the captain in the field, to put on Hedley Verity to bowl. This wise decision caused Verity to run through the side.

Such are the glorious uncertainties of cricket!

The tall, handsome captain, Hedley Verity of Yorkshire holds the world’s best bowling record with wonderful figures of - 19.4 overs 16 maidens 10 runs 10 wkts. He also broke the myth, along with Lance Gibbs, the long cherished myth, that tall bowlers do not shine as spinners built on the short stature of Robert Peel and Wilfrid Yorkshire, both of Yorkshire and Titch Freeman of Kent.