Day two and at last the players could hit the nets at the Premadasa Stadium. It was an early start as we headed to the stadium for a 9.30am start. As we arrived the Sri Lankan national side were just finalising their preparations ahead of flying out to Bangladesh for the T20. Most of the Sri Lanka squad were in the gym or doing some intense running drills on the outfield.
A small delegation on the management side of the Club was invited to meet the Sri Lanka Cricket Board on the second day of the most prestigious cricket match in the country. It is the annual ‘Battle of the Blues’ where Royal College take on Thomas College. Incredibly, it has a longer history than the Ashes with this being the 135th meeting of the two schools.
As we approached the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, you could tell that this was a real sense of occasion. As we entered the ground, we were met with a wonderful carnival atmosphere with a crowd of in excess of 15,000 in attendance.
The ‘Battle of the Blues’ – Sri Lanka’s biggest cricket match – Royal College v Thomas College. With over 15,000 watching at the SSC Ground and millions around the country via television broadcast, it was good to experience a carnival of cricket.
It was surreal that a schoolboy’s match would be so much revered by such a passionate fan base. With the third day coming up on Saturday, nearly 20,000 will be in attendance.
We watched the game from the President’s Private Box and it was good to share a drink with Jayantha Dharmadas (President of Sri Lanka Cricket), Ashley de Silva (CEO) and Carlton Bernardus, (Head of Cricket Operations).
One of the best moments was the reaction from the crowd when Thomas batsman De Mel reached his hundred. As he got to three figures, about a third of the ground descended on the pitch to celebrate with the centurion and giving him hero status. Not bad for an 18-year-old schoolboy.
The itinerary for the rest of the tour has now been confirmed and we can reveal our plans here. In addition to playing amongst themselves, the players will also play against a Sri Lanka Cricket Board XI in four T20 matches and a two-day game.
The Yorkshire Delegation meet the Sri Lanka Cricket Board.
Saturday March 15 – Practice (Premadasa Stadium)
Sunday March 16 – Practice (Premadasa Stadium)
Monday March 17-18 – Two-day match Yorkshire XI v Yorkshire XI (Premadasa Stadium)
Thursday March 20 – Practice (Panagoda Cricket Ground)
Saturday March 22 – Two T20 Matches – Yorkshire v Sri Lanka Cricket Board XI (Panagoda Cricket Ground)
Sunday March 23 – Two T20 Matches – Yorkshire v – Yorkshire v Sri Lanka Cricket Board XI (Panagoda Cricket Ground)
Tuesday March 25-26 – Two-day match Yorkshire v Sri Lanka Cricket Board XI (P Sara Stadium)
After a short rest, it was time for nets. Most of players had chance to bat and our contingent of seam bowlers were given ten minutes of bowling time. In total it took 90 minutes to get the session completed and watching from the sidelines it was impressive how the players were adapting to conditions – from the intense heat, to how the pitches were playing. In fairness, the facilities were first-class and the pitches had a little zip to them which enabled the batsmen to play with confidence and offered something for the bowlers.
“I have to say that all the lads were brilliant today,” said First Team Coach Jason Gillespie.
“Our aim from the outset was to train hard but in short bursts so that we can adapt to the heat. We have been fortunate that the Sri Lankan Board have offered us world-class facilities out here. We have struck up a positive relationship with them and hope that it will continue for the long-term.
“Over the next two weeks we will have ideal preparation ahead of the English season starting. We couldn’t have asked for a better base. We have also been told that our opposition will feature some of the best up and coming players in the country and will give our lads a real test, both in T20 cricket and the longer format.”