When Bradman set his feet on the island nation

Sara Oval's historic moment

When Bradman set his  feet on the island nation

Many countries would have doled out the red carpet for the late Sir Donald Bradman, the batting great who played only in his home nation and England. Sri Lanka, the only other country where he played a game, surprisingly had only 20 yards to offer!

It’s common knowledge that the pitch is 22 yards in length but when the greatest batsmen ever led an Australian side to the P Sara Oval in 1948 en route to England, the Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club (TUCAC) prepared a 20-yard surface. The Aussie great, who retired with a mind-boggling average of 99.94 in a 52-Test career, was certainly not amused but by the time it was rectified during lunch he was already cooling his heels in the dressing room.

“Donald Bradman played here in 1948,” recollected CTA Schaffter, former president of TUCAC. “That was the invincible team. We were told that was the only time he played in Asia. Another unusual thing was Bradman found the wicket to be only 20 yards. They then measured it and rectified it after lunch. Sadly, he was out by then!”

While Bradman stepping foot is indeed a moment of great pride for P Sara Oval, the ground shares a special bond with the Sri Lankans. For the longest of time, this was the only ground with proper facilities in the country and when it gained Test status in 1982 the very first match was played here. This was also the venue where the island nation registered its first Test victory, against India in 1985.

Deeply involved in running that memorable match against England, the 85-year-old said he’s mighty delighted at the club’s contribution towards the growth of Sri Lankan cricket. “We put up a stand that could accommodate 5000 people in just six weeks. We had to build tiers and accommodate huge crowd. It was the beginning of TV and they insisted we televise the match, which meant we would be losing some crowd. We got some undertaking from the board that if they televise the game, we would be compensated. It was very interesting running the game because that was the first game we played when we gained Test status. It meant a lot for us. It was a just reward for all the contribution we had done for Sri Lankan cricket.”

The historical ground bearing a vintage look came up in 1945.  

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