Cricket was introduced to Ceylon in the early 19th century as a pastime for Englishmen in colonial service. In the mid-century the game spread among coffee and tea planters and was introduced to the native Ceylonese. Because of Ceylon’s location on the sea routes between Australia and England, cricket tour parties from both countries sometimes interrupted their voyage to play a match against an eleven before sailing on to their destination. The first such match was played by Ivo Bligh's side in 1882-83.
The Ceylon Cricket Association formed in 1922 was subsequently overtaken in 1948 by a new Board for Control of Cricket in Ceylon. The rapid development of Ceylonese cricket was moved forward by the Board President, Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, and a tournament named after the President was begun, the first division clubs playing for the “P Sara Trophy”. Colombo cricket club's Maitland Place ground was made the headquarters of Ceylon cricket in 1966.
Ceylon made tours abroad for many years before being awarded Test status, most frequently to India. The first of these took place in 1932. The team for this tour was led by Dr C.H.Gunesekera and two ‘test’ matches were played at Lahore and New Delhi, both being drawn. The inaugural tour to Pakistan took place in March 1950.
In 1965 Ceylon became an Associate Member of the International Cricket Conference and the following year a return visit to Pakistan saw three more unofficial 'test' matches, though they were lost heavily. In 1968 the country was due to make its first tour of England but it had to be cancelled due to a lack of foreign exchange.
Ceylon became the new nation of Sri Lanka in 1972. The first World Cup in England in 1975 brought the talent of Sri Lankan batting to worldwide attention and their spirited response to a huge Australia total, before two players were injured by short-pitched bowling from Jeff Thomson, became front page news. Still Sri Lanka was not awarded official Test status. The second World Cup in 1979 was followed by a full 15-match tour of England and another in 1981. Thanks to campaigning by Mr Gamini Dissanayeke, the Board president, Sri Lanka was elected to full membership of the I.C.C and gained 'Test status' on 21 July 1981 by a unanimous vote of the other Test-playing countries.
England were her opponents in the first official Test match played by Sri Lanka. The match took place at Colombo Oval, now renamed as the P Sara Stadium, on 17 February 1982. The ground had been completely refurbished leading up to the game and stands for 20,000 spectators were erected., although high ticket prices dissuaded many from coming. England won by seven wickets