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
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.
tours abroad for many years before being awarded Test status, most frequently
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.
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