How Bandula Warnapura broke the batting record
Daltan Wakwella’s article on ‘How P.M Jayathilake scored 111 ’ dragged my memories to my schooldays in 1972 to Bandula Warnapura’s record braking knock of 118 (not out). As Dalten has mentioned by then many players have attempted to pass this magic score of 111(not out) by PM without much success, closest being Carl Obeysekara who got out for 111.
Bandula captained Nalanda in 1971 and had an illustrious career as a school boy cricketer being a member of the Sri Lankan School cricket team who toured India and later captaining the schools team in the successful series with the visiting Australian School cricket team. By the Big Match day in March 1972 every cricket enthusiast’s attention was drawn to Bandula who has already had a successful season with a number of centuries for Nalanda under the captaincy of Nandadeva Perera.
Those days as school boys the only page we used to read in the English news papers was the last page and on that Friday the Daily News ran it’s sports page head line as "Warnapura against might of Ananda". Ananda in that season had the most number of wins and were favourites to become the best School Cricket team of the year.
We all arrived at the ‘Oval’ with our Nalanda flags flying to witness what expected to be a memorable achievement from Bandula in breaking the 44 year old batting record set by PM Jayathillake. Nalanda had won the toss and Bandu took of his innings with style as expected with several shots to the fence, most through cover and third man area as usual. The mighty Ananda team included some of the best bowlers of the time such as Ajith De Silva, USI Perera & HDK Subash (captain). Our hopes didn’t last for long when the Bandula got out trying to play over the bowler ending up offering a return catch to HDK Subash, the leg spinner. Flag waving Nalanda supporters were stunned and what a disappointment it was!
We all walked back home with our heads down and in my case it was a disaster to have gone back to face my cousins, all Anandians, with whom I was living at the time.
The following day, Saturday Daily News did not fail to rub salt when it had "Warnapura fails Ananda on top" as its headline.
Sunday dawned and we were back in the grounds for what it was worth and yet it turned out to be the most memorable big Match day for us Nalandians. It was not long before Nalanda had to bat for the 2nd innings and for Bandula to return to the crease. He began cautiously and steadily this time to build up his innings in beating what was considered as an impossible task by many, to reach 118 with style and elegance against undoubtedly the best bowling attack of that year.
We were jubilant and I raced back home to my Ananda dominant house hold.
Ironically the following day being Sunday, The Sunday Observer joined the celebration with its banner headline "Warnapura Superb, Broke the 44 Year old Record".
What a Big Match it was and what a player Bandula was to become the first Test Cricket Captain of Sri Lanka!.