Published on: 30 January 2015

In December, 15 boys and three staff set off on a fascinating and challenging Cricket Tour to Sri Lanka. The boys, from Years 9 to 11, played 10 games over two and a half weeks while taking in the sights of the cricket-loving island.

Staff member Jon Turner, who co-ordinated the tour with Andrew Greig and Lloyd Haskett, said the humidity in Kandy instantly announced that they were in a very unfamiliar environment and the boys quickly learnt not to leave belongings by the hotel pool with dozens of monkeys waiting for an offering.

After an acclimatisation day, Christ Church played fixtures against two district teams at the impressive Welagedara Stadium (one loss and one win) and another against Dharmaraja College (won by 100 runs) at a ground cut into a steep hillside looking down on the city. “The outfield was half sandpit and half hayfield, with a tiny strip of a wicket in between,” Mr Turner said.

“The boys quickly had to get used to the local conditions and playing regulations. All matches were based on the ODI 50-over format with strict interpretation of wides, power plays, fielding restrictions and free hits off no-balls.”

Travel to and from many of the grounds on tour was never dull with pedestrians, dogs, cows, bikes, scooters, tuk-tuks, cars and buses all competing for road space. In Hikkaduwa, leaving behind the traditional holy city for a more Western-style tourist resort, a thunderstorm intervened in the match against St Thomas’ College but the game the following day took the same path with Christ Church losing by five wickets.

A highlight was the privilege of playing at Galle International Stadium against the Galle Combined XI (lost). Situated at the foot of a 16th century Portugese fort, it is one of the most striking grounds in Test cricket and home to some of the most important events in Sri Lankan cricket. “The ground was destroyed by the 2004 tsunami and we took the opportunity to visit the MCC-sponsored academy in Seenigama, which provides cricketing and other opportunities to children in an area still recovering,” Mr Turner said.

Heading east to Hambantota gave the tour group a chance to visit Yala National Park before two days at the international stadium built for the 2011 World Cup. Mr Turner said the magnificent grandstand provided a backdrop for some remarkable batting displays by the Christ Church boys with two victories against the local sides.

The final two matches of tour were against two strong Colombo schools, the first at another Test ground, the P Sara Oval against Wesley College (won by 30 runs) and the last fixture against the prestigious Royal College (lost by seven wickets), played in the heart of the city.

By lucky coincidence, Sri Lanka was playing England in a day/nighter nearby. The the group savoured the carnival atmosphere of a packed stadium, farewelling two of Sri Lanka’s favourite cricketing sons, in the tour’s final days.