The Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, The Lord’s of Sri Lanka, is a cut above your average venue. Nestled in the fragrant suburbs of Colombo’s Cinnamon Gardens, it rubs shoulders with government residences and foreign embassies.
So with any luck the surroundings will inspire some superior performances on the pitch in 2014. The SSCG was established in 1899 on the site of a cinnamon plantation. Once the trees were felled, the sandy soil became the ideal basis for a wicket. But these foundations can often result in a slow pitch which gets slower as the game progresses.
In other words, a batsman’s paradise and the Sri Lankans have capitalised on this to great effect. Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene’s 2006 partnership of 624 against South Africa at the SSCG is the highest in Test and first class cricket.
Chaminda Vaas’s eight for 19
Although the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground traditionally favours batsmen sometimes bowlers have been known to strike back. In December 2001 Chaminda Vaas proved you could tame this ground and ripped through Zimbabwe’s bewildered batting order. He threw down figures of 8 for 19 to set a bowling record for a One Day International match.
Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas is regarded to be the finest fast bowler to come out Sri Lanka. Often slightly in the shadow of the great Muttiah Muralitharan his strike rate matches some of all-time greats. His 355 test crickets equal fellow speedster and Aussie legend Dennis Lillee.
His performance in One Day Internationals, buoyed by that eight wicket haul, is equally impressive. In August 2008, Vaas reached an ODI landmark of 400 wickets when he dispatched Yuvraj Singh. With his feat he joined Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and team mate Muralitharan in the ODI 400 club. He can also lay claim to two hat-tricks, one during his record-breaking spell against Zimbabwe, the second against Bangladesh in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.
In a predominantly Buddhist country, Vaas’s catholic roots did set him apart slightly as a player. He was often said to have prayed before a match and even thought about joining the priesthood. “I seriously considered going into the priesthood, which would have meant 12 to 14 years of study. But then cricket began to take over. I think that God created me as a cricketer, so I am happy that that’s my calling.”