Away from the pundits, scribes and record keepers, an 18-year old boy produced what must have been a match saving innings that can be classified as one of the greatest feats of school cricket in the world.
Dineth Madurawela, an unassuming lad despite his monumental act, batted his St. Joseph’s College team out of mockery against Thurstan College after they were dismissed for an appalling 23 runs in the first innings that could have even rolled heads at his school.
Madurawela, in front of his nervous dad Lucien and a handful of frightened supporters, kept cool, batted a marathon 481 minutes, overcame a scorching Colombo sun and gulped down pints of water to force a drawn result that left the experts groping for answers.
But Madurawela refuses to be branded a hero who has inscribed his name in the annals of school cricket history in the country.
“If not for my team-mates I would not have done this,” Madurawela told Weekend Nation. “They are the heroes. They stayed with me to see us through. We took it every five overs and then session by session.”
His thoughts were about inspirational batting partners Harin Cooray, Pahan Perera, Shevon Fonseka, Jehan Daniel and last man Ruchira Ekanayake who also starred in the epic escape.
Madurawela eventually signed off with an unbeaten 144 under his belt after thwarting the Thurstanites who only needed just six wickets on the final day to post what would have been their maiden win over St. Joseph’s College in 35 years of sporting rivalry.
Madurawela’s team were reeling at 84 for 4, needing 204 runs to wipe out a first innings deficit and a full day for their opponents to wrap up the result in their favour.
One of the curious followers who wanted to come to grips with what happened was Sri Lanka’s most elegant batting artiste of a bygone era Roy Dias who witnessed the proceedings on the first day and would not have been surprised if the match ended by lunch on the second day.
Dias whose St. Peter’s College plays a traditional big match with the Joes for the past eight decades was the first to congratulate coach Roger Wijesuriya, a former Test spin bowler and Sri Lanka Youth World Cup mentor.
Many students at St. Joseph’s College did not even know the outcome of the match until their sporting rector Fr. Travis Gabriel declared at a Monday morning prayer meeting that Madurawela “deserves to be honoured” for his feat that saved the school from humiliation.
It was no surprise that Madurawela could not gain the attention of the media that would have gone overboard had an international Test cricketer occupied the crease for the same time that he did to save a match.
School cricket in Sri Lanka is very rarely covered by on-the-spot media which mostly depend on the score-sheet or websites and Madurawela got very little Press coverage.
Wijesuriya acknowledged that he had never seen a schoolboy perform such an overhaul from the dumps during 25 years of coaching many schools in the country but knew it was not beyond understanding to go out and save a match from the jaws of defeat.
“You can play and win matches, but true character comes when you do something that may be impossible to many and Madurawela I thought was a real hero who lived up to the occasion whether it is Test cricket or school cricket,” said Wijesuriya.
Wijesuriya contends that Madurawela had “grabbed an overnight opportunity” by his epic innings and taken a giant step forward to continue in cricket if he wished.
Madurawela may have had just one blemish when on 93 he touched a fast pitched ball on the leg side that eluded wicket-keeper Kasun Abeyratne whose efforts to chat-up the batsman and induce a break in concentration proved futile as victory became a bridge too far for Thurstan College.
Madurawela is yet to play in a big match against traditional rival St. Peter’s College and now hopes that he’ll be able to bow out performing in one next year.
He missed most of the season last year after spending nine days in hospital battling the dengue virus and knows expectations would run high this time.
“I think that if you believe in yourself, nothing is impossible. You got to just work hard and stay focussed,” said Madurawela.