Galle international stadium: Ahead of the two-test series at the venue between Sri Lanka and England, I look back on what it was like to get the chance to play at one of the world’s most picturesque cricket grounds in 2013.
Galle international stadium has played host to some memorable Test feats down the years, including Muttiah Muralitharan’s 800th wicket and Chris Gayle’s marathon innings of 333.
If any of the handful of spectators were hoping to see something similar on this occasion, they were set to be sorely disappointed.
Yet, for most of those playing, it was the biggest occasion of their cricketing careers.
In the kind of agreement that could never be struck at a Lord’s or an MCG, two UK school teams chipped in to hire the facilities for the day to play a timed match.
The ground was in incredible condition, with the famous Galle Fort and the Indian Ocean on one side and a bustling street on the other, while there was no lingering trace of the devastation caused by the 2004 tsunami.
We used Galle Cricket Club’s changing rooms rather than those in the main pavilion that are frequented by international teams, but almost everything else was as it would be for a major occasion.
Official umpires were provided, while the match would be played out on a central wicket with full-sized boundaries.
A defeat at the toss saw us fielding first in bright sunshine and it quickly became apparent why Galle is traditionally a bat-first wicket.
The surface was the flattest I’ve ever come across, with no pace, seam movement or spin to speak of on offer for the bowlers, while the lightning-fast outfield ensured that this was a veritable batting paradise.
In 32-degree heat, short spells were the order of the day and the superior opposition racked up a sizeable total, with wickets falling more from lapses in concentration than anything else.
Lunch was then served in an open-air area behind the changing rooms and some much-needed shade sought.
When our reply got underway, the fall of early wickets turned an ambitious chase into the pursuit of a draw and anchor was duly dropped.
Walking out at no.7 with a substantial period left to negotiate, the overwhelming fear was that I might come and go quickly, for it would be tough to get over a duck in my first and undoubtedly only appearance at a Test venue.
An inevitable rush of blood saw my first ball nicked through a sizeable slip cordon and I was castled via my back pad on 14, only to look up and see the umpire signalling a no-ball.
Luck was on our side, then, and eventually, as sunset neared, the officials called a halt to play.
A draw suggests an anticlimax but the sense of satisfaction was huge.
There was a post-match presentation of sorts and we lingered on the outfield as hoses soaked the square in an attempt to undo the work done by the sun across what had been a memorable day.
It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to play at Galle international stadium but England’s cricketers get to do it twice in a fortnight.
They won’t have the Barmy Army there to cheer them on, but Joe Root and co. will be pushing for a second consecutive series win in the Island nation and a big morale boost ahead of a high-profile showdown with India.