At 4am on Wednesday 16th March, 15 players and 3 staff met on Guthrie Road to embark on what would be the most amazing tour to Sri Lanka over the next 11 days.
The tour party comprised of the top cricketers at Clifton spread over four year groups. We arrived in Colombo in the early hours of the morning and even at that time it was clear that the heat was going to be something we would have to acclimatise to very quickly. Following a relaxing morning in the hotel, we had a practice session and it was made abundantly clear that water, and lots of it, would be essential.
The second fixture was played at St Thomas’s College against their U16 XI. Louie Shaw batted superbly to fall just short of a century as the side posted a respectable score of 208. Once again the heat made bowling and fielding tough as Clifton struggled to contain the young Sri Lankan batsmen. A very creditable effort in the last session saw the game become very tense with Clifton finally winning by 2 runs.
After two consecutive days of cricket there were some very tired players as we set off from Colombo to Bentota; a rest day was certainly very welcome.
The third cricket day was scheduled as two T20 matches against Royal College, Panadura; the games being played on a ground that had been funded by Surrey County Cricket Club in the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami. In the first of these came the stand out performance of the tour as Tom Probert smashed his way to 120 from just 60 balls. It was a brilliant and brutal display of hitting and laid the foundation for Clifton amassing 229-3 in their 20 overs. Prem Sisodiya bowled exceptionally taking 3 for 13 as Royal College were dismissed for 114. In the second game, Prem batted brilliantly to score 77 but the target set of 149 was certainly below par on what was an exceptional cricket wicket. A thrilling 20 overs saw Royal College fall short by just 2 runs.
Snorkelling, beach volleyball and the pool filled the next rest day and it was great for Oscar Barnes to celebrate his 18th Birthday with all the members of the tour party, the evening finishing with some less than convincing karaoke performances.
For our fourth match we returned to the Surrey ground to play Mahinda College from Galle. As in the first game, we were convincingly beaten by a very good side who played in the same attacking manner. A target of 269 was always going to be tough though it was disappointing to not make a better attempt of chasing and only batting for 25 of the 40 overs.
The final fixture was played at Srisumangala against a Foundation of Goodness XI. This game was played on a ground that had been supported by the MCC after the Tsunami. Prior to the game we gave a donation of £1000 to the Foundation of Goodness charity which will be used to support talented sportsmen and women on scholarship programmes. On this occasion the Clifton side bowled extremely well with Oscar Barnes being the pick of the bowlers taking 3 for 9. Vir Lakhani and Louie Shaw put on 95 for the first wicket and the total of 117 was quickly passed.
The final dinner of the tour was a barbecue on the beach with short speeches and awards. It was a great end to what had been a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The cricket was tough, the weather was hot and Sri Lanka proved to be a wonderful destination for a tour. For both the staff and pupils there will be many fond memories of our brief visit to a country where cricket is part of everyday life. My thanks go to Jim Williams, Will Nichol and to the players who made the tour such a success.
Mr. J. C. Bobby (Master i/c Cricket)
(Back row: Angus Bennett, Jake Thompson, Tom Thornycroft, Rob Clarke, Chris Streatfeild-James, Fergus Cole, Charlie Argent, Prem Sisodiya Front row: Miles Hackett, Charlie Spink, Tom Probert, Vir Lakhani, Louie Shaw, Oscar Barnes, Max Conn)