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Sri Lanka Cricket 2003 - Tour Review

Marco Polo thought Sri Lanka was the finest island of its size in the entire world…and he wasn’t even there to witness the Australian Cricket team’s clean-sweep in the recent test series!

The Fanatics were priveleged enough to be there for what was arguably one the most entertaining test series on record.

Not only that but we were all lucky enough to immerse ourselves in one of the world’s greatest travel destinations. Sri Lanka truly has something for everyone…palm tree lined beaches, culture, ancient civilisations, magical scenery, hiking, surfing, wildlife, the list goes on!

do I smell mutton?

And all this comes with welcoming, friendly people, great food, pleasant places to stay and unbelievably low costs. Combine this with a 3 nil test series win to Australia and you get one of the most unforgettable experiences of a lifetime.

The Fanatics all gathered several days before the 1st Test in the beautiful beachside community of Hikkaduwa, located 98km south of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. Hikkaduwa has a reputation for being Sri Lanka’s party capital…and rightfully so! We surfed, snorkelled and sun-baked by day and partied on the beach by night.

In true Fanatic style it wasn’t long before we all became accustomed to the local brews. Lion Lager and Three Coins are the two major local beers and, despite the all too common lack of refigeration, both are excellent lubricants for social intercourse.

The local spirit is called Arrack and is a reasonably nasty toddy tapped from coconut palms.

Ancient City

The lead-up to the first test wasn’t all spent relaxing by the beach however, as we also got the chance to explore the local area.

We checked out a moon stone mine, went on a romantic river cruise, payed our respects at a local budhist temple, stocked up on Sri Lankan love potions at the nearest naturopath and fondled albino turtles at the local turtle hatchery.

The Hikkaduwa highlights however were the small mercies of watching postcard-like golden sunsets, devouring devine rice and curries with our feet in the sand, pigging out on egg and mixed vegetable rotties hot off Puma’s roadside oven and playing beach cricket with a bunch of Murali-wannabe locals.

The 1st Test started on the 8th of March at the Galle International Stadium.

This stadium is undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful venues with a 350-year-old UNESCO-protected Dutch fort providing a dramatic backdrop to the ground. There are also views of the glistening Indian Ocean in the distance.

do I smell mutton?

In hindsight, it was quite the appropriate setting for what was not only an amazing on-field battle, it was also the scene of Warne’s memorable comeback test and the venue where he took his 500th test scalp. Warnie and Murali both took 5 wicket hauls in each innings and Hayden, Martyn and Lehmann all scored gutsy centuries to secure a 197 run victory.

After the excitement of the 1st Test, nursing massive hangovers, we all left our beachside paradise and journeyed further south to the Yala West National Park.

Here we spent the afternoon on a wildlife safari, which involved bird watching and spotting elephants, sloth bears, sambar deer, spotted deer, wild boar, crocodiles, wild buffaloes and monkeys. The next day we ventured up into the magical mountain town of Nuwara Eliya (pronounced Nu-rel-iya, meaning ‘city of light’).

Not quite the SCG

Nuwara Eliya stands at 1889m and has a strange atmosphere of a misplaced British Village, with hedges, rose gardens, and red-roofed bungalows sporting twee names. Sri Lanka’s highlands reach heights of over 2500 metres and have a magical, dramatic and haunting beauty.

Mountain ranges and valleys, steep peaks, deep chasms and dizzy precipices, wind-blown plateaus, virgin montane wildernesses, mist-hung tea plantations and tumultous waterfalls combine and contrast picturesquely in a paradise for nature lovers, eco-tourists – and bogan Aussie Fanatics alike.

After several days of getting back to nature we headed north into the hillside city of Kandy in preparation for the 2nd Test.

Kandy is the easygoing capital of the hill country and has a lot to offer including history, culture, forested hills and a touch of urban buzz. The test was played at Asgiriya International Stadium and whilst it is primarily a school venue, it is one of the prettiest venues in the world, ringed with steep hills and lush vegetation and blessed with fine views.

The second test was an unbelievable match with Australia clinching the series with a 27 run victory. Murali took his 500th test wicket in front of his home crowd, Warnie was man-of-the-match taking 10 wickets, and Gilchrist, Martyn and Jayasuriya all scored big tonns.

do I smell mutton?

The highlight of the 2nd Test however, was undoubtedly the emergence of the Fanatic’s Mutton Stand with delivery Mutton Lovers pizzas and a constant flow of Lager from the Lion Men. The nights out in Kandy were invariably spent lubricating at “The Pub” and more often than not ended in a mad death-defying Tuk-Tuk race home (more affectionately known as the Kandy Tuk-Tuk Grand Prix).

After the Kandy test we set off for the beautiful cultural triangle, on the central plains, where we spent the next couple of days uncovering the majesty of the ruined city of Polunnaruwa and the rock fortress of Mount Sigiriya.

The spectacular rock fortress of Sigiriya is an impregnable fortress and a sensational rock art gallery which was built in the 5th century AD to fend off a feared invasion. As we clambered up the rock we paused to catch our breath as we admired/perved at the saucy 5th century rock porn of well-endowed damsels. We read vistitors impressions of the pin-ups on a 1000-year-old graffiti wall, checked out a couple of enormous stone lion paws and enjoyed tremendous views from the summit.

Having explored the cultural triangle for the last couple of days we set off for the big smoke to prepare for the final test in Colombo. On the way to Colombo we stopped briefly at the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage where we observed 60 odd baby elephants bath, feed and roam freely.

A bit of ancient porn?

The third and final test was held at the headquarters of Sri Lankan Cricket at the Sinhalese Sports Club. Australia won by 121 runs on the fifth day with 8 balls left in the day. Lehmann was man-of-the-match scoring 153 in the first innings and taking 6 wickets for the match, whilst Langer scored a really gutsy 166 in what many have argued could have been a career saving innings.

The Fanatics enjoyed a real party atmosphere on the hill with several games of cricket with the locals and many aqua antics in our blow up pool.

The amazing clean sweep victory to Australia was a fitting end to what was truly an unbelievable month of test cricket. On the final night of the tour we all got together at the players’ hotel for a few quiet bottles of the local Gin to celebrate the end of the cricket, farewell our newfound mates and reminisce about all the great times that we had.
Wed 13/04/2005 Andrew Ledger 162 views

5 Comments about this article

  • Great work champion!

    What are the Sri Lankan women like?


    Posted by Tom Stephens Sun May 16, 2004 04:13pm AEST
  • G'day Ledge, Mick here (aka Boof), while I wasn't part of the Fanatics on this trip it was great to see you blokes there flying the flag. Loved your summary of the trip, the mutton pizzas & the Lion Lads (Pack Man as we dubbed em) brings back great memor

    Posted by Mick Price Thu May 20, 2004 11:24am AEST
  • Great summary, Ledge. Truly one of the best times of my life. wish I could make it for India. Jumping in a kiddies pool will never be the same again.

    Posted by Nathan Penny Sat Jul 03, 2004 04:46pm AEST
  • Nice one Ledge. It was good to hang out with the Fanatics on the hill and mix it with the locals. A really great experience. Hope to see you on another tour some day.

    Posted by David Thomson Tue Jul 20, 2004 02:02pm AEST
  • Arguably the best month of my life! Wish I was in India at the moment, but saving for the World Cup in 2007!

    Posted by Leon Gammon Sat Oct 09, 2004 01:29am AEST

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