ZOYSA: the first hat-trick man in Tests for Sri Lanka | Daily News

ZOYSA: the first hat-trick man in Tests for Sri Lanka

The first Sri Lankan bowler who will go down in history as having performed the hat trick in Test cricket is the tall and lanky left arm pace man DEMUNI NUWAN THARANGA ZOYSA who deserves to join the glittering array of ‘SPORTS LEGENDS’ of Sri Lanka.

Before going on to dwell on ZOYSA’s achievements as his career unwound, I would like to take readers to that memorable moment and day to the Harare Sports Club Ground in Zimbabwe. It was here that ZOYSA performed the feat which would remain etched in memory, especially in this writer's memory as the only Sri Lankan journalist covering the tour for the ‘Daily News’ and the ‘Sunday Observer.’

It was a wonderful summer’s day in Harare, when after Chaminda Vaas sent down the first over that skipper Sanath Jayasuriya handed the new ball to ZOYSA. The gangling ZOYSA standing 6 feet 5 inches tall made his run up and with his first ball delivered an in swinger that had Trevor Gripper plumb in front.

Snicked to wicket keeper

Then next ball he bowled the out swinger and Murray Godwin who failed to read it and snicked to wicket keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana who gobbled the catch. Expectations were in the air and would ZOYSA bag the first hat trick and go down in the annals. Jayasuriya crowded the new batsman with a close in field.

A nervous Neil Johnson took guard. ZOYSA ran in and delivered a straight ball and Johnson was caught plumb in front and ZOYSA had created history. His team mates hugged and kissed him with some having to leap to hug him, because they could not reach him.

This is how the three batsman went – Trevor Gripper LBW ZOYSA 0, Murray Goodwin c Kaluwitharana b ZOYSA 0, Neil Johnson LBW ZOYSA 0. The writer too stood up to jubilate and acknowledge ZOYSA’S epch making feat in the 1999/2000 tour of Zimbabwe.

Wreathed in smiles

His face was wreathed in smiles and his goose hairs would certainly have stood up as he leaped and pinched the air in inexpressible joy. I can imagine the joy because I was also one who captured two hat tricks and I know the over the moon feeling that ZOYSA would have enjoyed. I was glad I was there to be a part of that record breaking event.

But with ZOYSA and his mates savouring the success it was tinged with sadness when it was known that this rare feat was not recorded on film because at that moment something went wrong with the telecast and the great feat is not on record. Poor show on the TV people. Former Sri Lankan wicket keeper and opening batsman Ranjit Fernando was one of the TV Commentators.

The teams that played in that historic Test which was won by Sri Lanka reads – SRI LANKA – Marvan Atapattu, Sanath Jayasuriya (C), Russel Arnold, Mahela Jayawardene, T.M.Dilshan, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Chaminda Vaas, Indika de Saram, Pramodya Wickramasinghe and Muttiah Muralitharan.

Zimbabwe team

ZIMBABWE – Andy Flower (C), Grant Flower, Trevor Gripper, Murray Godwin, Neil Johnson, Grant Flower, Alastair Campbell, C. Whittal, G.Brent, C. Strang, Henry Olanga and E. Matambanadzo. ZOYSA’S figures read – 15- 4-22 – 3. Gaining admission to Isipathana College from Dharmaloka College, ZOYSA was spotted like a meteorite who was destined to shine in the cricketing firmament by coach of that time at Isipathana College U.S.C. Perera an off spinner of high class.

Although being a spin bowler ‘U.S.C’ as he was popularly called, had the knack of spotting natural and emerging talent and encouraging and polishing whatever faults and taking it to the top level – Sri Lanka representation.

Great distinction

And in ZOYSA he coached a bowler who was going to deliver for the game and country with great distinction and rewrite the record books as being the first bowler to pocket a hat trick in Test cricket for the country.

At school cricket level for Isipathana, the gangling left armer was too much for opposing batsmen and used to instill fear and have opposing batsmen jelly-kneed at the wicket facing him. It is said that batsmen would want to quickly get to the non striker’s end than face his life threatening deliveries. After and during his training at school a cricket enthusiast and loyal supporter of the school who took him to big time cricket was LIONEL NAWARAGODAGEDERA, who was later to join Percy Abeysekera and Saddhatissa as Sri Lanka’s cheer leaders and who did wonders to raise the spirit of the cricketers with their inspirational cheering in the country and abroad.

Cricket enthusiast

ZOYSA was first spotted by NAWARAGODAGEDERA while playing for Isipathana. NAWARA GODAGEDERA a knowledgeable cricket enthusiast and a dear friend of former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga requested Ranatunga to come and have a look at this tall and lanky pace man who was making waves.

Another enthusiastic Isipathanian who helped ZOYSA was HassanSinhawansa.

Ranatunga was impressed by the youngster he saw and invited ZOYSA to join the famous Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) from where the pace man coming under the leadership of Ranatunga began his phenomenal rise which ended him quickly sporting the treasured and memorable Sri Lanka Cap.

ZOYSA debuted for Sri Lanka in 1996/97 and in his first season with the SSC had career best figures of seven for 58 in a premier game. Test debut was not long in coming and it came against New Zealand in Dunedin in 1997. He played for the country for seven years. He was no mean batsman, but it was with the ball that he excelled.

Among the wickets

With ZOYSA being among the wickets in both Test and One-Day cricket, it is said that he had not the fortune, but probably the misfortune of being coached by former Australian left arm pace man Bruce Reid who for no unaccountable reason changed his natural action and unable to settle into his new action his speed and form dropped and with him suffering stress fractures his end was not long in coming.

ZOYSA’S STATS – TESTS 30 – RUNS 288 – HIGHEST 28 n.o. BOWLING TEST - 30 – WKTS - 64 – BEST BOWLING 5 for 20. ODIS – 95 – RUNS 343 - HIGHEST 47 n.o. BOWLING – MATCHES 95 – RUNS – 3213 – WKTS – 108 – BEST 5 for 26. TEST DEBUT – vs New Zealand at Dunedin, May 7 to 10, 1997. LAST TEST vs Australia at Cairns, July 9 to 13, 2004. ODI debut vs New Zealand at Christchurch, March 25, 1997. Last ODI vs India at Kolkata, Feb. 8, 2007. ZOYSA is undoubtedly a Sri Lankan cricket legend and earns mention in ‘SPORTS LEGENDS.’ He is now on the bowling staff of Sri Lanka Cricket.


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