Dr. Srilal Fernando in Melbourne, reproducing an essay that appeared originally in The CEYLANKAN, a quarterly produced by the Ceylon Research Society in Australia**
Early last year [probably 2004] I received a call from Michael Ludgrove the then head of the rare book section at “Christies” Auction house requesting help to decipher the names of Ceylonese cricketers who had signed a cricket bat in the 1930’s following a combined India-Ceylon match against the visiting MCC. This led to my keeping an eye out for unusual items on Ceylon cricket. A few months later a set of autographs came up for sale. They were of the visiting English women cricketers who played a match in Colombo, against the Ceylon women in the first “test” of its kind. I was lucky to trace two of the test cricketers from the Ceylon team who now live in Victoria, Beverly Roberts (Juriansz) and Enid (Gilly) Fernando. Incidentally Gilly is called Gilly after AER Gilligan the Australian Cricketer and answers to no other name.
The visiting English team were on their way to Australia on the HMS “Orion”. The Colombo Cricket Club were the hosts and the match was played at the oval on the 1st November 1948. The match attracted a crowd of around 5000 many of whom had not seen women play cricket before. Among the distinguished guests were the Governor General, the Bishop of Brisbane, the Assistant Bishop of Colombo -the Reverend Lakdasa de Mel, the Yuvaraj and Yuvaranee of Kutch and Sir Richard Aluwihare.
The English team consisted of:- Molly Hyde (capt.), Miss Rheinberger, Nacy joy, Grace Morgan, Mary Duggan, Betty Birch, Dorothy McEroy, Mary Johnson, Megan Lowe, Nancy Wheelan,
The Ceylon team consisted of Miss O Turner (Capt.), Miss Enid (Gilly) Fernando, Miss C Hutton, Miss S Gaddum, Shirley Thomas, Marienne Adihetty, Beverley Roberts, Pat Weinman, Leela Abeykoon, Binthan Noordeen
Reserves : Mrs D H Swan & Mrs E G Joseph………………………….. ❖ Umpires: W S Findall and H E W De Zylva.
There is on record a previous match, played by a visiting English women’s cricket team in Colombo. However, they played against a team consisting mainly of wives of European Planters and no Ceylonese were included.
The visiting English team were on their way to Australia on the HMS “Orion”. The Colombo Cricket Club were the hosts and the match was played at the oval on the 1st November 1948. A commentary of the match was broadcast by Mr S P Foenander
Beverley Roberts, 16 years old Leela Abeykoon and Phyllis De Silva were from St John’s Panadura which was the first girl’s school to play cricket. The coach was G C Roberts (older brother of Michael Roberts). Marienne Adihetty was from Galle and her brother played for Richmond College. Binthan Noordeen was from Ladies College. She is the granddaughter of M.C. Amoo one of the best Malay cricketers of former days, who took a team from Ceylon to Bombay in 1910. Binthan was a teacher at Ladies College at the time and also excelled in hockey, netball and tennis. Pat Weinman is the daughter of Jeff Weinman, a former Nondescripts cricketer.
The team was mainly coached by S. Saravanamutta with others such as S J Campbell helping. The arrangements were made by the Board of Control of Cricket headed by P Saravanamutta. Though the match itself was one sided with thel Ceylon women cricketers beaten decisively, the Ceylon team impressed the visitors by their gallant display, after less than two months of practice as a team. The English team won the toss and batted first. Molly Slide the captain scored a century in a fine display of batting. The captain of the Ceylon team Mrs Hutton took six wickets for 43.
I was not at the match but I recall that Beverley took a one handed catch above her head near the boundary ropes …. ….. and that there is a picture of this act! This would be a rare shot .… and our family need to box ears if they cannot retrieve it. But let me presenta photo of Beverley in 1948 on one of Sri Lanka’s mountain tops, viz Utumankanda: