The not so secret life of an Academy cricketer by George Garrett and Robert Yates

Day 6 – Thursday 23rd February

The day began in high spirits in anticipation of a tough days cricket against the 2016 Sri Lankan First Class Champions Tamil Union Cricket Club.

By order from the Sri Lankan cricket authorities (due to the Bangladesh Test match next month) the venue was changed from the P.Sara Oval (home to Tamil Union CC) to Moors Cricket Club; the scene of the Academy’s victory in 2016 and home to Moeen Ali for a winter season a few years prior.

After losing the toss we were put into the field by a strong looking opposition.

After an early drop in the field Khayam Khan bowled one of the openers, and all looked good. This was until the Tamil Union side decided to launch any over pitched balls over the bowlers head for six and to most other areas of the ground and surrounds.

The day began in high spirits in anticipation of a tough days cricket against the 2016 Sri Lankan First Class Champions Tamil Union Cricket Club.

The runs were being piled on and Sri Lankan ODI all-rounder and Derbyshire CCC’s 2017 overseas player, Jeevan Mendis (102*) looked unstoppable. Rob Yates arguably was lucky to go for 30 in one over and air raid sirens were going off in Colombo as Mo Ahmed and most other colleagues were being hit out of the ground.

Tom Hope (7-0-38-2) was the one shining light in Warwickshire’s attack showing many different variations and then later in the innings some great catches on the cover boundary.

After 45 (out of 50) hot and tiring overs in the field seeing 419 runs being posted, Matt Davison bowled a former Sri Lanka T20 international batsmen and gave a rather large send-off, which didn’t bode well for his batting innings seeing numerous men around the bat!

The Warwickshire innings saw Ben Griffin make a positive start hitting a few boundaries early on but unfortunately his partner Dan Mousley was back in the shed early on.

Batsmen came and went cheaply, seeing the team fall (just the) 263 short.

This gave the team a great deal of food for thought and was a massive learning curve. As the team arrived back at the hotel, the squad were five men down as George Garrett, Rob Yates, Mo Ahmed, Matt Davison and Sunny Singh were still roaming the streets of Colombo trying to find all the balls they were responsible for losing. A pool stretch, dinner and bed was most welcome.

Day 7 – Friday 24th February

This morning the lads woke up feeling the full effect of yesterday’s leather chasing session. Nonetheless, we were up at 7.30am ready to put in the hard yards at The P.Sara Oval (home of yesterday’s opposition Tamil Union CC) despite the sore bodies.

The tiredness was soon to disappear however, with (coach) Sheikhy being Sheikhy, waking us up with some flat catches to take the skin off our palms. With many bruised fingers and one split webbing, the lads were thankful to be back on the bus reasonably unscathed and out of the relentless heat. Following our third detour to ‘the Commons’ for lunch, a well-deserved afternoon off was on the cards.

Activities ranged from chilling poolside, to venturing to the beach; the batteries being re-charged for the game the following day.

Prior to an early night, a ‘badger’ conversation was in full flow, with Matt Davison going as far to say that Virat Kohli hasn’t proved himself in Australia; only the four hundreds in his last series there Davo! Cheers Matt.

Day 8 – Saturday 25th February

The penultimate day of the tour saw Warwickshire face a strong Sri Lanka Air Force side at ‘Rifle Green’ – the scene of the ‘helicopter stopped play’ scenario in 2016. Warwickshire lost the toss and were put into bat for the first time in the week.

Harry Johnson and Mo Ahmed opened and after a first ball beamer which Johnson slashed away for four we found ourselves one down in the third over.

Robert Yates joined Ahmed and the pair produced a small partnership until Ahmed was trudging back to the pavilion having been trapped in front of the stumps for three.

All seemed in control as Yates was approaching a half century, however he found himself back in the dressing room for 44, and agonisingly close to a free ‘all you can eat’ buffet in the evening (Greethers had set us some performance incentives).

More wickets tumbled and at 97/8 we were clearly on the brink, however George Garrett (18*) and Tom Hope (41) steadied the ship bringing the total to 161 all out.

The total was small yet the belief was strong that a win for the Bears was possible.

With the new ball, Finlay McCreath (5-0-21-1) claimed the first honours uprooting the batsmen’s middle stump followed by another from Khayam Khan (6-1-20-1). The Air Force were approaching their batting positively and at 75 for 2 looked well placed. However, left arm spinner Sunny Singh then produced a match-winning performance (with good support from Khan and Dan Mousley) with figures of 10-2-19-5 and the Sri Lankans collapsing to 113 all out.

Anyone would have thought the turning conditions would have caused problems for the keepers but not Ben Griffin, who took all the dipping, bouncing and spinning balls thrown at him with confidence.

With one wicket needed to win, off spinner Rob Yates claimed his first and only wicket and the Bears had their first win on tour. This was the perfect end for cricket related matters. In the evening the team enjoyed a relaxing buffet on a boat through the canals of Colombo which was the perfect come down after seven days of hard graft.

Day 9 – Sunday 26th February

Today was a humbling experience as we visited The Vajira Children’s Rehabilitation Home, an orphanage just outside Colombo which was originally established for children and families affected by the civil war that occurred in Sri Lanka.

The language barrier wasn’t a problem with the cricket doing the talking.

The passion the children had for the game was something else; no coaching either, they were naturals and full of energy. Sunny Singh even used the opportunity to get back into nick, sending some balls into the nearby river; certain members illustrated their innovative coaching methods whilst Greethers tinkered with a few suspect Sri Lankan bowling actions! A great morning with smiles all round and the chance for a repeat performance of the Dan Mousley dance which was premiered the evening before on the boat.

Once the dreaded prospect of packing was behind us, a souvenir shopping trip brought our time in Colombo to an end, with several Sri Lankan cricket shirts purchased. Safe to say Mo Ahmed cashed in on the huge variety of after shaves on offer; everybody on the plane certainly knew he was ‘on board’.

On arrival to the airport a massive thanks was in order to local reps Artula, Ranga and Cyril who had made our trip that bit better every step of the way.

A great tour, spent with some fantastic lads; many, many lessons learnt and memories created.