Pradeep Mathew's amazing deliveries
  Webpage dedicated to the varied talents of Pradeep Mathew: Sri Lanka's greatest unsung cricketer.
  The Speed Ball  

100 miles an hour is the holy grail for fast bowlers. The equivalent of the 4-minute mile. Jeff Thompson came close in 1976 with 99.7 mph. There is a young Pakistani tearaway, Akhtar, who I am told is faster than Thommo, but I am sceptical. Most Pakistani prodigies are washed up after two seasons.

Many say that the mythical gini pace bowler from Jaffna cracked the 100 mph mark. But none of this can be verified. Reggie Ranwala even believes that Mathew may have got close to the grail. This I do not believe.

“You should’ve seen in the ’93 Lakspray trophy final. If we had a speed camera, Mathew would have the record. Definitely. Definitely.”

Ari and I had been to most Lakspray trophy finals, enough to know that two years after receiving first-class status, it was renamed the P. Sara trophy, and that the final Reggie refers to, where Mathew sent down thunderbolts at the SSC middle order, took place in 1994.

We both remember the game well. The SSC was a virtual Sri Lankan side. Its mediocre pacemen opened our nation’s bowling and its batsmen had all received call-up for national duty. There was a Gurusinha, an Atapattu, two Gunawardenas and three Ranatungas.

It was a rain-drenched, high-scoring final. Replying to Bloomfield’s 520, SSC were plodding along in the 300s, getting some batting practice. After lunch, some words were exchanged between Mathew and the SSC captain, who was crawling towards a century. In the early 90s, this was not advisable. Being on the good side of the Captain was essential. Many were afraid of taking his wicket during domestic games.

Mathew didn’t seem to care. He bowled a darter, got rid of wicket-keeper Upul Fernando and made a remark to the Captain who then complained to the umpire. After this was smoothed over, Hemantha Wickremaratne joined the Captain at the crease and the pair began stone-walling.

Mathew gradually increased his run-up and began bowling slow orthodox deliveries, interspersed with short flat deliveries, which gradually grew faster and more frequent. There was no discernible change in action.

One broke Wickremaratne’s stump, literally in two. Two hit the Captain in the belly, three whizzed past his nose.

“New batsman Suranjith Silva came with helmets, remember?” says Ari.

Those were brisk deliveries, but none faster than 100 mph. Not the one that took out all three of Silva’s stumps. Nor the one that took the Captain’s off and leg and left the middle one standing.

No one knows for sure what was said or how fast Mathew’s speed ball was. But everyone remembers the Captain’s pointed finger and his parting words to Mathew. “You will never play for Sri Lanka again.”

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         Articles (c)W.G. Karunasena.