|By A.B. Francis
(Courtesy of Daily Mirror – 28th May 2012)
Welihinda Badalge Bennett of Mahinda College, Galle was the second Sri Lankan cricketer to have his name in the "Guinness Book of World Records" after Clive Inman. Inman who was the first, earned the honour in1964. Inman hammered the fastest half-century in First Class cricket within a mere eight minutes for Leicestershire against Nottinghamshire in an English Country Cricket Championship match.
Bennett, a modest personality with a towering frame was the famous wicket keeper at Southern Sri Lanka's leading Buddhist school Mahinda College, Galle.
Remarkably, Bennett achieved his amazing feat way back in 1953 - a full eleven years before Inman performed his feat but the importance of his achievement dawned on the record books only 27 years later in 1980.
His incredible feat ? He claimed all ten victims in an innings playing for his college Mahinda against the Galle CC at Galle Esplande in March 1, 1953.
Interestingly, no one on earth has achieved that feat again to date. Despite an achievement that could be termed the rarest of rarities in cricket, Bennett's feat has remained unknown to many even in his own country for a long time. Even Bennett realized little of its importance till the Guinness book of world records recognized it 27 years later. Six of his victims were stumped, while the other four were caught.
In the same year (1953) in his school team's "Big Match" against hometown rivals Richmond; Bennett was in top form behind the stumps claiming six scalps - four stumped and two caught. Interestingly, he allowed a mere single extra run in Richmond's total of 167 that year. Representing his College for four years from 1951 to 54, Bennett still holds the highest aggregate of victims by a wicket-keeper in the 98-year-old "big match" series having a total of 16 victims to his credit.
Bennet also won the College batting award in 1954. In 1953, he won the College batting award and also College cricket colours.
The year 1953 was a golden year for Mahinda cricket and coul;d still be claimed as their best year ever. Just a few days after Bennett's world record feat, his College skipper S. Ambawatte, also created cricket history in their "Big Match" against Richmond. An amazingly gifted all rounder, Ambawatte claimed all ten Richmond wickets in the first innings and scored a century when Mahinda batted before picking up another five wickets in Richmond second innings.
Bennett played for Galle Combined Schools against Karachi in 1954 and was the only batsman of the local side to enter double figures. He had the privilege of being coached by Sir Learie Constantine, one of the great West Indian all-rounders.
After leaving school, Bennett played for Saracens and Nomads in division one cricket. He also played for Municipality SC in the Government Services Tournament and toured India on two occasions with the Municipal SC team. However Bennett's budding cricket career was devastated by a tragic injury he sustained when he toured South India with the Municipality team. With his oozing talent he certainly had a chance of making it into the Ceylon XI had he continued his career uninterrupted.
Bennett was hit on the right eye by a rising ball delivered by the opening bowler of Madras President's X1 and was rushed to the Bangalore nursing home for treatment. But he lost his sight on this eye.
Luckily, he gradually regained his vision of the right eye after a constant treatment for three years.
After his vision returned to normal, he courageously resumed playing for his employer Municipality in the State Services Cricket Tournaments with success. His score of 153 not out was his highest which he scored in an inter-department match played against Health Department in 1959.
Bennett continued playing in his fifties and only retired from the game fully in the 1980's. However he remained in service with the Municipality till 1990.
Bennett's son Channa Welihinda is playing for Lanka Colts in Sharjah where he is employed. He played for Nalanda second XI team. Bennett also has two daughters. Having retired, Bennett joined a Garment production company and worked for eight years before retiring. Enjoying a quiet life, Bennett who is 70 now, spends most of his time with his grand children.
Little known Guinness records by Lankan cricketers
Wicker-keeper collecting all 10 wickets in one innings
In 1953 W.J. Bennett created a world record playing for Mahinda College, Galle against Galle CC as wicket-keeper, collecting all ten wickets behind, stumping 6 and catching 4 in one innings.
Municipality piling up 925 runs
In1959 Municipality piled up 925 runs against Irrigation Department in the Government Services A Division (1st grade) tournament in Ceylon at Vihara Mahadevi Park, which is a Sri Lanka record.
The chief scorers were D.P. de Silva 276, Sarath Silva 160, Lasantha Rodrigo 74, A.C. Deutron 78, Makin Salih 62, A. Polonowita 63, S.K.P. Jayawardene 53, D. Buultjens 50, Douglas Silva 39, H.I. Fernando 28, S. Yatawara 20 n.o.
Fastest fifty in 8 minutes
In 1954 Clive Inman of Sri Lanka, playing for Leicestershire against Nottinghamshire had his name engraved in the Guinness book by hammering the fastest fifty in 8 minutes in an English County Cricket Championship match.
Fine double, unbeaten 200 and10 wickets
The former Sri Lanka cricketer Lionel Fernando hammered an unbeaten 200 and captured all ten wickets in one innings for St. Benedict's College against St.Anne's College, Kurunegala, at St. Benedict's College grounds, Kotahena. - (ABF)