Cricket returns to Sri Lanka tsunami-hit stadium

GALLE, Sri Lanka, Dec 16, 2007 (AFP) – England and Sri Lanka will mark one of cricket’s most poignant moments when they contest the third Test at the previously tsunami-ravaged Galle International Stadium from Tuesday.

The stadium, situated close to the Indian Ocean in the country’s coastal south, was destroyed by the Asian tsunami in 2004, which killed an estimated 300,000 people in a dozen countries.

Some 31,000 people in Sri Lanka alone perished in the December 26 disaster.

It was rebuilt from scratch with a 500,000-dollar funding package from Sri Lanka Cricket and, nearly three years to the day since it was decimated, is ready to host a Test match again.

When Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse inaugurates the new stadium on the eve of the match on Monday with both teams in attendance, one man in particular will struggle to hide his emotions.

Former Sri Lanka Test spinner Jayananda Warnaweera, the stadium’s long-time manager, still finds it hard to believe that his ambition to bring cricket back to Galle has been realised.

“I can’t tell you how I feel to be able to return this beautiful ground to Test cricket,” Warnaweera, who played 10 Tests between 1986 and 1994, told AFP.