England and Sri Lanka will mark one of cricket's most poignant moments when they meet at the previously tsunami-ravaged Galle International Stadium from tomorrow.
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 died in the disaster.
It was rebuilt from scratch with a US$500,000 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 today 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 realized.
"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 said
"I had promised myself that Test cricket will be played here again and I have lived up to that vow. It's a very emotional and exciting time for me," he said.
Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene said he was delighted to return to one of his favorite venues, which lies at the foot of the historic 17th century Galle Fort, a UNESCO world heritage site.
"It is one of my favorite venues. It's definitely going to be an emotional time for most of our guys. Lots of them in the team are from this part of the country," he said.
At least four Sri Lankan cricketers were personally affected by the catastrophe.
Sanath Jayasuriya's mother was saved by clinging to the branches of a tree, three relatives of fast bowler Dilhara Fernando drowned when their train to Galle was submerged, leg-spinner Upul Chandana's mother was rescued by a young man and Upul Tharanga's home was destroyed.
Record-breaking bowler Muttiah Muralitharan raised funds and distributed aid to the survivors as an ambassador for the UN World Food Program.
The star, who surpassed retired Australian Shane Warne's world record tally of 708 wickets in the first Test in Kandy, also persuaded his spin rival to visit Galle and raise funds.
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