With cricket's popularity in Sri Lanka growing quickly in the 1970's, despite not yet being a test nation, the Welagedera Stadium in Kurunegala, which is situated about 100km north east of Kandy, went through a period of rapid development in which adequate facilities and even accommodation were installed. In 1972 the matting wicket was replaced with a turf one. Since then it has become one of the best batting wickets in the country. Though often covered with a green tinge, batsmen have prospered because of a true bounce and it's relatively quick pace. In 1972 the stadium was officially declared open by the then Minister of Home Affairs, Justice Felix Dias Bandaranaike. From then onwards the Kurunegala Municipal Council, headed by Noel Seneviratne, took over and developed the venue further by constructing a stadium with the hope that Test matches would be staged here. The Stadium witnessed an international match for the first time when Pakistan played there in 1985. This venue can accommodate at least 10,000 spectators, who can find shade beneath the thick foliage that surrounds the ground. Indeed, the ground is extremely picturesque. The giant 'Elephant Rock' forms a dramatic back-drop to the ground. Beneath it lies the press box, which many years ago, in the times that Kurunegala was an important Kingdom, King Buwaneka Bahu the 6th, would address his subjects. In recent times the venue has regularly staged international tour matches, unofficial test matches and U19 one-day games.