Royal-Thomian: the island’s only blockbuster Big Match | Sunday Observer

Royal-Thomian: the island’s only blockbuster Big Match

Thevindu Senaratne, Royal Captain (L) and Thevin Eriyagama, S. Thomas’ captain hold the DS Senanayake Shield
Thevindu Senaratne, Royal Captain (L) and Thevin Eriyagama, S. Thomas’ captain hold the DS Senanayake Shield

It will come down to three-days of much awaited action and tension at the SSC ground from March 12 to 14 when schoolboys from Royal College and S. Thomas’ College play their hearts out on a mission to reclaim and retain the DS Senanayake Shield that is now sitting pretty at the school by the sea.

For Royal it would be a gruelling and testing quest of regaining the Shield, lost last year, while the boys from the school by the sea, will be playing to defend it.

What makes it an interesting coincidence is that both schools with 35 wins apiece go into the three telling days bidding to own the 141st occasion.

For the Thomians it was a big sigh of relief getting their hands back on the Shield after a 12-year hoodoo last year.

The Thomians this time though have not played to their standard and are looking to the three-day cricketing extravaganza to turn things around. Their bowling unit will be minus last year’s pace ace Kalana Perera, spinner and ex-captain Dellon Peiris and slow-bowler Shannon Fernando.

Having played in 16 matches this season they have won four outright but are undefeated. In the side are also two Sri Lanka Under-19 players in left-arm quick Yasiru Rodrigo and the other Ravindu de Silva who fared exceptionally well in the Youth World Cup by becoming the top scorer for the country and second best in the tournament.

On the other hand, Royal’s last victorious occasion was in 2016 when they pulled off a thriller in fading light and racing against the clock.

Their seasonal tally stands at four outright wins without losing a single match and will also take the field with two Sri Lanka Under-19 players in top-order batsmen Kamil Mishara and Ahan Wickramasinghe.

The match easily and effortlessly becomes the cynosure of all eyes every time the two schools meet as it only reaches new heights, including becoming an untouched, unparalleled and unbeatable battle.

They often boast of a kind of frolic when boys from both schools go on trucking separately and forcibly storm into a girls school with thundering cheers and jeers and exit without falling into the handcuffs of the cops.

The scenario is frowned upon by the majority of schools and can also become a public nuisance and a battle with the cops where law and order is concerned.

For the record the Battle of the Blues and Jaffna’s big match between Jaffna Central College and St. Johns’ College, which is usually played on the same days, are the only two school matches in the island to run into three days.

Ever since the inaugural Royal-Thomian was worked off 141 years ago at the Galle Face Green where the Taj Samudra Hotel now stands, it has become truly a big match while most other so-called big matches, apart from a few, have become meaningless. Unlike the rest of the big matches, it also produces results, most of the time.

During the lengthy period, the Battle of the Blues has withstood war, wounds and the carnage of the countless many, emerging as a peacekeeper, uniting all and sundry.

For the Reid Avenue side it would be the wish and prayers of 9000 schoolboys and many more thousands of Royal supporters as captain Thevindu Senaratne echoing on the elite match said: “Every Royalist wishes to play a big match and I have played mine when I was 16 years old. So this is my last year and the atmosphere is different. It’s a whole new game.”

His Thomian counterpart captain Thevin Eriyagama speaking said: “Since it’s the second longest uninterrupted cricket encounter in the world, it’s rich in history and tradition. It’s more than just a game of cricket. Many great Thomians have played this encounter and captaining the First XI team is not only a privilege but a dream come true.”

They too would be under the spell of 3000 Thomians along with the old boys thronging the SSC praying for the Shield to remain by the sea.

Overall an estimated 23,000 fans, the highest recorded for a big match, are expected to be in attendance carrying mixed hopes, expectations and belief for the black-and-silver Shield to be theirs.