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There’s no Royal without S. Thomas’
and no STC without Royal!

The first schoolboys only College vs Academy match was in 1880. The result was a 62 run win for the Academy. J. W. de Silva captained the Academy and F. W. McDonnnell led S. Thomas’.

The most looked forward to sporting and social event in the calendar of both past and present Royalists and Thomians, the Royal-Thomian Big Match, also known as the ‘Battle of the blues’ will be played for the 130th time on 12, 13 and 14 March at the SSC grounds, in Colombo.

S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia, a private Anglican school, has about 2400 boys on roll and Royal College Colombo, a government run non denominational school has approximately 8000, thus making it the largest school in the country.

History records S. Thomas’ College Colombo (in Mutwal, later Mount Lavinia) as the first school to play cricket in Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then known).

In 1864, S. Thomas’ played the first match against the small Pass Cricket Club in Colombo. The result is recorded as an eight run victory for the college.

More importantly, this 1864 match has gone down in history as the first recorded Ceylonese cricket match played in the country. From 1864 to 1877, S. Thomas’ has continued to play matches against clubs, including the elitist European dominated Colombo Cricket Club. As there was no other school playing cricket during that time in Ceylon, the Sub-Warden of the college, Reverend Felton Falkner, a Cambridge ‘Blue’ has rendered a great service to develop cricket at S. Thomas’ during those initial years.

A pioneer of cricket in Ceylon, Rev. Falkner coached the college boys and was the Thomian cricket captain for several years.

Asbly Walker, also a Cambridge ‘Blue’, arrived in Ceylon in January 1877 to take up duties at the Colombo Academy in the Pettah (later renamed Royal College and shifted to Reid Avenue). Walker started coaching the academy boys and organised the first Academy cricket team in 1878.

The very first ‘College vs Academy’ cricket match (as the Royal-Thomian was then called) was played in 1878.

Incidentally, this was the first cricket match played by the Colombo Academy, thus becoming the second school to play cricket in Ceylon. Although the scores are not given, the result is recorded as a win for the college team by an innings and three runs. The second match in 1879 ended in a win for the Academy team by 56 runs. But both these matches are not taken into account as masters played in both teams.

The first schoolboys only College vs Academy match was in 1880. The result was a 62 run win for the Academy. J. W. de Silva captained the Academy and F. W. McDonnnell led S. Thomas’.

Since the 1880s, these two great schools - the most prestigious in Sri Lanka - have churned out world class cricketers. Famous Royal cricketers - Dr. C. H. Gunesekera, Sargo Jayawickrema, Col. F. C. De Saram, Sathi Coomaraswamy, C. I. Gunesekera, Gamini Goonesena, Ranjan Madugalle and renowned S. Thomas’ cricketers, A. C. Amath, D. L. De Saram, S. Saravanamuttu, Vernon Prins, Michael Tissera, Dr. B. G. Reid, Anura Tennekoon and Duleep Mendis - have captained, Ceylon, or All-Ceylon or Sri Lanka against foreign teams.

The first All-Ceylon cricket captain Douglas Lee De Saram (1922) who’s also the first Ceylonese to get his name in the cricketers ‘Bible’ the Wisden (1912), played for S. Thomas’ from 1898 to 1902. W. T. Greswell has said in an interview: "if the players are understudying their popular idol D. L. De Saram, they should continue to do so. No better model cricketer or sportsman ever donned flannels in Ceylon."

S. P. Foenander has said: "D. L. De Saram is the finest all-round cricketer and the most popular in the history of the game in Ceylon. For sheer stroke production and power, he has never been surpassed and his presence in the cricket field made him a cricketer second to none in the history of the game in the island."

Even Sri Lanka’s national leaders have played in the ‘Battle of the blues’. President J. R. Jayewardene played for Royal in 1925. The ‘father of the nation’ D. S. Senanayake played for S. Thomas’ in 1901 and ‘02.

Sir John Kotelawala played for Royal in 1914 and ‘15. Dudley Senanayake played for S. Thomas’ in 1927, ‘28 and ‘29. National hero Edward Pedris turned out for S. Thomas’ in 1907, while the only Ceylonese to be awarded the Victoria Cross for Valour, Basil Hosfall was a bit unfortunate to be named the 12th man, in the Thomian team.

Not many know that the time-honoured match is played for the most coveted D. S. Senanayake Challenge Shield.

So after 129 ‘Battles’, the score according to Royal records stands at: Royal College with 33 wins while S. Thomas’ has won 34 matches. But according to S. Thomas’ College statistics, the tally is: Royal College (33) and S. Thomas’ 35 wins!

The difference is obviously due to the controversial match played in 1885. The Royalists say the match was drawn, but the Thomians record it as a win! Since then, the fierce tussle for supremacy between the arch-rivals has brought out the very best in ‘Royal courage’ and the famed ‘Thomian grit’ on the field and off it as well.

When asked to comment on the relationship between the two schools, former Royal College Principal, Bogoda Premaratne had this to say: "There is no Royal without S. Thomas’ and no S. Thomas’ without Royal!"

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