Royal determined to wrest Trophy from Thomians

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Premier boy’s schools, Royal College, Colombo 7 and S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, will battle it out for the 143rd uninterrupted time for the prestigious Rt. Hon. D.S. Senanayake Memorial Shield from 21 to 23 July at the Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo 7.

This is Sri Lanka’s longest running cricket series played between two schools. The limited over ‘Mustangs Trophy’ match will be played on the following Saturday at the same venue.

Due to the unprecedented times which have led to the adverse situation in the country, the Joint Match Organising Committee, under the guidance of the heads of the two schools, have decided to play the 143rd edition behind closed doors, with only the boys’ tents of the respective schools allowed to operate inside the premises.

The 143rd encounter will be broadcast live on Dialog Television channel number 140, and will also be available via a live stream on the ThePapare.com and the Dialog ‘Viu’ app.

In the 140th edition, Dialog rekindled a long and successful partnership with the big match. The 143rd edition will be the 14th year that the match is sponsored by Dialog Axiata, Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider. Dialog Axiata made a pledge to contribute
Rs  1,000 for every run scored and
Rs  10,000 for every wicket that fell. Last year’s encounter contributed Rs 383,000 to the ‘Play for a Cause’ pledge. The proceeds were distributed in consultation with the Principal of Royal and the Warden of S. Thomas’ to support and empower deserving schools in the country.

This year the boys from Mt. Lavinia will be led by all-rounder Ryan Fernando, while the lads from Reid Avenue will play under the captaincy of left arm orthodox spinner Gishan Balasooriya.

Royal-Thomian has a rich and colourful history spanning across 142 years, and is also the second longest uninterrupted cricket series played in the world, second only to the annual encounter played between St. Peters College, Adelaide and Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, Australia, that began just a year earlier. The Australia vs England Ashes Series commenced two years later in 1882.

In 1880, the first match was played at Galle Face, the present location of the Taj Samudra Hotel. This was the start to the century old series. Both teams are said to have rowed in boats across the Beira Lake to play the match.

The playing fields of the ‘Royal-Thomian’ has the distinction of producing cricketers who later became eminent heads of state. S. Thomas’ produced the father of the nation, the late Rt. Hon. D.S. Senanayake MP (1901 – 1902), after whom the Shield is named, and his son, the late Hon. Dudley Senanayake MP (1927-1929) as Prime Ministers of Ceylon, while Royal produced the late Rt. Hon. (General) Sir John Kotelawala MP (1914-1915) as Prime Minister and the first Executive President of Sri Lanka, the late J.R. Jayewardene (1925).

The tally between the two schools at present stands at 35-all, with the highly-debated match in 1885, where Royal were all out for nine runs and refused to play on the second day, which was considered a win by S. Thomas’ and a draw by Royal as shown in their respective souvenirs. The Shield at present sits amongst the silverware in the Warden’s Trophy cabinet at S. Thomas’, after a superb performance in 2019 under the captaincy of Sithara Hapuhinna, which will be challenged by a determined Royal XI this year, who racked up impressive wins during the Covid-19 impacted calendar. The boys from Reid Avenue last won the coveted Shield under the stewardship of Geeshanth Paditharatne in 2016.

Played in the highest tradition of excellence, the two schools have a formed a bond of mutual respect, camaraderie, sportsmanship, and friendly adversaries on and off the field, which has stood for almost one-and-a-half centuries. As remarked by a yesteryear Principal of Royal College: “There is no Royal without S. Thomas’ and no S. Thomas’ without Royal.”