With the de-restriction of COVID-19 safety protocols on public events, Sri Lanka’s longest-running cricket series played between Royal College, Colombo, and S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia will be battled out in its full glory for the 144th uninterrupted time for the prestigious Rt. Hon. D S Senanayake Memorial Shied from March 16th to 18th 2023 at the Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo 07.
The 144th edition of the Royal-Thomian will be the 18th year that the match is sponsored by Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata PLC.
Due to the unprecedented times in the last two years owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the matches were played behind closed doors for the safety of players. However, with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions the Joint Match Organising Committee of the Royal – Thomian, under the guidance of the heads of the two respective schools has decided to play the 144th edition of Sri Lanka’s blue ribbon big match, the Battle of the Blues encounter in full attendance to ensure the Royal-Thomian fraternity is able to enjoy the event as done in the past.
The 144th ‘Battle of the Blues’ cricket encounter will go LIVE on Dialog Television channel number 22, and will also be available via LIVE stream on ThePapare.com and the Dialog ‘Viu’ app. The limited-over ‘Mustang’s Trophy’ match will be played on Friday 24th at the same venue.
As a kind gesture of uplifting schools’ cricket, Dialog Axiata PLC in 2015 made a pledge to contribute 1,000 rupees for every run scored and 10,000 rupees for every wicket that fell. Last year’s encounter contributed Rs. 834,000 to the ‘Play for a Cause’ pledge. The proceedings were distributed in consultation with the Principal of Royal College and the Warden of S. Thomas’ College to support and empower deserving schools in the country.
In this year’s encounter, the boys from Mt. Lavinia will be led by stumper Romesh Mendis, while the lads from Reid Avenue will play under the captaincy of all-rounder Dasis Manchanayake.
‘The Royal – Thomian’ has a rich and colourful history spanning across 143 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 in which only the boys took part was played at Galle Face, the present location of the Taj Samudra Hotel. This was the start of 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 ‘Roy – Tho’ has the distinction of producing cricketers who later became eminent heads of state, with S. Thomas’ producing the father of the nation, the late Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake MP (1901 – 1902), whom the Shield is named after, and his son, the late Hon. Dudley Senanayake MP (1927-1929) as Prime Minister 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. Jayawardene (1925).
The tally between the two schools at present stands at 35-all, with the highly-debated match in 1885, where Royal College was all out for nine runs and refusing to play on the second day which was considered a win by S. Thomas’ and considered a draw by Royal as shown in the respective souvenir books of the two schools. The shield at present sits as the crown jewel, amongst the silverware in the Warden’s trophy cabinet at S. Thomas’ College – Mt. Lavinia, after putting up a superb performance in 2019 under the captaincy of Sithara Hapuhinna, which will be challenged by a determined Royal XI this year, who have put on some heavy scores against their opponents in the 2023 season. 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.”
Dialog Axiata is the proud sponsor of the Sri Lanka National Cricket, Volleyball, Netball and Esports teams. The Company also has a close association with the President’s Gold Cup Volleyball, National Junior and Senior Netball tourneys, Schools Rugby, Premier Football and Paralympic sports by powering the Army Para Games, National Para Games and the Sri Lankan contingent to the World Paralympic Games.