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The Royal Thomian derby

by Renu Manamendra

Continued from yesterday

Incidentally, on the 14th of January 1994, S. Thomas' College became the first school in Sri Lanka to open its own indoor cricket nets. Royal College followed suit on the 14th of December 1995.

Sporting captains, memorable incidents

Gamini Goonasena

There have been memorable incidents in the long Royal-Thomian series where captains had considered winning or losing secondary and taken decisions in the true spirit of the game. Two Royal Captains Channa Gunesekera and Tuan Saldin on two separate occasions recalled a Thomian batsman to resume the innings after being given out by the umpire in controversial circumstances in 1949 and 1976, respectively.

In the 1923 match, Thomian skipper Punchi Banda Lankatilleke's magnanimous gesture of playing an extra over gave Royal victory, which otherwise would have been a draw. At the time of his death in April 2003, aged 99 years, Mr. Lankatilleke was the oldest Thomian and the longest living Schools' Cricket Captain in Sri Lanka.

In 1946, the Thomian batsmen under the captaincy of Oscar Wijesinghe very sportingly ran out to bat in drizzle and bad light when they could justifiably have appealed for an early stoppage of play on account of bad light. Thomians carried on till the last wicket fell and Royal won the match.

According to Thomian Ronnie Weerakoon, he could barely see the bowler, let alone see the ball while he was batting. Later, Weerakoon played for All-Ceylon and Wijesinghe represented his country at the Empire Games in 1950 in New Zealand.

Dan Piachaud

The 1928 encounter with the Thomians struggling to save the match with 8 down for 76, chasing 188 runs for victory. Notwithstanding the dire straits his team was in, S. Thomas' captain Roy Hermon graciously offered fifteen extra minutes to the Royalists to try and win the match, but the Thomian grit surfaced and the match was drawn.

Unfortunately, one match in this time-honoured series had ended due to the invasion of the pitch by a section of the spectators and disrupting the match. In 1903, S. Thomas' captained by Francis Molamure (later Sir, who went on to become the first speaker in independent Ceylon's first Parliament) had to take one last Royal wicket to win. Royal led by Frank Ondatjie had to score 26 runs to win in the last over of the match by the last pair.

Just before the over started, unruly section of the crowd rushed to the field and carried away the two Royal batsmen off the ground, despite vain attempts by the Umpires to control them. Ultimately, on reference to the Colombo Cricket Club Committee, the match was declared a draw. Molamure who captained the combined colleges, was the finest fieldsman of his time.

In the 1949 Royal-Thomian, the Thomians were stuck for time to score just 3 runs for victory (with 6 wickets in hand) ironically due to Thomian Bradman Weerakoon hitting a huge six off Gamini Goonasena.

The ball had sailed over the ropes, over the boys' tents and into the wilderness. It is said that the time taken to find the lost ball in the end deprived the two Thomian batsmen at the crease Skipper Philips Shantikumar and Chandra Schaffter of pulling off what would have been an easy victory.

Then, unlike now, time was the only criteria that mattered and not the number of overs, which is of paramount importance now.

First Asian to captain Cambridge

Royalist Gamini Goonasena went on to become the first Asian to captain Cambridge. He played county cricket and represented the MCC. He was the stop-gap captain of the Ceylon Team in the 2nd unofficial Test match against India in 1956. A dynamic player, he was the first Ceylonese to be named one of Wisden's "Five Cricketers of the Year" in 1957.

Bradman Weerakoon became the Secretary General of the London-based International Planned Parenthood Federation, Advisor on international relations to two Presidents and the Permanent Secretary to 8 Prime Ministers of Sri Lanka - a record albeit of a different kind!

Shanthikumar came first in the then much coveted Civil Service examination in 1954 and Schafter a double international in cricket and hockey, currency controls two of the biggest insurance companies in Sri Lanka.

Thomians Dan Piachaud and Gehan D. Mendis are two other Sri Lankan born cricketers to play first class professional county cricket in England. The elegant Piachaud, an Oxford Blue, had the distinction of playing for All-Ceylon and the M.C.C. Mendis first scored over 1,000 runs in season for Sussex County in 1980.

In 7 seasons out of 8 thereafter he topped 1,000 runs a season. He scored over 10,000 first class runs, which included several centuries and double centuries. Wisden describes him as 'a dashing right hand opening batsman'. Although highly rated, he was unfortunate never to played for his adopted country England.

P. Saravanamuttu Trophy - The 'Blue Riband'

The only time the then University of Ceylon won the 'Blu Riband' - The P. Saravanamuttu trophy was in 1963. That champion team included 2 Royalists, Nihal De Mel, Dr. Harsha Samarajeewa and 5 Thomians, Dr. Upali Gunetilleke, Dr. Buddy (B.G.) Reid, Mano Ponniah, Dr. N. S. Gurusinghe and Dr. Lareef Idroos. It is also noteworthy to mention that the first SSC team to play its first ever match (in 1901 verses the Colombo Sports Club) comprised of 4 Royalists, D. B. Gunesekera (Snr.) E. Weerasooriya, A. C. Tirimanne, F. A. Obeyesekera and 8 Thomians, O. G. De Alwis (Captain), D. L. de Saram, A. F. Molamure, M. S. Guneratne, B. De Saram, A. E. Abeykoon, F. L. Goonewardene and S. De Saram. Some of these gentlemen in later years did much to popularise the sport in their provincial home towns.

Thomian grit

No commentary on Royal-Thomian cricket is complete without reference to 'Thomian grit' in the context of the history centenary match played in 1979. Thomian wickets were falling all round in the second innings and Royal were in sight of victory in the last session of the match. But when all looked lost for S. Thomas' there emerged from the shadows of gloom Mahinda Halangode and Chandrashan Richards, the saviours.

The end of the day scoreboard read, Halangode 70 not out (14 fours)and Richards 20 not out (1 four) - S. Thomas 252 for 8 wickets. An unbroken ninth wicket partnership of 91 runs to bring home a honourable draw.

Fittingly, rising to the motto of S. Thomas' - "Esto Perpetua" (Be thou forever) in what is today a piece of history in the annals of the 'Battle of the Blues". Royal last won the 'Battle' in successive years 1990 and 1991 under Udaya Lakmal Wijesena and Rohan Iriyagolle, respectively.

The last Royal team to win by an innings was held by Pat McCarthy (1938), who played for All-Ceylon and a season for Western Australia in Australia. S. Thomas' last won in 1999 under Naren Ratwatte and the last Thomian team to win by an innings was led by Anura Bulankulame in 1988.

Many cricketers from both schools, whose names are not mentioned here, have played in all grades of representative cricket, thereby contributing immensely to the sustenance and progress of the sport in the country. Royalists and Thomians have also served as Presidents of almost all the leading cricket clubs and associations.

Frank L. Goonewardene who captained S. Thomas' in 1899, was the premier sponsor and promoter of the sport in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. Captain of the Kandy Sports Club, Goonewardena, a wealthy lawyer, was made a honorary member of the MCC in 1927.

After 124 years without a miss or break for wars, the series is either tied or S. Thomas' leads, depending how the contentious result of the 9-run match in 1885 is counted. S. Thomas' says it won that year and leads the series with 33 wins to 32. For Royal, the 9-run match was a draw and the competition stands at 32 wins each.

The 9-run Match

The "History of the Royal College' says "Although the circumstances were quite ordinary, Royal were dismissed for 9 runs. S. Thomas' piled up 170 for 6 wickets and the rain interfered, but the umpires one of whom was Mr. Ashley Walker decided that the ground was fit for play after rain ceased. But though the umpires and the principal were for continuing the match, the team urged by a few unsporting boys refused to play."

The "Ceylon Observer" of 16th March 1885, under local and general says "The S. Thomas' College Cricket Club - the Honorary Secretary of the Club, Mr. Frank Grenier, wishes us to state that no matches in future be arranged with the Royal College CC in consequence of the latter club refusing to continue the match played last week." The Laws of Cricket is as follows, "when they (i.e. the umpires) shall call play, the side that refuses to play shall lose the match".

But, fortunately, for the future generations of Royalists and Thomians, "The History of the Royal College" further states: "The disagreement which resulted between the two teams was settled by Royal apologising and the Thomians sportive enough to bury the hatchet".

Whatever the result, the connoisseurs of the Royal Thomian believe the 9-run match has added much fun and good humour in the true spirit of the game to build a healthy Royal-Thomian tradition over the years since this controversial match in 1885.

Eight other "Roy-Tho" contests

Eight other annual contests - The Royal Thomians Rowin Regatta, The Hayman Cup Water Polo Tie (in the Royal and Thomian swimming pools) the D. S. Senanayake Trophy Basketball Match, the Orville Abeynaike Trophy Hockey Match, the Tennis Tie, the Mustangs Trophy One-day Cricket Match, the Michael Guneratne Trophy Rugby Scrum-down and the Soccer Match - further binds the two schools in sporting rivalry.

A bond, perhaps best reflected by the words of a former principal of Royal College, the genial Mr. Bogoda Premaratne, that "without Royal there is no S. Thomas', and without S. Thomas' there is no Royal".

At the 1905 S. Thomas' College Old Boys Association (which is incidentally the oldest schools' Alumni Association in the country) dinner, Mr. Charles Hartley the Principal of Royal College in his speech had hoped that "S. Thomas' will be spared for many years to act as a spur and a whetstone to Royal College and other similar institutions."

We Royalists would say, if we were not fortunate enough to be called Royalists, then we would have certainly called ourselves Thomians!!!

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