Unique stamp for a unique event
A stamp was released on 30 January 2004 to commemorate the 125th cricket match between Royal College and St Thomas’ College, popularly known as the ‘Battle of the Blues’. The match to be played at the SSC from 11-13 March is unique in that it is the longest uninterrupted series in history.

It was St Thomas’ College which started playing cricket first. Located in Mutwal at the time, records indicate that it was the first local school to play cricket. The first match was played way back in 1864. That was against Small Pass Cricket Club in Colombo.

The name of Rev. Felton Falkner, Cambridge Blue and Sub-Warden of the College is mentioned as the one person who promoted cricket in the school. He captained the team, from 1873 to 1877 against most of the cricket teams from Colombo and the outstations.

Royal College, then known as the Colombo Academy and located in Pettah, started playing cricket after Ashley Walker, also a Cambridge Blue arrived from England and assumed duties as Assistant Principal.

The first match between College and Academy (as the two schools were then known) was played in 1879. The Academy team was led by Ashley Walker and that was the first match played by the Academy. This match was not considered as the beginning of the series since masters in both schools played. Thus the series began with the game played in 1880.

Playing for the Academy in the first game were J. W. de Silva, B. W. Bawa, B. de Silva, A. Jansz, C. Wellopulle, C. de Silva, O. Van Hoff, Wilfred de Kretser, William de Kretser, P. P. Jansz and A. Weinman. The College was represented by F. W. McDonnel, C. Wilkins, E. R. McDonnel, F. T. Ellawala, W. B. De Saram, W. E. Grenier, C. H. De Saram, D. Wendt, C. O. Siebel, J. Lourensz and C. De Saram.

While most other activities were interrupted during the two World Wars - the first between 1914-18 and the second 1939-45 - the Royal-Thomian cricket encounters continued.

Many cricketers from both schools have represented the country, some of whom, have proved to be outstanding players. Thomian captain Michael Tissera led Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then known) to the first unofficial Test victory in 1964 (we had not gained Test status at that time) and also the first one-day international game in 1969.

Another Thomian captain, Duleep Mendis led Sri Lanka to the first official Test victory in 1985. He was also the only Sri Lankan player to play and captain a World XI - against West Indies in 1981/82, and also the first to score twin centuries in either an unofficial or official Test for Sri Lanka. He scored 105 & 105 against India in 1982.

Thomian captain Anura Tennekoon led Sri Lanka in the first and second World Cups in 1975 & 1979 and his batting average (48.8) in unofficial Tests (he captained 16 of them) was more than any other player’s until the country gained Test status.

The Royal-Thomian is not merely a cricket match but a social event when old boys and well-wishers gather in their numbers enjoying themselves meeting old friends and reviving old memories.

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