The Royal–Thomian (The Battle of the Blues) is an annual cricket match in Sri Lanka played between Royal College, Colombo and S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia since 1879. It is known as The Battle of the Blues due to the colours of the two school’s flags i.e. blue, gold and blue of Royal College and blue, black and blue of S. Thomas’ College.
The original match was played between the Colombo Academy and S. Thomas’ College, Mutwal in 1879, with schoolmasters and schoolboys participating. Mr. Ashley Walker captained the Colombo Academy while Rev. S. J. Meyrick, a member of the staff played for S. Thomas’ College, Mutwal. This encounter is not considered the first match as Masters played for both sides.
In 1880, only the students took part and this first official encounter between the Colombo Academy and S. Thomas’ College, Mutwal in Modara was played at Galle Face Grounds, which is today the site of the Taj Samudra Hotel. The match commenced at 4.00 p.m. each day. The Beira Lake stretched up to the present railway line close to San Sebastian Hill and the two teams rowed across in boats to the Galle Face Grounds. The Academy made 110 in the first inning; and St. Thomas’ 59. In the second innings the Academy made 35 and St. Thomas’ 24. J. W. de Silva was the Academy captain and F. W. McDonnell the Thomian captain. In this first encounter Colombo Academy won by 62 runs.
At present the match is played between Royal College, Colombo which is a public non-denominational school accommodating approximately 8,000 students and S. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia which is a private Anglican school that has about 2500 boys on roll and a branch network of three constituent colleges with a total of over 5,500 students. It was the first schoolboy cricket match in Sri Lanka to be played over three days.
This match is played for the prestigious D. S. Senanayake Memorial Shield. Incidentally, Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake, who became the first Prime Minister of independent Ceylon, donned the Thomian cap in 1901 and 1902. This shield was first presented in 1928. If a match is drawn then the school already holding the shield retains it. S.Thomas’ College are the current holders of the shield after winning the 140th Battle of the Blues in 2019.
The “Battle of the Blues” is filled with pageantry. With decorated tents, flags and baila singing and dancing groups present all around the city and the ground itself during the match days and in the days leading up to it. The match is held on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday. By tradition, the schools are closed on match days to allow students to attend the Big Match. Souvenirs published by the both schools are sold on all three days as a memento, the duty of distribution entrusted to the souvenir committees. On the day before the match, the students of each school take a walk around the city in a “cycle parade” with bands and decorations and other colorful items showing support for their team. Overloaded cars with supporters singing and careering along the Colombo streets is a familiar sight during match days.
The match is looked forward to by both the young and old, male and female and even those who had no connection with either school would turn up and enjoy the celebrations. It is more of an occasion for the old boys and present students of both schools coming together for 3 days of fun and revelry. It is quite normal to see elderly alumni from either schools coming to the “Big Match” to relive old times and meet old friends. Some expatriates choose this time of year to return to Sri Lanka in order to relieve the old school days.
The venues in which the Roy-Tho had been played over the-years
- Galle Face Grounds (Home of Colombo Cricket Club) – 1880, 1882 to 1891, 1893, 1894, 1897, 1899, 1912
- Gordon Gardens – 1881
- Nomads Cricket Club (NCC) Grounds, Victoria Park – 1892
- CCC Grounds, Maitland Crescent – 1895 to 1896, 1898, 1900 to 1911
- Campbell Park – 1913 to 1915, 1917
- NCC Grounds, Maitland Crescent – 1916, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1939, 1941
- Singhalese Sports Club (SSC) Grounds, Victoria Park (current NCC grounds) – 1918 to 1934, 1938, 1940, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1948
- Colombo Oval – 1943, 1945, 1947, 1949 to 1974, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1986 to 1988, 1991, 1992, 1993
- SSC Grounds, Maitland Place – 1975, 1976, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1994 to Present.
Notable people who have played in the Royal Thomian cricket match