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First-person reports from the stands

Royal College v St Thomas' College, Colombo, first day

Blue rivals on a hot summer's day

The annual outing to a century-old cricket contest in Colombo

Jonathan Francis

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Harith Samarasinghe raises his bat after getting his half-century for Royal College, Royal College v S Thomas, 1st day, SSC, March 13, 2014
Royal's No. 10, Harith Samarasinghe, made a battling half-century © Thusith Wijedoru
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Teams: Sri Lanka

Choice of game
While the sun blazed on a typical March Thursday, shouts of T-H-O-R-A, blaring trumpets and the crack of leather on willow greeted me at the Sinhalese Sports Club. Here, in Colombo, the month of March marks the second-longest uninterrupted cricketing series in the world, between Royal College, Colombo and S Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia. Popularly known as the "Battle of the Blues", this is the 135th year of the contest.

Key performer
With Royal reeling at 59 runs for the loss of eight wickets, in walked 18-year-old Harith Samarasinghe to join Thiran Danapala. What transpired within the next hour and even before my friend could return after collecting his change from a beer counter was astounding. The duo added a record ninth-wicket partnership for 96 runs with Royal recovering to 158 all out.

But the mayhem had begun earlier in the day when Thomian party starter, the left-armed pacer Abdul Carder steamrolled the Royal top order while also shifting Thomians from work desks to the SSC.

Filling the gaps
During lunch, friends chatted, sales of beer and Chinese rolls increased. The security guard made a quick buck. People went for walks on the grounds. The popsicle salesman did good business. My friend assumed it was the end of the day's play, while another tried to corrects him - it's tea break, he said. All this, while I sat enjoying the afternoon breeze and bit into my chicken nugget.

Wow moment
Watching two ten-year-olds from the two schools switch flags summed up a rare feature seen at the Royal-Thomian for over a century and a quarter. How the two competing powers have synergised to create an experience can be encouraging to a nation in reconciliation.

Shot of the day
Thomian batsman Rashmika Optha opened his Royal-Thomian account with three conservative fours, including a straight drive that passed the bowler. It was a rare treat despite 13 wickets falling on day one.

The madness
The feverish excitement, a week before the match, had now transformed into an epidemic. Masses of blue gold and blue black marched to and from the venue. The long lines of pavement hawkers, selling everything from flags to masks added a festive air. There were girls in shorts, guys with straw hats, most of them loud, some drunk.

Overall
With two more days to go, I couldn't have asked for more. At the end of it all despite whatever the scoreboard may suggest the words of former Royal College principal Mr Bogoda Premaratne will stay with me: "There is no Royal without Thomas and no Thomas without Royal". Esto perpetua

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Jonathan Francis is an old Thomian who still thinks cricket grounds should be rectangular, Upul Tharanga should open for Sri Lanka, and that Russel Arnold is a poet. When not a reader, talker and writer of cricket, he works as a marketer to pay the bills. He tweets here.

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Comments: 1 
Posted by   on (March 16, 2014, 15:56 GMT)

Nicely composed article mate...well balanced..wish you good luck Jony..keep it up!

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