Big Match Fever is Back!

2020-02-25 at 14:02

Big Match Fever is Back!

It’s the March madness again…

It’s the time when old boys reminisce their past glory days, the batch parties organized, the school flags come out of closets, parents’ pride themselves of their teenage sons’ achievements, teachers grow younger and more importantly the school boys’ light up and harness the pride of their alma mater and heartily sing their prestigious school anthems.

The paradise island is known for her great traditions and like nowhere in the world, the months of February, March and April, are illuminated with the spirit of cricket and we are diagnosed with our favourite,” Big Match Fever”.

Battle of the Blues

When talking about big matches, there is no bigger war than the “Battle of the Blues,” where traditional rivals Royal College, Colombo and St. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia battle it out, for the prestigious DS Senanayake Memorial Shield.

One hundred and forty years ago, Royalists and Thomians met on the cricket field giving birth to the “big match”, a term unique to Sri Lanka.

Between 1901 and 1934 the leading Catholic, Buddhist, Anglican and Government schools in Colombo, Kandy, Galle, Jaffna, Matara and other major urban centres, followed the Royal-Thomian tradition. Amidst social change and upheaval, and ideological attacks on cricket as a colonial legacy, the game has shed its elitist image and become the national game. Correspondingly, the big-match concept has taken hold in all urban areas in a manner unmatched by any other cricket playing nation. It also serves as the inspiration for matches involving old boys of Sri Lankan urban schools in cities all over the world.

The Royal–Thomian is the second-longest uninterrupted cricket match series in the world having been played for 140 years continuously. The oldest being the series between St Peters College and Prince Alfred College, in South Australia.

The original Royal–Thomian series match was played between the Colombo Academy and S. Thomas’ College in 1879, with schoolmasters participating as well as schoolboys. From 1880 onwards, only schoolboys were allowed to play in the match.

The Royal-Thomian, is played for the most prestigious ‘Father of the Nation’ D. S. Senanayake Memorial Shield. Incidentally, D. S. Senanayake, who became independent Ceylon’s first Prime Minister, donned the Thomian cap in 1901 and 1902. The shield was presented in 1928. Prime Minister Senanayake’s two sons, Dudley and Robert, played for S. Thomas’ that year. The match is not just a game, but ‘the Big Match’ and is played in a riveting atmosphere throughout the three days.

This year it will be played on the 12th,13th and 14th of March at the Sinhalese Sports Club Grounds in Maitland Crescent Colombo.

From the 140 matches played so far the tally stands at 35 wins for the Thomians and 35 for the Royalists with the rest ending in draws.

St. Thomas’s College defeated Royal College by seven wickets during the 140th Battle of the Blues played at the SSC ground last March.

This battle has produced Sri Lanka players of the likes of Jeewan Mendis, Kusal Janith Perera, Kithruwan Perera, Jehan Mubarak and Ramith Rambukwella.

 Battle of the Blues – Kandy

“The Battle of the Blues –Kandy” is being played between two prestigious Catholic institutions, Trinity College, Kandy and St. Anthony’s College, Katugasthota for well over a century. Inaugurated in 1914, this year will be the 103rd Hill Country ‘Battle of the Blues’, which is due to be played on the 13th and 14th  of March at the St. Anthony’s College Grounds in Katugasthota. The boys from the hill capital are contesting for the John Halangoda Memorial Trophy.

The Trinitians by virtue of 11 victories in a row from 1918 to 1928, are still leading the Trophy tally with 22 wins against 12 by the Antonians. The rest of the matches have ended in draws. Last year’s game also ended in a draw.

This battle has produced Sri Lanka players of the likes of spin-legend Muttiah Muralitharan, the evergreen Kumar Sangakkara, Niroshan Dickwella and Lahiru Kumara.

Battle of the Saints

St. Joseph’s College Maradana and St.Peter’s College Bambalapitiya will play for the Rev.Fr Maurice LeGoc Trophy on 6th and 7th of March at the P.Sara Oval.

Fondly known as “Battle of the Saints”, they will wage war for the 86th time this year, since the battle’s inception in 1933. St. Joseph’s College has recorded 12 wins, while the Peterites have registered just 9 wins during the previous encounters. 64 matches of the series have ended without a result.

The 85th ‘Battle of the Saints’ played at the P.Sara Stadium ended in stalemate as both sides failed to out-play the other.

Over the years this battle has produced National players, including Sri Lanka’s current Skipper Dimuth Karunarathna and National players of the likes of Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Angelo Perera and Chaminda Vaas.

Battle of the Maroons

The traditional “Battle of the Maroons” is played between Ananda College, Colombo, and Nalanda College, Colombo. It was first played in 1924. Over the years both schools have produced many world class cricketers. The “Battle of the Maroons” is considered to be the most productive and most popular school cricket encounter in the Island producing National Cricketers of extraordinary talent and cricketing intellect.

The big match was not played in the years 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945 due to the 2nd World War. This mega encounter was not held in 1948 as well because it was the year in which Sri Lanka gained her independence.

The 91st “Battle of the Maroons” will be played on the 7th and the 8th March at the SSC Stadium. The 90th Battle of the Maroons played at SSC ended in a draw.

This battle produced World Cup winning Captain Arjuna Ranatunga and national players of the likes of Mahela Jayawardena, Dinesh Chandimal, Ashan Priyanjan and Sachithra Senanayake.

Battle of the Maroons – Kandy

The oldest Big Match of hill capital, also known as the “Battle of the Maroons”, will be played for the 114th time at the Pallekelle International stadium on the 20th and 21st of March. In this traditional encounter, Dharmaraja College and Kingswood College will fight for the T.B. Tennakoon Memorial Trophy.

Battle of the Golds

The Battle of Moratuwa also known as “Battle of the Golds” will be played on the 13th and 14th of March at De Soyza grounds between Prince of Wales College and St. Sebastian College.

This battle produced Sri Lanka players of the likes of Kusal Medis, Dhananjaya De Silva and Lahiru Thirimanne.

Meanwhile, the Colombo “Battle of the Golds” between DS Senanayaka College and Mahanama College will be played on the 20th and 21st of March at the P Sara Oval grounds.

This battle produced Aravinda de Silva, considered the best batsman to don the Sri Lankan journey ever.

The “114th Battle of the North” will be played between the Jaffna Central College and St. John’s College. The traditional encounter will be played at the Jaffna Central College Grounds on the 5th, 6th and 7th of March.

The Richmond College Galle will take on Mahinda College Galle on the 22nd and 23rd of March at Galle International stadium and it is known as “”Lovers’ Quarrel”” This battle produced Sri Lanka players of the likes of Suranga Lakmal, Jayananda Warnaweera, Champaka Ramanayake and Charith Asalanka.

Isipathana College and Thurstan College will be played on the 28th and 29th of February at the SSC grounds. Fondly known as “Battle of the Brothers”, it will be played for the 57th time.

The “Battle of the Babes”, the third oldest big match in Kandy between St. Sylvester’s and Vidyartha College for the 62nd time will take place on 20th and 21st of March at Asgiriya International Stadium. The teams will be played for the Rev. Fr. Don George Memorial Trophy.

A number of other schools across the paradise island will also battle it out during this season on and outside of the cricketing field. The big matches are more than cricketing battles where the young and old create live-long memories and embrace the madness of March in Sri Lanka.

May the big match traditions live on…

Hazari Mohamed