By The Hon. J. R. Jayewardene
(Re-printed from the 1972 Battle of the Blues Souvenir)
The Royal – Thomian Match has a fascination which passeth all understanding, especially to Royalists and Thomians, old and young
My first memory is of the 1917 match played at the Campbell park, I was waving the “Blue and Gold” flag to cheer on E.A. de Kretser who scored 87. It was wrenched from my hands and carried away. I presumed the assailant was a Thomian. B.T. Jansz for St. Thomas scored 103, the first century in the series. 1 have seen many matches since then and played in one, in 1925.
It was in this match played on the Sinhalese Sports Club grounds that Jansz’s century record was broken by Neil Joseph who played with me for -Royal. He scored 113 in 70 minutes, and not only made the highest score for Royal in 45 years but he also broke all individual records of the series until the next year. when by scoring 133 he broke his own records and established new ones, unbroken to this day.
Let me attempt to recall the main events in this match.
“Royal win the toss after a long interval. They bat on a hard and fast wicket. They lose their first three wickets, including that of their skipper, for 12 runs. Then there is a steady calm. Two men master the bowling and make way for a third to burst into brilliance. All individual batting records are eclipsed -197 for 5. The last five men play with their backs to the wall and the side scores 240. The Thomians open calamitously, losing their first wicket without a single run being scored. Their second pair impress every body-both are batsmen of undoubted capabilities; they take the score to 36. An hour passes and 6 wickets fall for 72. Was there ever a day’s play in this whole series in which fortunes varied in this manner?”
When EL, Goonewardene was out and it was 4 for 55 “It seemed as if the occasion and the high tension which prevailed would prove the undoing of his successor, Neil Joseph”
Neil on the other hand played as he had never played before. One could scarcely follow his innings, so fast was it, so out of the ordinary, and so brilliant.
“Joseph and Lieversz are batting. The revellers are neglected they in time forget their audience; all eyes are centred on the field. “Six ! well palyed, Joe !” a thousand voices shout together. The score is rising rapidly. Side attractions are forgotten, for is not Joseph approaching B. T. Jansz’s record of 103. Hurray ! Hurrah ! yells, hoots, bells, horns sound together. The record is broken. Joseph scores faster; 41,4, 1, 6, 2; 113 in 70 minutes. He is out and carried shoulder high by friends and foes alike. Lieversz, with the “lion-heart”, plods on characteristically. He has scored 15 while Joseph scored a century. But what of that; who will deny the courage, the test match temperament which enabled him to break the bowling at a critical stage and with Goonewardene to open out the way for the brilliance of Joseph.
6 for 209, Lieversz is out. The tail wags wearily and Royal is dismissed for 240 runs”.
I was part of the tail and was unable to score a single. Douglas de Saram, the famous cricketer, was umpiring at the batting end and when S. Ratwatte bowled me out as I tried to play back to a “yorker” he consoled me as I was walking back to the pavilion saying “That was the best ball bowled in the match”. My parents, brothers, and sisters, cousins and other relatives watched in silence while I walked back. They did not know Douglas’ opinion of the ball that beat me, nor could I inform them. The ordeal however was over soon and the next day I was able to retrieve my reputation.
“Adihetty who had been playing well made a big hit to the square leg 3oundary and Jayewardene effected a finished catch” as the papers said.
Fhe second day begins.
The Thomians continue their first innings; runs come in slowly, wickets •all fast, to the cheers of the Thomians and the counter cheers of the Royalists. A few minutes more and the 6 for 68 of the previous evening is now 10 for 94″. “The Thomians follow on with 146 runs to avert an innings “The Thomians follow on with 146 runs to avert an innings defeat. The start is sensational. In the first over Ratwatte snicks a ball high into the slips, a bundle of arms and legs leaps in the air, and Ratwatte is
caught Joseph, bowled Goonewardene. The scoring is slow but steady. 3 for 37, 4 for 67. Goonewardene’s bowling nips fast off the pitch to the discomfort of many a batsman. 6 for 117. Can the Thomians avert an innings defeat”.
“7 for 117, 8 for 117, was there a more miserable tail. The Thomian efforts to flatten the Royalists have been of no avail, they are more active as the wickets fall. ‘Inn’ngs it shall be’ Says Chippie. Certainly’, encore the rest. The Royalists supporters cheer the practical demonstration of these sentiments. 9 for 138.
Eight runs more. “Buck up Royal!” Come on school!” “Play up S. Thomas’ !” Give us a game, give us a game S. Thomas'” in such pregnant phrases the two teams find consolation. A few balls more, and Goonewardene, the hero of the day breaks through Barber’s defenece 10 for 138. Royal, by an innings and 8 runs has avenged last year’s defeat”.
I recall the friends who played with me. The Captain L. D. S. (Chippie) Gunasekera, H. E. Wijetunge now two of Ceylon’s well known Proctors, D. W. L. Lieversz, D. C. L. Perera and H. C. Dharmaratne who have shone in their spheres of work in the public service. Alas the others are not with us. Neil Joseph was never able to fulfill the brilliant promise of his youth and passed away at an early age. H. Meedeniya one of the best school – boy bowlers practised as a lawyer in Kegalle before his untimely death. The brothers R L. and W. Goonewardene and W. Ludovici who alas are no more among the living.
Thus recalling memories of the Past; the events, the friends with whom we mixed; and while regretting “That Youth’s sweet scented Manuscript should close!” Let us sit down together to witness the Ninety – Third Royal – Thomian Match.