By Late Freddy Mercury Feroze Ahamed (2005-2007)
9th of March 2006… 8a.m… In college… the Atmosphere in the camp was one of chaos, confusion and restless anticipation, players nervously pacing about and of course the endless pep talks… .ensuring that every member of the team remains focused on the job at hand. Every Royalist in that room knew that it was crucial to remain cool, calm and collected amidst the rising mounds of tension, in order to transform ourselves into a champion outfit.
We were confident, but for many, the past 15 years of disappointment was painfully difficult to discard and continued to kindle fires of sceptism, which quietly remained smoldering in our minds. As we recall in 2005, standing at the pavilion of S.S.C with tears in our eyes, left to contemplate on where we went wrong which made the painful difference between bitter dejection and victory, which has always been tantalizingly close, but just beyond our reach eluding us. The bitter memories that constantly haunted us made us even more determined to give “All what we’ve got” to this great institution Royal College. We remained eager to give the spectators a real taste of “Royal Spirit” That seemed to have eluded us since 91.
Looking around at the faces among us, holding hads in a tight circle, pumped up, rearing to go we didn’t see 11 individuals, but one team. A team of Royalist, who over the past eight months had sacrificed their all, three days a week of strenuous practice, two days of matches and to top it all three days of fitness which sums up to six days a week for 8 months in which we all had completely forgotten about our social lives in order to take the shield home and to get back the confidence of all our supporters. Looking back to the day we started the season, we were introduced to a new coach Mr. Chulaka Amarasinghe, a former Royal Captain who led his side to victory 1983 who drilled into us to forget the past and to start focusing on the task at hand which would enable us to prove ourselves to everyone on the 11th of March.
As we look back on the season leading up to the big match Royal performed fairly well but not exceptionally. Our bowling department was the most lethal one. Only one school managed to score more than 250 runs against us and that too because of our poor fielding on that day. Our batting was also capable and had the batsmen who could play long innings. In short
we had an impressive and balanced team who were talented in their own right but more importantly had the passion and the grit that was needed.
In our quest to win the coveted shield we did face many set backs, but each time we hit that dark patch, there was always someone to lift our spirits and keep the faith alive. Like all great teams we had our differences, but the joy of it always was that we managed to work around them, whether it was a tap rugger match or a “koththu” at Raheema or enen at an Old Boys dinner, the spirit of the team and the passion became more and more evident. Yet, throughout the season something deep down in our hearts convinced us that the best was still to come.
The traditional one week camp kicked of on the 3rd of March. The intense training sessions that were held during the period were indeed tiresome but it helped to keep us in top gear. The motivational movies we watched made us determined and gave us a hunger for success. The number of dinners that supplemented the camp were also refreshing.
The traditional General Assembly was held the day before the match in which we were introduced to more than 7000 students. This was one of the most memorable moments in my life because the team was introduced for the first time to our boys and the loud cheer that followed was deafening. It made us proud to don the “Colours Blazer” which our forefathers once wore.
The introduced 11 were:
Nadun Punchihewa (Captain)
The reserves were Vinod Malwatte, Anjula Bandara, Mahesh Buddhika, Kanishk? Articles Botheju and Thilina Samarasinghe.
The main strike bowlers were Haroon and Dulanjaya, while Charith, Yasitha and I were the fast bowlers with Skipper Nadun completing the attack.
The 9th of March dawned. Day 1 of the Battle Of The Blues. We arrived at the S.S.C early and were looking extremely positive and determined. The 127th Battle Of The Blues commenced with the STC Captain winning the toss and electing to bat in a wicket which was conducive to stroke play and one which also offered the pacies some assistance initially. Charith was given the new ball and in his second over struck by dismissing the St. Thomas’ mainstay batsman S. Pussegolla. A few overs later I had Ashan Peiris caught at gully yet again. 29/2. An auspicious start for Royal. At this point Mazahir joined Naveen and took the initiative away by notching up a good ninety odd run partnership. Dulanjaya struck before lunch by getting Mazahir out for 46, and the scoreboard read 121/3 when the players went back for lunch. Resuming after lunch the Thomians regularly lost wickets and at one stage were struggling at 199/7, but somehow managed to score 278/8 before eventually declaring. Charith was the most impressive bowler with figures of 4/70, while the others contributed towards the wicket tally.
With about 20 overs remaining for the day, many pundits would have expected us to lose about 2 or 3 wickets, thus to relive the debacle of last year. But what greeted them was something quite extraordinary. Both openers Sukitha and Malinga tore apart the Thomian attack in a manner never seen in the series before. We ended day one on a high with both • batsmen not out and the scoreboard gallantly displaying a score of 104.
Day 2 began in the same vein like the previous day with the two openers ripping the St. Thomas’ attack apart. One would be justified in saying that the “bowling resources” available to the Thomian skipper were woefully inadequate even to contain these two classy performers who entertained the crowd to a scintillating display of stroke play of the highest order. This magnificent partnership came to an end when Sukitha was caught at point after a well compiled 104. Kusal was the next to go when he was unfortunately run out while attempting to give Malinga his century, we were sitting pretty at 299/3 courtesy a well compiled 40 by Dimitri and Malinga’sl40, yet we found ourselves in a spot of trouble with 6 wickets down and the score reading 308. It was my turn to score, and with the calm influence of the vice captain Dulanjaya,we slowly and steadily started the revival. We very well understood the importance of a lead and the fact that we were the only recognized pair left. After both of us had completed our half centuries and had put up a 124 run partnership, Nadun decided to declare and the score read a mammoth 432/7. This is the highest score ever in the Royal-Thomian series and was achieved in only 101 overs.
On day three the Thomians went in to bat again with a deficit of nearly 150 runs. The second innings saw another disastrous start for them as the Royal opening bowlers were able to make early inroads into their batting line up. We had them reeling at 28/2. Perera who made 58 in the first innings, and Ashan were both back in the pavilion.
However the Thomians who always had the reputation for producing quality “stonewallers”, managed to see the I” session through losing only 1 wicket. After lunch the resistance slowly crumbled, losing wickets at regular intervals until a gritty partnership of 40 in almost 20 overs. This couldn’t stop us from finishing off the tail. With Charith, Dilan, Haroon and Dulanjaya capturing 2 wickets apiece. Pussegolla(73), Colombage(81) and Thahir(50) made noteworthy performances. Thus ending any chance for the Thomians to salvage a draw.
Royal had 142 runs to win in 23 overs amidst the light getting worse by the minute. But, in the minds of all eleven players there was a vision of victory that could not be deterred. The heroics of the 1″ innings were quickly scuttled for this great challenge that would ensure us to be worthy winners of the 127th Battle of the Blues.
For the Royalists the fire of the acid test had come alive .In these 23 overs we had to prove ourselves or perish .The number one enemy was the majestic clock ticking away unrelentingly on the S.S.C scoreboard .In maddening tension, with goose flesh taking liberties even with the toughest of hides, thousands watched this battle with the clock.
And with that victory vision, burning, searing into our brains, out strode the two openers Sukitha and Malinga who once again tore into the hapless Thomian attack and rapidly scored 32 runs in 3 overs before they got out. Kusal Perera then joined the experienced Dimitri Siriwardene and they put on a match winning partnership of 60 runs in double quick time.< With the light fading and the score within our reach some unsporty Thomians decided to prolong the inevitable by running onto the field, removing the stumps and preventing play from progressing. By the time the authorities cleared the field it had become extremely dark. Unfortunately when play resumed, Kusal lost his wicket at 121 after making a well compiled 40. Thereafter, Dulanjaya together with Dimi took us to the score with 2 overs to spare. This was the moment we were waiting for. The 15 year drought was finally over and the D.S. Senanayake Shield found itself in very good hands. Words cannot express the joy or describe the moment as we knew the shield was finally ours again. Amidst a great challenge, the stronger we had become, thus, overcoming the great challenge. Hugs, kisses, singing and dancing continued throughout the night, as all the Royal supporters proudly cheered on their alma mater.
That was our night. The feeling may have died down, but the memories of this win will last a lifetime.
Our sincere thanks go out to our loving parents, our principal Mr. Upali Gunasekera, the Cricket Advisory Committee headed by Mr. Vijaya Malalasekera, our Senior Games Master Mr. M.T.A Rauf, our M.I.C Mr. E.M.G Rajakaruna, our beloved Ground Manager Mr. H.N De Silva (porky sir), the old boys and Deva sir for the support and encouragement given to us, but most importantly “A Big Thank You to our coach Chula sir” for making a bunch of ordinary cricketers to win a Royal Thomian and to have brought glory to College.
The Glory Days of playing cricket for Royal the best school in the isle is over for the six out of eleven players. Two years later sitting at the Red Cow pavilion in relative comfort rather than playing in the middle, with hearts filled with joy we all would agree….. “THAT THESE WERE THE BEST DAYS OF OUR LIVES…….
“I’ve taken my bow, and my curtain call You’ve brought me fame and fortune and everything glows, I thank you all…… but it’s been no Bed of Roses, No pleasure cruise, consider it a challenge before all human race and I’ll never lose…….coz we are the CHAMPIONS my friend!!!!!!