The Big Match: What’s The Big Deal?.

It’s that time of the year again when big match parades roll around town and lead boys (current and “”old””) to their school big matches. Every school will claim that theirs is the greatest rivalry on the face of the Earth, but I’ll be writing today about my own big match: the Royal Thomian “”Battle of the Blues””, the 137th edition of which gets under way at the SSC this Thursday (10 March).

Photos by the pro Asanka Brandon Ratnayake. Check him out – @abrfoto.

A Bit of History

Royal College was founded in 1835 as the Colombo Academy. S. Thomas’ was founded in 1851. Dr. James Chapman, founder of STC and the first Anglican Bishop of Colombo, was an Etonian who favoured cricket and introduced the game to his students. The first game between the two schools was played in 1879 (involving masters and students), and from 1880 onwards it was purely played by the students of the two Colleges.

The match has been going on continuously since, and went uninterrupted even by the two world wars. This makes it one of the, if not the, longest uninterrupted cricketing series in the world. Many distinguished personalities have played at the big match, including 4 Prime Ministers of Sri Lanka, and countless national-level cricketers. Check out our 2013 big match post by Mr. Chandra Schaffter, one of those highly decorated cricketers.

There are some amazing tales from big matches past, including the story of two daredevil climbers armed with Royal and STC flags scaling the Radio Ceylon tower in the late 50s (meeting halfway up and exchanging pleasantries), invading the old Parliament lawn to garland statues of D.S. and S.W.R.D. (old Thomians, both) with College flags, shenanigans at girls’ schools with troops of boys going on ‘hat collection’, and on one occasion a permanent stand being set on fire by the ‘honkers’. The ‘unrestrained merry-making’ at the match has certainly been toned down in recent years, owing mostly to tighter policing and the security situation in the country.

Big Match Traditions

The traditions and rivalries of big match are legendary. Highlights include:

The Cycle Parade

Both Royal College and S. Thomas’ organize official cycle parades that snake through the streets of Colombo. “”Cycle Parade”” is a bit of a misnomer, since most participants take cars, flat-bed trucks and buses these days. Various school clubs and societies contribute their own segments to the parade, including the cadets who usually carry a giant school flag.

The Mini Battle

This is the face-off between the Second XIs of Royal and S. Thomas’. It traditionally takes place the week before the big match, and is played at either the Royal College ground or the S. Thomas’ big club ground. It’s a chance for the students to get involved in the cricket before the main event begins.

Photos by the pro Asanka Brandon Ratnayake. Check him out – @abrfoto.

The Prepites

This is a tradition that students of the two big colleges might not be aware of. Traditionally, old boys of S. Thomas’ Preparatory School would visit their old school on the first day of the match, ring the school bell and escort all the students to the match venue. Although this has been discontinued in recent years, I’m personally holding out for a revival.

The Three Days That Matter

On Thursday morning, two nervous teenagers walk out to the middle at the SSC and toss a coin, perhaps the most important coin toss in their lives *dramatic music*. Over the next three days, the two teams will battle it out. There will be the pitch invasions, the chants of “”umpire hora””, the inevitable batting collapses and the rescue missions from lower order batsmen which will be labelled “”Royal Spirit/Thomian Grit””, the customary removal of the letter T from the scoreboard entry reading “”S. Thomas'””, the drunken brawls which evaporate as suddenly as they appear, the uncles who show up without fail from all corners of the world to spend time with their brethren, the professionals who mysteriously fall ill and visit the SSC for treatment, and of course the cricket that often goes unattended until something dramatic happens.

Throughout these few days though, the main feature that one notices is the camaraderie between the two schools. Every Royalist and Thomian has close friends from across the divide, and it shows. The rivalry is built on a foundation of mutual respect, and the jabs are seldom mean-spirited.

Six Tips To Survive And Thrive


If something, —anything— is passed to you in a bottle or a cup, it usually has alcohol in it. Now, most people relish this free flow of high spirits, but if you’re not one of these people—do look out.


Food at the venue is consistently terrible, and will always be the same old “”mystery meat patties and sausages wrapped in dodgy bread””. You might want to venture out for noms. We’d recommend Floor by O!, Arcade for variety, Quick Thai or Fortune Boat, all within walking distance of the SSC.


There are many colourful songs that can be heard at the match venue, sung by boys in various states of inebriation. Now, it’s all well and good to sing these at a loud cricket ground, but it’s best to avoid singing them in front of your parents.

Lunch, Tea and Innings Breaks

This has always been my favourite part of the day: during the lunch break, tea or after the conclusion of the day’s play, the spectators are allowed onto the field to stroll around. This is the best time to meet up with friends who are at other tents, or run into old classmates who you haven’t seen since the dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

Photos by the pro Asanka Brandon Ratnayake. Check him out – @abrfoto.


A lot of boys, booze, and bromance leads to the inevitable clash or two—most often between good friends and not the two schools. They tend to resolve themselves, so it’s best to just avoid and ignore. Unless you’re Indi circa 2006.


There are designated tents for the different schools. It’s usually considered bad form foolish to heckle Royal at a Royalist tent or vice-versa, but there are the brave few who manage to do this and get away with their limbs intact.

Photos by the pro Asanka Brandon Ratnayake. Check him out – @abrfoto.

If you’re an innocent bystander who’s been coaxed to go to the match with your friend or significant other, you can flip a coin and decide to support a side. If your family hails from one school, and your SO from the other—well then, good luck navigating those murky waters.

What are your favourite Big Match traditions and memories? Do tell us in the comments. If you won’t be able to make it this year and want to keep track of the score, ThePapare will have excellent coverage. Also check out their Roy-Tho quiz.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp




Indulge in Japanese Culinary Bliss at Minori Restaurant

By Sahasni Gamage Nestled within the luxurious Granbell Hotel, Minori Japanese Restaurant offers an unparalleled

Highlights Kamu

Experience flavorful Singaporean delights with a modern twist at Shiok!

By Sahasni Gamage We recently had the pleasure of dining at Shiok Singaporean Restaurant, which

Highlights Kamu

7 Fantastic Pizza Places to Try in Colombo

By Shamrina Carim Colombo, the vibrant capital city of Sri Lanka, is a haven for

Highlights Kamu

High Tea Guide for 2023

You and your friends decide to meet up after your last farewell, get together or

Highlights Kamu

Excel World Legacy Food Court launches Indi-Arabia Menu

By Hashini Pathirana Experience a culinary journey like no other at Excel World's launches


A Taste of Jaffna at Flavoured by Cinnamon Red

By Hiruni Herath Flavoured at Cinnamon Red is enclosed by stunning views of the Colombo

Highlights Kamu Uncategorized


Radisson Blu Resort Galle recently organized a delightful wine-tasting occasion

Radisson Blu Resort Galle recently hosted a delightful wine-tasting event on September 17th, showcasing an


Hilton Sri Lanka Collaborates with VOICE Area Federation to Enhance Community Resilience and Combat Hunger

For a brighter and secure Sri Lanka, fostering sustainability via community farms and kitchen programs.


Galle Face Hotel Presents ‘Yaalpana Santhai’ – A Gastronomic Journey into Jaffna Cuisine

Colombo, Sri Lanka – The Galle Face Hotel, an iconic landmark in Sri Lanka's hospitality


The Latest MSI Limited-Edition Stealth 16 Mercedes-AMG Motorsport is Available Now

MSI, the world-leading laptop brand, proudly unveiled its latest limited-edition laptop, the Stealth 16 Mercedes-AMG

Highlights Trending

Türkiye Food Festival Unveiled at Courtyard by Marriott Colombo

Colombo, September 4, 2023 - Courtyard by Marriott Colombo, an esteemed member of the Marriott


A Pho-Nomenal Vietnamese Feast at Cinnamon Grand Colombo

Vietnamese food has made its mark on the global culinary map with favourites such as


Yamu Guide.

Spotting Blue Whales in Mirissa with Chaminda Whale Watching

The whale watching tour in Mirissa Start time: 6:30am Duration: 3-5 hours depending on sightings

Highlights Yamu Guide

The Rise of Plant-Based Diets: Benefits and Challenges

By Shamrina Carim In recent years, plant-based diets have surged in popularity, drawing attention for

Highlights Yamu Guide

6 Things to Do at One Galle Face

Set against the panoramic backdrop of the Indian Ocean "Colombo’s first prestigious shopping mall is

Highlights Yamu Guide

7 Things to do at Colombo City Center

By Shanali Fernando 1. Shop till you drop A stunning integrated lifestyle destination set in

Highlights Yamu Guide

Wedding Venue List 2023

By Shanali Fernando When envisioning your wedding day, you may find yourself torn between various

Highlights Trending Yamu Guide

8 Places to get an Eid Sawan this Hajj Festival

The Muslims celebrate Hajj globally on the 29th of June, 2023. No doubt, along with

Highlights Yamu Guide