Richard Simon … with highlighting imposed by the Editor Thuppahi
The 1979 Royal-Thomian cricket match may not actually have been the hundredth in the series, as it was proclaimed to be, but was certainly regarded, at the time, as the most important Royal-Thomian ever played. Richard Simon’s forthcoming book, STC: The Unauthorised History, captures not only the game itself, but also much of the behind-the-scenes competition, lobbying, manoeuvring and occasional skulduggery that accompanied the selection of coaches, team members and other important participants. Below is part of Simon’s description of the match.
Royal College, who had enjoyed a good 1979 season, were favoured to win – though the fisherfolk and market-workers of Mount Lavinia, who often ran informal books on the performance of the College First XI and First XV, loyally bet on St Thomas’s. The Royal captain, Ranjan Madugalle, was an outstanding cricketer: a star batsman with over a thousand runs already to his credit and a future Sri Lanka captain who would later serve as chief of the ICC’s panel of international match referees. Many of his teammates would also play for their country in the near future. The Thomian cohort, too, was talented, but not to the same degree; Royal, after all, was in the enviable position of being able to take its pick of gifted young players from any school within the state system. The advantage became painfully obvious when STC’s batting order suffered an embarrassing collapse with only 154 runs on the board, and by teatime on the second day Royal were able to close their innings sportingly, with two wickets still in hand, having scored 321.
St Thomas’s batted grimly all through the last day, but before teatime they were down to their tail-enders, Mahinda Halangoda and C.P. Richards, with thirty runs yet to make. Little was expected of either player. Richards was a bowler, not a batsman; Halangoda, an able bat from a cricketing family (his grandfather had coached St Thomas’s in the Thirties), was young and fairly green. Anticipation of an imminent Royal victory brought the President and half his cabinet back to the pavilion; the Royal tents were in an uproar. Richards, joining Halangoda in the middle after Umesh Iddipily was dismissed for 29, walked out to no poetic ‘breathless hush’ but to an ear-splitting din that already had in it the audible timbre of Royalist triumph. The Royal team, Halangoda noticed, had all put on their caps…
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