Krishantha Prasad Cooray
The word “Stunned” sums up the overall sentiment at the SSC ground on the evening of the 12th day of March, 2016. It didn’t matter which camp you belonged to, whether Royal or S. Thomas’. If you had been following the game from day one, you would have been stunned by the result of the 137th Battle of the Blues.
At the end of the first day, the Thomians were on top. They had started off as favourites and Royal’s gamble in putting the opposition in after winning the toss had well and truly backfired. There was talk of a possible Thora victory. When Royal, in response to the Thomians’ first innings total of 350 for 5 were 122 for 5 shortly after lunch on the second day, possible turned into probable.
Even with Royal clawing back to get to 280 for 7 with 16-year-old fresher Pasindu Sooriyabandara unbeated on 97 at the close, Thomian Coach Dinesh Kumarasinghe was still upbeat. He envisaged his boys picking up quick wickets, then putting up a challenging total and the bowlers finishing off the job, presumably sometime during the third session of the third day.
That is not what happened. Royal, fighting with their backs to the wall on day two, took the fight to the Thomians from the word go on day three. Quick runs and a declaration even though 22 runs in arrears indicated a newfound self-confidence. Things went downhill for the Thomians thereafter and Royal scored the winning runs in rapidly fading light.