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A champagne exit from Lord’s

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36th Anniversary of Sri Lanka’s first ever Test match at Lord’s – Part 3

by Rohan Wijeyaratna

The story of this match will serve as a testament not only to the abilities of the 1984 Sri Lankan team, but also to the long cricketing tradition established through the commitment of many generations of past Ceylon cricketers, the country’s wonderful nurseries – the schools, the indefatigable coaches and the clubs that dot the island. All of them played an unseen hand in moulding the Sri Lankan sporting pedigree; an outpouring of which was seen on the first two days at Lord’s. Even though it appeared at the start that there would be only one winner and the game would be one-sided, by the end of day two many were of the view that the most agreeable cricket they witnessed during the entire summer was played on the first two days of this Test at Lord’s and the more deserving side was now on the ascendancy. Denis Compton when I met him at the end of day two put things in perspective. “You chaps today taught us how to bat” he said with disarming candour. There could have been no greater praise, coming from probably England’s finest post war batsman. Others of note – including Tom Graveney expressed similar sentiments. These were indeed heady days for all those who were from the Sri Lankan camp, be they players or spectators alike.

 

End of two epic innings

There was greater purpose and hurry seen in the Sri Lankan approach when play resumed on Day three. Mendis heaved at anything and everything, while Wettimuny was happy, playing away from his body and relying on his previous day’s form and eye. Something had to give, and it did. Wettimuny forcing Allott on the off from where he stood, managed to deflect a catch behind. That announced the end of an epic feat of endurance which lasted altogether, 642 minutes. It was till then, the longest innings ever in a Test match at Lord’s, and served as the cornerstone upon which the entire innings was built. Shortly thereafter, Mendis heaved at Pocock and holed out to Fowler at long-on. With each of those exits, the crowd rose, as a mark of their appreciation of two magnificently contrasting styles of play which lit up Lord’s in the two preceding days. The applause was long and sustained.

The Sri Lankan intention now appeared plain as pikestaff. De Mel being no mug with the bat, dealt some mighty blows while little Aravinda on his Test debut produced a stroke filled short burst before Mendis declared at 491 for 7. It was the highest ever score by a team playing their maiden Test in England. The closure left Sri Lanka 20 minutes of bowling before lunch.

Posterity might have been better served had the Lankans registered 500 in their very first Test outing at Lord’s, but the decision to close was not without an attacking intent. England were low in form and down in spirit, and to attack them with the new ball on either side of lunch, would give the Lankans their best chance of grabbing some early wickets. Or so they thought.

England’s first requirement was making 292 to avoid the embarrassment of a follow-on. After Fowler had escaped a near catch in the gully to the very first ball from De Mel, Vinothen John bowled a lot of tripe from the other end. It was embarrassing to watch a string of full tosses being delivered at a time when the calling was to put the batsmen under pressure. At lunch, England profiting from this unexpected windfall, were 32 for 0, after 5 overs of rapid batting. With ‘DS’ not making an appearance due to an ankle injury, bleak times portended for the Lankans.

 

Wretchedly out of form ….

Shortly after resumption, Fowler departed, slicing a catch to second slip. That heralded the most extraordinary passage of play in the match. Vinothen John had by now settled down while De Mel kept steaming in, giving all he got. But they both were far from menacing. The third seamer Ratnayake was largely innocuous, while D.S. de Silva making his appearance only after lunch, bowled his stock-in- trade top spinners nursing a sprained ankle. Against an attack so debilitated, Tavare and Broad went into near slumber. What followed was perhaps the most forgettable passage of play seen in a Lord’s Test for a long time. In 27 dreary overs between lunch and tea, England advanced by 49 runs, with Broad making 19 of them. Together with Tavare, the pair prodded and pushed with infuriating ordinariness, while making the Sri Lankan bowlers seem twice as threatening as they actually were. The batsmen were so out of touch, they allowed ample time and opportunity for a hopelessly ill tuned Sri Lankan attack to find its feet and some rhythm. Tavare having batted toothlessly for 20 overs, advanced to 12 by tea and when he finally went shortly after resumption for 14, he left behind the memory of a man who was so wretchedly out of form, he could hardly hit the ball outside the square.

 

Woodcock said it all….

Broad not to be outdone was similarly comatose. While surviving two close lbw decisions from a tireless De Mel, he was twice dropped into the bargain. Gower the new man in, was only marginally better. By close of play 29 overs after tea, the pair had added only 58 runs more to England’s teatime score. The crowd expressed their disapproval unreservedly with some heavy barracking rarely heard at Lord’s. The two sessions since lunch had produced only 107 runs against an attack that was out of fitness and out of form. England were 139 for 2 by the close, with only 105 runs coming off their last 56 overs. John Woodcock writing in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ said “No self-respecting club side would have been content with the way England batted”. And that said it all.

England had the whole of the rest day to digest all the scorn heaped upon them in all forms of the media and bar room conversations. And if one thought there would be a reformed approach to entertain the sparse crowd on Monday, they were mistaken. In fact, by the end of the 4th day, it was generally felt that those who had stayed away from the cricket had been wise; they hadn’t missed much at all.

 

Lacked imagination

When play resumed on day four Broad and Gower played as though their intention was to bat out the entire day; never mind the prevailing crowd sentiment. England made 71 in the morning session for the loss of Broad shortly before lunch. When De Mel removed Gower with the second new ball shortly after lunch and Botham soon followed, England were 218 for five; still some distance away from avoiding the follow on.

England averted that ignominy through a Lamb – Ellison partnership which realised 87 priceless runs together. Lamb grassed by the keeper when on 36, went on to complete his 4th Test hundred of the summer and when Ellison went for 41, the tireless De Mel accounted for both Downton and Allott in successive balls. With the exit of Pocock and then Lamb off the last ball of the day England were all out for 370, and were trailing Sri Lanka by 121 runs with one more day to go.

Had England the imagination or desire to give themselves the slightest sniff at a possible chance of victory, they might have rotated the strike and pushed up the run rate, allowing themselves the opportunity to declare sometime after the follow on was averted. But Gower ‘s intransigence and lack of enterprise had been a feature throughout the match. Accordingly, Sri Lanka went into the fifth day, knowing full well the game would only be one of academic interest. Allott pulling a muscle left the proceedings after only one over, while Agnew’s front foot was eternally at odds with the popping crease. This meant that Pocock had to manfully bear the brunt of the attack, along with Botham who was finally reduced to bowling off spin to men adept at playing them in their sleep. That he captured six of the seven wickets to fall may not fully reflect the merit of his performance, although initially, he found some rhythm and swing and snaked a few past the defense of some of the early batsmen. During this effort, Botham surpassed both Fred Trueman and Lance Gibbs’ Test wicket hauls and became the third in line, behind Dennis Lillee and Bob Willis in the all time highest wicket takers’ list at the time. With the 80th over bowled, Sri Lanka declared, to bring to a close a game which was meandering without purpose. It was an ending the tired Englishmen embraced with open arms and a huge sigh of relief.

 

Near twin centuries

But that ending came not before another show-piece effort from Mendis who came within a whisker of making twin centuries in his debut Test at Lord’s. Had he done so he would have joined the famous George Headley as only the second in the game’s history to do so. Mendis biffed the bowling with such gay abandon, he made 94 in 97 balls in just over two hours of batting, while reducing Botham to bowling off spin off just two paces, as the effort of a run up wasn’t worth it. Apart from Mendis, the white-helmeted Amal Silva contributed to the score with an unbeaten 102. It was his maiden first class hundred and in only his second Test match.

 

Unprecedented publicity

No one would deny Sri Lanka’s magnificent showing at Lord’s added considerably to their rising cricketing stock. In fact, no amount of Ambassadors or Politicians could have matched or done more to get their country such creditworthy mention in every single major English newspaper and every single BBC World Service news bulletin for the better part of a week. Had they a more penetrative attack and had their fielding been consistently sharper, the Lankans might have pulled off an improbable win and added to England’s woeful record of losing every single Test match that summer. Though drawn, England were at the receiving end for most of the match and deserved the sobriquet of possibly, the weakest Test team among the seven Test playing nations at the time. While it was an unforgettable Test match for the Sri Lankans, for England the experience was a bolt out of the blue and brought down the curtain on a most forgettable summer.



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Selection impasse continues 

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by Rex Clementine  

Sri Lanka Cricket and Ministry of Sports are at daggers drawn and virtually naming of new selectors has become impossible after SLC submitted the same set of names to be reappointed. SLC wants a fresh term for Pramodaya Wickramasinghe under whose tenure the team won the Asia Cup. The Sports Ministry meanwhile wants Wicky gone. Among other things, they aren’t happy that he retained Danushka Gunatilleke on tour after he was injured during the World Cup. The top order batsman brought international shame to the country after his arrest in Sydney. He was charged with sexual assault.   In order to break the deadlock, the Sports Ministry now  wants to issue a gazette and call for interested former players to apply. The age old practice has been for SLC to advertise for the post and among the applicants, ten names are handpicked and sent to the Sports Ministry, which then chooses five out of those ten names and appoint them as selectors. But it’s all going to change now. The board will no longer have a say on selections. The selectors are answerable to the Ministry of Sports. But the board will pay their salaries. This is not an ideal situation and let’s hope it’s just a one off. SLC should have known better and instead of going on a collision course should have negotiated for a better deal.

Getting selectors to apply is never the ideal thing. Greg Chappell was a selector of Australia for a long period of time and if someone had asked him to apply he would have given that person a piece of his mind. Chappell’s role was a unique one from rest of the panel. He was responsible to alert the selectors on the next biggest talent in the country having scrutinized a player.

Similarly a Sidath Wettimuny, an Aravinda de Silva or  a Marvan Atapattu aren’t going to apply for the post of selector. They’ll come and serve if protocols are followed and obviously they would want a free hand. That’s the best way forward too. Surely you don’t want your best brains left behind simply because they didn’t apply for a post. What’s it with Wicky that he wants to hold onto this post so much. He needs to learn to let go. He’s anyway known as someone who’ll not take a backward step but what about little Kalu? Now that’s a man who is very conscious about his  reputation. If the system doesn’t want you, then there’s no point in hanging around. Take a break and make a comeback when there’s an opportunity. The present selectors maybe feeling that they have done a good job and need a fresh term. Well it doesn’t always happen that way.

Duleep Mendis is a case in point. Through meticulous planning, he had helped the national team for a maiden Test win in South Africa in 2011. The whole county was excited at what the team had achieved. Yet, two weeks later he was sacked along with captain T.M. Dilshsn and Head Coach Geoff Marsh.

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Bangladesh selectors okay if Hathurusingha is included in selection panel

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There’s been a buzz after BCB president Nazmul Hasan announced that newly-appointed coach Hathurusingha will have a say in selection, although a decision on whether he will be officially included in the selection panel like in the past is yet to be made.

“Whether Hathurusingha will be included in the selection panel will be decided by the board. There are two selections: preliminary (squad) and final selection (playing XI),” said Nazmul Hasan, BCB President. “The final selection is always made by the captain and coach, and the captain decides whereas the coach gives suggestions but basically it is the captain.”

Many feel that if Hathurusingha is included in the selection panel, that will take away power from the selectors. However, BCB’s chief selector Minhajul Abedin and his long time associate in the selection panel Habibul Bashar disagree with it.

“I am not sure whether he will be included in the selection panel or not but I don’t think it will be a problem and we didn’t have any problems last time too,” Minhajul told Cricbuzz on Thursday, adding that he is in regular touch with the Sri Lankan to keep him updated.

Habibul told Cricbuzz that he has seen Hathurusingha working from close quarters and feels that there are lots of misconceptions floating in the air about him.

“It is not true that he had given us a paper” said Habibul. “We always discussed about our team with the head coach and always take his suggestion whether he is a part of selection panel or not. And it was the same with him as well.

“I don’t think he is any kind of strict headmaster. Instead what I feel is that he always looked at the cricketers equally.”

Khaled Mahmud, current team director and a close ally of Hathurusingha, feels that Hathurusingha is now much more matured than before.

“He has worked in Bangladesh before. There were a lot of good performances during his time. He is more mature now, which is good for the team. I think it is a positive thing that he is coming for a second time. He understands us well, as he is also from the subcontinent.” said Mahmud, who had worked as team manager during Hathurusingha’s first stint

Hathurusingha spent three years from 2014 to 2017 before leaving abruptly for the Sri Lanka role. He is expected to arrive by January 20 and his first assignment will be against England at home.

(Cricbuzz)

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SportUnleash Schools Sports Awards 2022

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Fifteen outstanding school sports persons were felicitated at the inaugural SportUnleash School Sports Awards 2022 held at the BMICH recently.Minister of Education Susil Premajayanth was the chief guest at the awards ceremony while MP Eran Wickramaratne was the guest of honor.

The award winners for 2022

ATHLETICS:

Track events-Nadun Kaveesha Bandara of Royal College, Colombo,

Field events –

Ashmika Keshan Korala of Yoshida International School, Sapugaskanda,

BADMINTON: Viren Nettasinghe of St Peter’s College,

BASKETBALL:GG Minoli Mariya Direkze of HFC Bambalapitiya,

BOXING: Pasindu Umayanga Mihiran, Nalanda College,

CHESS: LM Susal T de Silva, Nalanda College,

CRICKET: Dunith Wellalage, St Joseph’s College,

KARATE: CA Tharuki Sashindi, Sapugaskanda Visaka Vidyalaya,

NETBALL:

Hiruni Heshani, HFC Kurunegala,

ROWING: Shaylon Shayan Gunaratna, Asian International School,

RUGBY: Dinupa Seneviratna, DS Senanayake College,

SWIMMING:Ganga Seneviratne, Visaka Vidyalaya,

TENNIS:Dinara de Silva, St Bridget’s Convent,

VOLLEYBALL:Kavishka Madushanka, Rajasinghe Central College, Ruwanwella,

WRESTLING: Nethmi Ahinsa Fernando, Welpalla Sangharathana Maha Vidyalaya, Giriulla,

COACH OF THE YEAR: TS Suranga Kumara,

SPORTING SCHOOL –Nalanda College.

The Jury Medals for Sports Excellence, were awarded to Danindu Chirath Sellepperuma of Ananda College and Vishmi Gunaratne of Rathnawali Balika Vidyalaya, Gampaha for their noteworthy performance in cricket and to Tharushi Karunarathne of A. Ratnayake MMV, Walala in Athletics.

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