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A champagne exit from Lord’s



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.


ICC names all-woman panel of match officials for 2023 Women’s T20 World Cup



The upcoming women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa will have an all-woman line-up of match officials, in what will be a landmark first in the game.On Friday, the ICC announced the panel of three match referees and ten umpires, featuring officials from seven countries. The match referees are GS Lakshmi (India), Shandre Fritz (South Africa) and Michell Pereira (Sri Lanka). The on-field and TV umpires will be Sue Redfern (England), Eloise Sheridan (Australia), Claire Polosak (Australia), Jacqueline Williams (West Indies), Kim Cotton (new Zealand), Lauren Agenbag (South Africa), Anna Harris (England), Vrinda Rathi (India), N Janani (India) and Nimali Perera (Sri Lanka).

Selecting this panel was part of the governing body’s “strategic ambition of advancing the involvement and visibility of women in cricket,” an ICC statement said.

The panel will also have the most number of women umpires and match referees in a global ICC tournament, four more than the nine who are at the ongoing women’s Under-19 T20 World Cup.

“Women’s cricket has been growing rapidly in recent years and as part of that, we have been building the pathways to ensure more women have the opportunity to officiate at the highest level,” Wasim Khan, ICC’s general manager of cricket, said. “This announcement is a reflection of our intent in this space and just the start of our journey where men and women enjoy the same opportunities across our sport.

“We are committed to continuing to support our female match officials and provide opportunities to showcase their talents on the global stage. I wish them all the best for the tournament.”

The eighth edition of the women’s T20 World Cup begins with hosts South Africa facing Sri Lanka on February 10. Defending champions Australia are in Group A with Bangladesh, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Arica. Group B has England, India, Ireland, Pakistan and West Indies. The top two teams from each group will move into the semi-finals.The matches will be played in Cape Town, Gqeberha and Paarl with the final scheduled for February 26 at Newlands.


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ACC to meet in Bahrain on Feb 4, call on Asia Cup expected



The Asian Cricket Council (ACC) will meet in Bahrain on February 4. A decision on the Asia Cup is expected at the much-awaited meeting where the representatives of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will be present. It could be a stormy affair in the Persian Gulf city of Bahrain, with the two boards having been at loggerheads.

The hosting right of the upcoming Asia Cup, which will be an ODI championship among the continental sides, has been a bone of contention, with the BCCI and the PCB being at odds over the venue. The August-September championship was allotted to the PCB but in view of political tension between India and Pakistan, the BCCI had declared that the Indian team will not be in a position to travel to Pakistan.

The BCCI’s refusal was initially escalated by former PCB chairman Ramiz Raja who threatened to boycott the World Cup in India later in the year. A similar stand seems to have also been taken by Najam Sethi, who succeeded Raja, but there seems little support from other ACC members to the PCB position.

The BCCI and the PCB sparred recently after Jay Shah, the BCCI secretary and ACC president, announced the schedule of the council. It was responded with sarcasm by Sethi who said in a social media post, “Thank you @JayShah for unilaterally presenting @ACCMedia1 structure & calendars 2023-24 especially relating to Asia Cup 2023 for which Pakistan is the event host. While you are at it, you might as well present structure & calendar of our PSL 2023! A swift response will be appreciated (sic).”

The PCB chairman’s comments were rejected by ACC which declared that Shah’s post was not unilateral. “It has come to our knowledge that PCB Chairman Mr Najam Sethi has made a comment on the ACC President unilaterally taking the decision on finalising the calendar and announcing the same. The ACC wants to clarify that it has followed well established and due process. The calendar was approved by its Development Committee and Finance & Marketing Committee in a meeting held on December 13th, 2022.

“The calendar was then communicated to all the participating members individually, including Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), via an email dated December 22nd, 2022. While responses were received from certain Member Boards, no comments or suggested modifications were received from PCB. In view of the above, Mr Sethi’s comments on a social media platform are baseless and are vehemently denied by the ACC,” the ACC said backing Shah’s position.

With the meeting in Bahrain happening in such a backdrop, it could be a stormy affair. A BCCI official, who was in Mumbai for the unveiling of Women’s Premier League teams, confirmed a final decision on the Asia Cup will be taken in Bahrain on February 4.


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Brian Lara joins West Indies management as ‘performance mentor’



Cricket West Indies have roped in legendary batter Brian Lara as a ‘performance mentor’, who will work across formats with the international teams as well as with the academy. Lara will assist the various coaches with regard to “providing players with tactical advice and improving their game sense”. He will also work with Jimmy Adams, the Director of Cricket, on ICC World Cup tournament strategic planning.

“Having spent time with the players and coaches in Australia and in discussions with CWI, I really believe that I can help the players with their mental approach to the game and with their tactics to be more successful,” Lara said.

The 53-year-old Lara’s first assignment in the new role will be with the Test side on the tour of Zimbwbwe, where he has already joined the squad ahead of the first Test in Bulawayo on February 4. Lara will take a short break in the middle to discharge his duties as the head coach of the Sunrisers Hyderabad during IPL 2023.

Lara was recently appointed on a CWI review panel following their early exit at the 2022 T20 World Cup. They were subsequently swept 2-0 by Australia in a Test series and now seek a course-correction as they build towards this year’s 50-over World Cup in India.

“I am really looking forward to Brian making a significant contribution to our cricket system by providing invaluable guidance and advice to our players and coaches,” Adams said. “We are confident that Brian will help to improve our high-performance mindset and strategic culture that will bring us more success on the field across all formats. Everyone is excited to have Brian involved in supporting our players.”


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