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A script gone sour!

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36th Anniversary of Sri Lanka’s first ever Test match at Lord’s – Part 1

by Rohan Wijeyaratna

“We’ve actually come here” said the middle-aged man seated next to me, “to watch a proper game of cricket”. Dressed in jacket and a gaudy ‘bacon and eggs’ tie, he was with a group of four others, settling into their seats in the upper tiers of the New Tavern Stand, with the expectation of witnessing an enjoyable day’s cricket. The drift of their conversation seemed no different to the sentiments expressed in the English press and elsewhere, that the game about to begin would be agreeably one sided. Many felt England had a great opportunity of redeeming themselves after the fearful thrashing they received at the hands of the West Indies, earlier that summer.

No one could fault such sentiment. Sri Lanka’s lead up to their first Test at Lord’s had been less than impressive. Beginning 25th July, the Lankans played Nottinghamshire, Surrey, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kent, Sussex and Warwickshire and – barring Kent – they failed to bowl out any of the other sides even once. Also, they lost to Surrey. “Not much better than Cambridge University” was the honest appraisal of an experienced county coach, without stooping to insult. Going by the match results at the time, that seemed fair comment.

England’s rough summer

This was 23rd August 1984. England had suffered a complete ‘blackwash’ earlier that summer at the hands of the West Indies, losing 5-0. The pounding was so intense and intimidating, it prompted cricket sages like Jim Swanton to suggest the drawing of a mandatory line across the wicket, compelling bowlers to pitch beyond it. That the West Indians derived most of their menace through their unrelenting pace there was no doubt, but the extent to which they used the short pitched delivery made it seem that batting was as much an exercise in self defense as it was, in defense of the wicket. Even night-watchmen weren’t spared. Batsmen literally jumped out of their skins with both feet off the ground, trying to keep the ball down, or frantically swaying out of the way to avoid grievous injury. The bowlers were like men possessed. There were not just one or two of them, but often four in tandem; all delivering at furious pace, unrelenting fury and unerring accuracy. Importantly, they were all pitched short of a good length. Whichever side of the divide one belonged, there was no denying this was violent cricket, which fell way short of the game’s famed chivalry. Given all of that, the Sri Lankan match at the tail end of the summer, was expected to offer the perfect antidote to what had gone on before.

Manna from heaven!

On a murky overcast morning, David Gower won the toss and sensing some possible early inroads, decided to field. As it proved, it was a serious misjudgment. Shortly, Wettimuny and Amal Silva walked out from the shadows of the hallowed pavilion at Lord’s, nervously aware how many illustrious men have trodden those very same steps before. They were greeted with polite applause, and soon everyone had taken their positions. But just before ‘play’ was called, there was an interruption. A scattering of banner waving detractors invaded the field and held up play for several minutes, to the complete bemusement of all! It took a while to connect that this was a demonstration with political connotations. When the ground was finally cleared, it was evident the pitch invasion had left its mark on at least one person in the middle.

Walking to the middle and facing the first ball of a Lord’s Test match could be a daunting task to even the best amongst experienced campaigners. Sidath Wettimuny was no exception. The long walk, then taking guard, taking in the atmosphere, enduring the suspense of the ‘wait’ for the first ball; being sub-consciously reminded of his team’s expectations of him – all these would have created their own share of tensions, adding to the butterflies already in his stomach. Then suddenly, there came the disruption! To an already tensed Sidath Wettimuny, this seemed like manna from heaven!

On his way!

This disruption helped ease the mounting tension within Sidath Wettimuny and soon he was seen busily making explanations to his shell-shocked adversaries as to what the invasion was all about. Just moments before, these very same men had been aggressively scowling at him from the slip cordon and elsewhere, and now they were lapping up every word he uttered, as though it was the gospel! The interlude must have helped dispel all the butterflies in his stomach, for, when play got under way, and a shortish delivery presented itself outside the off, Wettimuny lost no time in getting well on top of it, cutting it neatly to the left of point for two. Shortly thereafter to a ball that was even shorter and wider, he launched into the type of shot he would normally never have played, unless well past 20. It was a well controlled, searing square cut, which sent the leather scuttling away between fourth slip and gully, to register Sri Lanka’s first Test boundary at Lord’s.

Wettimuny continued in this vein, taking most of the strike and doing most of the scoring. Presently, he essayed a sublime drive past point off Botham for four, and then unfurled a sumptuous repeat of the shot off Ellison. At most times he was copybook perfect, and when he wasn’t, he made sure the ball met the bat at its sweetest spot. Wide half volleys were spectacularly square driven while several other memorable strokes followed, as he reached the first of several milestones during his epic innings. He brought up his 50 by rolling off two dashing fours off Agnew in the final over before lunch; the first – an uppish slash over the slips to a very wide ball which stood up, and the other – a near one handed cover drive, coiling and then uncoiling with the shot, in one beautiful symphonic movement. Sri Lanka came into lunch at 81 for 2 with Wettimuny having made 51 of them.

Near vulnerable position

For a while at least within the first hour when the scoreboard read 42-2 after 13 overs, Gower’s decision with the toss seemed vindicated. Even though Jim Fairbrother’s farewell wicket to Test cricket was the friendliest featherbed any batting side could have asked for, and even though the bowling did no justice to the four slips and gully that stood in patient hope, Amal Silva batting with no trouble at all was trapped leg before to a Botham in-swinger. Madugalle the next man in, was comprehensively bowled shortly thereafter, to a delivery which swung back late. This left Wettimuny and Roy Dias to navigate the innings from a somewhat vulnerable position to the safety of the luncheon break, with the game still, evenly poised.

A throwback to a bygone era

If England harboured any hopes of an early breakthrough upon resumption, such hopes were quickly dashed by the two Sri Lankans. What unfolded after lunch was a delightful interlude of sublime Asian batting artistry, where wristwork, footwork, placement and touch, were amply displayed in a throwback to a by-gone era of technically correct batting, laced with style and unending grace. There was no further evidence needed to showcase the cricketing pedigree of both these batsmen. Relying mostly on his water-tight technique and his lyrical off-side driving, Wettimuny shortly reached his hundred in the 54th over, out of a total of 154. As the entire ground stood to him in warm applause, it was evident that the spirit of cricket was alive and well, and good cricket was being recognized; never mind from where it came.

Dias meanwhile, not to be outdone, displayed shades of his undisputed class. His regally elegant off-side play was complemented with decisive clips through midwicket to anything that was on his pads. He had not just style and grace, but command as well in all his offerings, but just when the stage was really well set for one great innings to remember, Dias fell victim to a clever piece of deception by the wily Surrey off- spinner Pocock. The bowler enticed him to go through with the shot, to a ball that hadn’t quite arrived and Dias paid the penalty. He made 32 out of a 102 run partnership from 150 minutes of batting.

In his element

The departure of Roy Dias brought the pugnacious 21 year old Ranatunga to the center. Looking every bit as cheeky as he always was, Ranatunga quickly set about scuttling the bowling with an array of off side shots, using no noticeable back lift and curbing himself until the ball was almost upon him. He would then lean into it with some muscle and scuttle it away, be it from backward point to long-on. Anything that was on his pads, he would deftly deflect backward of square, with the assurance of a man who was in complete control of himself.

Wettimuny meanwhile, was increasingly stricken with cramp and was content on playing second fiddle. This allowed Ranatunga to take on the bulk of the bowling. The leftie would busily square drive or punch on the off, picking gaps or creating them, while gorging himself on the bowling as if it were a plate of rice. At tea, Sri Lanka were 173 for three and by the end of the day’s play 30 minutes before the scheduled close, they were 226 for three. Amply blessed with patience and style, Wettimuny returned unbeaten on 116 on a day he could do no wrong even if he tried. Ranatunga remained unbeaten on 54.

To be continued tomorrow.



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Anuga, Rajindu shine with centuries

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Under 17 Division I Cricket  

by Reemus Fernando  

Wesley’s Anuga Pahansara and Rajindu Thilakaratna of S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia scored match defining centuries as their schools reached the quarter-finals of the Under 17 Division I cricket tournament yesterday.

In the pre-quarter-finals played yesterday, St. Joseph’s, De Mazenod, St. Anthony’s (Wattala), Moratu Vidyalaya, S. Thomas’, Wesley, Mahanama, Gurukula, St. Benedict’s, Mahinda and St. Peter’s registered victories to confirm their places in the quarter-finals of the Division I tournament.

Anuga Pahansara’s century was crucial in setting up the stage for Wesley to post 240 runs before off spinner Rashmika Amararathna and left-arm spinner Jathon Wieman joined to reduce St. Sebastian’s to 117 runs at Moratuwa.

For S. Thomas’ Thilakaratna anchored the batting line up with an unbeaten century (101 runs in 132 balls, 13x4s, 1×6) and put on a fourth wicket stand of 116 runs with Dineth Goonawardena for them to record a five wickets win over President’s College at Kotte.

The day’s lowest score came in the match between St. Joseph’s and Holy Cross as paceman Maanasa Madubashana and spinner Yenula Dewthusa rattled the visitors for 43 runs at Darley Road.

Match Results  

St. Joseph’s beat Holy Cross at Darley Road  

Scores: 

Holy Cross 43 all out in 28.2 overs (Akash Gamage 15; Maanasa Madubashana 4/16, Yenula Dewthusa 3/09) 

St. Joseph’s 46 for 2 in 8 overs (Sahan Dabare 22)  

De Mazenod beat St. Servatius’ at Kandana

St. Servatius ’ 139 all out in 44 overs (Risinu Kithnuka 36, Raveen Kavintha 28n.o.; Jude Shenal 3/37, Thareen Sanketh 3/25) 

De Mazenod 143 for 1 in 30 overs (Kenul Dhananjaya 82n.o., Janith Karindra 22, Hasintha Dasunpriya 30n.o.) 

St. Anthony’s (Wattala) beat St. Sylvester’s at Lake View Scores: 

St. Anthony’s Wattala 148 all out in 48.3 overs (Shehara Dewthilina 21,  Chamod Sandeepa 47, Dilanka Madushan 29; Kashyapa Dissanayake 2/35, Thimira Liyanage 4/24, Nimesha Silva 3/31) 

St. Sylvester’s 126 all out in 30.3 overs (Yoshitha Isuranga 47, Dilanka Madushan 3/36, Chamod Sandeepa 3/16) 

Moratu Vidyalaya beat Thurstan at Moratuwa  Scores: 

Moratu MV 289 for 6 in 50 overs (Hasindu Senanayaka 41, Deneth Sithumina 87, Dulen Silva 48, Malith Fernando 22, Shehara Fernando 49n.o.; Thanuga Palihawadana  

Thurstan 244 for 9 in 50 overs (Kaushala Balasooriya 30, Thanuga Palihawadana 53, Vihas Thewmika 85; Vihanga Nethsara 4/40, Malith Fernando 4/44) 

S. Thomas’ beat President’s at Kotte  Scores: 

Presidents 226 all out in 47.1 overs (Dinal Induwara 61, Tanuja Rajapakse 55, Punsara Nethmina 29, Kaveesha Yashmika 25; Achintha Rumean 3/35, Darien Diego 2/21, Kavindu Dias 2/39, Dineth Goonawardena 2/40 

S. Thomas ’ 227 for 5 in 47.3 overs (Rajindu Thilakaratna 101n.o., Dineth Goonawardena 48; Sanithu Nethmina 4/50) 

Wesley beat St. Sebastian’s at Moratuwa  Scores: 

Wesley 240 for 8 in 50 overs (Anuga Pahansara 104, Senila Senarathne 36, Rukshan Tharanga 29, Manuth Samarakoon 28; Malindu Daham 2/43, Maheesha Sithum 2/44) 

St. Sebastian’s 117 all out in 42.4 overs (Vihanga Theekashana 47, Venuth Kavimira 28, Rashmika Amararathna 4/07, Jathon Wieman 3/17, Ravindu Sigera 2/29) 

St. Peter’s beat Maliyadeva at Kurunegala  Scores: 

St. Peter’s  247 for 8 in 50 overs (Dilana Damsara 68, Nethan David 35, Ethan Ransiluge 27, Ovin Salgadu 23, Erosh Peterson 27, Sasindu Silva 29n.o.; Thaveesha Balasooriya 3/45, Vinuda Mapa 3/52) 

Maliyadewa 205 all out in 48.5 overs (Sandeepa Bandara 66, Vinuda Mapa 42; Lashmika Perera 2/26, Dilana Damsara 3/35, Salith Gallage 3/49) 

 Mahanama  beat Prince of Wales at Moratuwa   Scores: 

Mahanama 243 for 9 in 50 overs (Dulnith Sigera 59, Gimantha Dissanayake 56, Sithika Kulathunga 24, Uden Rajapaksha 22; Prince Fernando 4/40, Nishel Hewajulige 2/24)

Prince of Wales 159 all out in 39.3 overs (Rivith Jayasuriya 54, Kenul de Zoysa 39, Oshan Maneesha 24; Dulnith Sigera 2/20, Osanda Muthugama 4/20, Sihan Karunarathne 2/25) 

St. Benedict’s  beat Vidyartha at Kotahena  Scores: 

Vidyartha 167 for 9 in 50 overs (Pubudu Tharaka 23, Nishmika Kaveesha 57n.o.; Mevan Dissanayake 3/25) 

St. Benedict’s 168 for 1 in 49.2 overs (Dumindu Yehen 38, Yohan Edirisinghe 22, Sharujan Shanmuganathan 23, Onesh Michael 29n.o.; Kalana Kumarasiri 4/23) 

Gurukula beat St. Anthony’s (Katugastota) at Wattala Scores: 

Gurukula 261 for 8 in 50 overs (Thathsara Eshan 80, Pasindu Dilshan 37, Daham Vimukthi 28, Janith Mihiranga 42n.o.; Tharusha Dasun 2/57, Senura Abeysekara 3/37) 

St. Anthony’s 127 all out in 34.1 overs (Januka Bandara 34, Dinura Oshan 30; Tharusha Kodikara 3/31, Hiruna Fernando 3/18) 

Mahinda beat Maris Stella at Galle Scores: 

Maris Stella 187 all out in 47.5 overs (Levin Fernando 55, Mineth Fernando 31; Arosha Udayanga 4/20, Senuka Dangamuwa 2/31, Nikil Jayaweera 2/29) 

Mahinda 188 for 5 in 35.1 overs (Nikil Jayaweera 52, Dineth Pahasara 32, Senuka Dangamuwa 50n.o.; Hasthika de Silva 2/27, Ramith Bandara 2/18) 

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Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo join UAE’s ILT20

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Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Nicholas Pooran are the latest big names from the Caribbean to sign up for the UAE’s International League T20 (ILT20), along with Sri Lanka’s Dasun Shanaka, England’s Ollie Pope and Afghanistan’s Fazalhaq Farooqi.

The league also said that its six franchises – owned by Reliance Industries, Kolkata Knight Riders, Capri Global, GMR, Lancer Capital, and Adani Sportsline – have finalised contracting players through the “directly acquire players” option, though the details of who has gone to which team is not yet known.

Some of the other latest signings up for the ILT20 are: Will Smeed, Rehan Ahmed, Jordan Thompson, Sheldon Cottrell, Andre Fletcher, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Bas de Leede, Chris Benjamin and Bilal Khan.

The ILT20 is set to begin in January next year in the UAE and is competing with South Africa’s T20 League for players.

On August 8, the ILT20 had announced its first list of signed players which included Andre Russell, Moeen Ali, Wanindu Hasaranga, Alex Hales, Shimron Hetmyer, Chris Jordan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Dawid Malan, Sunil Narine, Evin Lewis, Colin Munro, Fabian Allen, Sam Billings, Tom Curran, Dushmantha Chameera, Akeal Hosein, Tom Banton, Sandeep Lamichhane, Rovman Powell, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Lahiru Kumara, Seekugge Prassanna, Charith Asalanka, Isuru Udana, Niroshan Dickwella, Kennar Lewis, Ravi Rampaul, Raymon Reifer, Dominic Drakes, Sherfane Rutherford, Hazratullah Zazai, Qais Ahmad, Noor Ahmed, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Naveen-ul-Haq, Dan Lawrence, Jamie Overton, Liam Dawson, Richard Gleeson, James Vince, Saqib Mahmood, Ben Duckett, Benny Howell, Blessing Muzarabani, Sikandar Raza, Brandon Glover, Frederick Klaasen, David Wiese, Ruben Trumpelmann, Colin Ingram, George Munsey, Paul Stirling and Ali Khan.

Each squad of 18 will have two players from Associate countries and four players from the UAE.

There have been suggestions that the space for Pakistani players in the league might be limited because franchises owned by IPL owners were wary of picking them for worries of a backlash in India. One ILT20 official said the franchise owned by Lancer Capital – the Glazers family that owns Manchester United – were still hopeful of signing up some Pakistan players, though the official acknowledged that not getting the NOCs from the PCB might be the obstacle. The PCB said in a statement last week that two Pakistan players had applied for NOCs to play in the league but were not granted them because the board expected the players to be involved in Pakistan’s home season.

The 2023 edition of the ILT20 will have 34 matches – all the teams will play each other twice, before four playoffs, including the final – spread across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

(Cricinfo)

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Bowlers, Balbirnie steer Ireland to comfortable win

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Josh Little, Mark Adair, Curtis Campher and Gareth Delany picked up two wickets each before Andy Balbirnie’s 46 off 36 balls broke the back of a 123-run chase to give Ireland a five-wicket win in the second T20I in Belfast. The hosts now lead the five-match series 2-0.

Afghanistan opted to bat first for the second time in two games but their innings never really took off. Both openers – Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Usman Ghani – were back in the pavilion by the third over. At the end of ten overs, they were hobbling at 62 for 4. The second half of the innings was no different and they finished with 122 for 8. Extras, with 19, the second-highest contributor.

Afghanistan needed early wickets to put Ireland under pressure but Balbirnie ensured that didn’t happen. The target was never going to challenge Ireland, and Afghanistan’s sloppy fielding made their task even easier. That meant despite a late wobble, they won with an over to spare.

For the first time in his T20I career, Rashid Khan went wicketless in back-to-back games. After none for 25 in the first T20I, he ended with none for 27 from his four overs today.

On what Mohammad Nabi described as a dry pitch at the toss, the Ireland seamers found movement as well as extra bounce with the new ball to pick up three wickets in the powerplay.

Adair struck with the first ball of the second over as Gurbaz sliced a full delivery to short third. In the next over, Little got one to jag back in to Ghani. The batter was looking for a cut but was cramped and ended up chopping the ball onto his stumps.

Ibrahim Zadran walked in at No. 4 and tried to up the scoring rate. He took on Barry McCarthy, hitting the seamer for three fours in his first over. In the next over, he steered Campher to the deep-third boundary for his fourth four in nine balls. However, a stunning catch from Andy McBrine cut short his counterattacking knock. Ibrahim tried to loft Curtis over wide long-on on the final ball of the powerplay but ended up miscuing it towards deep midwicket. McBrine sprinted in from the deep and put in a full-length dive to take the ball just above the ground, leaving Afghanistan 41 for 3 at the end of six overs.

Afghanistan needed a partnership to stabilise the innings; instead, they kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Najibullah Zadran started in his usual positive manner, reverse-sweeping McBrine for a four, but ended up uppercutting Campher straight to deep point soon after. Nabi didn’t last long either and holed out to long-on for 9 against Delany.

Hashmatullah Shahidi did occupy one end but struggled for timing throughout his 42-ball 36. Ironically, when he nailed a reverse sweep, it went straight into the hands of deep point. With Rashid failing to provide any fireworks, Afghanistan could manage only 22 from the last four overs.

Ireland lost Paul Stirling early in their chase and were 8 for 1 after three overs, but Balbirnie struck four fours in the next 11 balls to calm the nerves. A couple of overs later, he swept Mujeeb Ur Rahman in front of square leg for the first six of the match.

Along with Lorcan Tucker, he added 65 off 54 balls for the second wicket; Tucker’s contribution was 19 off 20 balls. Mujeeb eventually broke that stand when Balbirnie attempted a fine sweep but the ball lobbed up off the back of the bat and Gurbaz pouched it.

With 42 required from as many balls, Nabi brought himself on for the first time in the 14th over and made an immediate impact. In the space of four balls, he sent back Harry Tector and Tucker. But his second over, which featured four leg-byes, went for 13. That left Ireland with 20 needed from 24 balls. Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen gave away only 12 in the next two overs, with Farooqi also dismissing Campher. But George Dockrell kept his calm. On the final ball of the 19th over, bowled by Farooqi, he chipped a full toss over wide long-on to seal the game with a six.

Brief scores

Ireland 125 for 5 (Andy Balbirnie 46, Lorcan Tucker 27, Mohammad Nabi 2-15) beat Afghanistan 122 for 8 (Hashmatullah Shahidi 36, Ibrahim Zadran 17, Mark Adair 2-12, Curtis Campher 2-13) by five wickets

(Cricinfo)

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