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After thorny run-in, Australia hope for smooth start to title defence



In many ways, Australia’s preparation for their T20 title defence has felt like a contradiction. In all probability the XI that takes the field at the SCG on Saturday (weather permitting) will be the one that has appeared likely for quite some time, with Tim David replacing Steven Smith from the last T20 World Cup.

So while that projects a sense of a stability, there is a lot else that has been going on that would suggest a build-up that has been far from ideal. It has included managing injuries to key allrounders Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis, plus back-up bowlers Ashton Agar and Kane Richardson; a significant amount of travel, including a week-long trip to India; the debate around David Warner’s captaincy ban, which national selector George Bailey made no secret was becoming a frustratingly drawn-out affair, and the appointment of Pat Cummins as ODI captain along with the debate around one of Australia’s leading sponsors.

Most recently an old golf club snapped in Josh Inglis’ hand on the second hole at the La Perouse course in Sydney, badly cutting the wicketkeeper and ruling him out of the tournament. In itself it is not the most damaging injury the squad could have been dealt on the eve of the tournament – Inglis would not have been in the starting XI – but it left an unwanted conversation about who should be the replacement and its implications (Warner as wicketkeeper, perhaps?). Inglis was also a very versatile batting understudy.

On the field Australia would have been beaten 3-0 by England if it wasn’t for rain in Canberra, after which Aaron Finch made comments about fatigue in the squad after the lengthy build-up. A number of players have felt they have had matches they didn’t need, but then on the other hand there have been one or two lingering form questions, although Finch made timely runs against India at the Gabba.Glenn Maxwell remains the one who has yet to put in a significant contribution with the bat this season – although he, too, looked to be getting going against India – but he is being backed to come good when it really matters.

“I think it looks a lot different on the inside than it does on the outside,” head coach Andrew McDonald said of the build-up. “We have a task at hand and that’s to get the players ready for the first game.

“Probably the thing that’s consumed us the most has been injured players returning and you’ve seen in the lead-up that we’ve had to not take certain players to certain fixtures because of the risks of injury, so that’s been our big discussion to get the eleven players who will play that first game to the start line. The medical team has done a fantastic job. So we’ve had our own, probably internal, battles as opposed to what’s been happening on the outside.”

The injury concerns over Marsh (ankle) and Stoinis (side) were the most critical to Australia’s build-up given their overs are vital to balance the side since it moved to seven batters and four bowlers. McDonald conceded losing one or both of the allrounders “was real” for a period of time over recent weeks, which led to their extended use of Cameron Green at the top of the order after his success in India, in turn leading to the unusual sight of Finch batting in the middle. In the end Green has found his way into the squad, but as Inglis’ replacement.

Marsh may still not be right to bowl in the opening game against New Zealand and there are lingering concerns over Stoinis being able to back up in a tight schedule, particularly when travel is included – Australia, as hosts, play each group game at a different venue. In the balance of their side, Maxwell becomes as important for his bowling as his batting.

Yet, despite all of that, if Australia can put their expected XI on the park, it looks very strong. David has brought more power and finishing ability to the middle order, Warner has played some sparkling innings leading into the tournament, Marsh still looks at home at No.3, Matthew Wade has had a prolific 12 months as a finisher, and it’s hard to pick holes in the four frontline bowlers with Adam Zampa and Josh Hazlewood particularly dominant in the format.

The big selection call has been to move Smith aside from the first-choice XI, although McDonald reiterated there could be a role for him during the tournament. While Smith has shed the ‘Mr Fix-It’ tag, there is still the question of how Australia respond if they are in early trouble against the new ball, but McDonald was confident others could do that role.

“The term ‘hitters’, those players have a few extra layers than just being able to hit the ball over the ropes,” he said. “They do have some power but they do have some craft as well.”

All this does not mention the opposition themselves on Saturday, the well-drilled New Zealand side who were the other finalists last year and have a terrific record in global events. However, there is a thought that they are side that has, perhaps, passed its peak while they have not beaten Australia in any format in their country since 2011. The hosts are probably not too disappointed to be starting against them.After a long build-up that has not all been smooth, it is what happens at the SCG that matters. The prospect of rain and a shortened game brings further jeopardy. No men’s team has yet to defend the T20 World Cup and there is very little room for a mistake.



Tharushi, Nirmali improve meet records in 800 metres



All Island Schools Athletics Championships

by Reemus Fernando

Ratnayake Central, Walala prodigy Tharushi Karunaratne and Asian Youth Athletics Championship medallist Nirmali Wickramasinghe smashed meet records as they further boosted girls’ 800 metres as the most promising athletics discipline in the women’s category in Sri Lanka on day four of the All Island Schools Athletics Championships at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Monday.

World Junior Championship participant Karunaratne slashed nearly four seconds from Dilshi Kumarasinghe’s 2017 record (2:12.28 seconds) as she won the Under 20 girls’ 800 metres in a time of 2:08.16 seconds.

It was the third meet record she established during this meet. She erased the 400 metres and 4×400 metres relay records before reaching the 800 metres as the clear favourite. She has also had under her belt the 200 metres title of that age category.

In the Under 18 age category Nirmali Wickramasinghe of Wickramabahu National School, Gampola lived up to her billing as she erased one of the older records in the meet. She returned a time of 2:13.09 seconds to beat the 2003 record (2:13.49 secs) held by Kushani Nelum Kularatne of Elapatha MV.

The day’s fastest performance in the 800 metres was produced by Kavishka Sri Bandara (Elapatha MV) who came almost close to breaking the meet record with a feat of 1:52.67 seconds in the Under 20 boys’ event. He has further cemented his place as the fastest athlete of this discipline in the Junior category this year slashing nearly two seconds off his June performance.

In the Under 18 boys’ category Roshen Fernandopulle of Maris Stella College, Negombo ran two solid laps though he only managed only clock sub two minutes (1:59.87).

Ashmika Keshan Korala of Yoshida International School, Sapugaskanda emerged victorious in the Under 20 boys’ triple jump as he cleared 15.57 metres to create a new meet record. Korala broke the record held by Chamal Kumarasiri (15.52m-2015).

Janith Shenal of Lyceum International, Wattala in action in the Under 18 boys’ discus throw.

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Royal Institute karatekas excel winning 32 medals



Inter–International Schools Karate Championship 2022

Karatekas from Royal Institute Colombo secured 32 medals in four categories at the recently concluded Inter–International Schools Karate Championship at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium.

They clinched 14 gold, four silver and 14 bronze medals while winning titles in the under 11, 12, 13 and 14 age categories.

The team competed under the guidance of coach Shihan Seeta Wijewardana. The winners of various categories were: Under 11 – Bhagya Leelarathna (Nugegoda Branch), Under 12 – Sanuli Nethara (Nugegoda Branch), Under 13 – Mahira Mariam (Maya Avenue Branch) and Under 14 – Saveen Imanga (Nugegoda Branch).

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Nadun equals Randeniya’s national junior record



Samadi shatters 14-year-old meet record

All Island Schools Games Athletics Championships

by Reemus Fernando

Royal College athlete Nadun Bandara equaled the national junior record in the 110 metres hurdles and Samadi Lakshani Dissanayake of Swarnamali Balika, Kandy took under her belt the meet record in the Under 20 100 metres hurdles as they breathed new life to sprint hurdles on day four of the All Island Schools Athletics Championships at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Monday.

The premier schools event had not witnessed a sub 14 seconds performance in the Under 20 age category until the World Junior Championship participant blazed the track with a scintillating 13.64 seconds finish yesterday.

Bandara shattered Josephian Sheshan Kariyawasam’s meet record (14.21 secs- 2018) and equaled Supun Viraj Randeniya’s National Junior record, which the latter had established ten years ago in Ranchi.

With his latest feat Bandara has his name written against all age group (Under 16 100m in 2018 , Under 18 110m in 2019 and Under 20 110m) hurdles records of this meet.

In the girls’ Under 20 100 metres hurdles, Swarnamali Balika athlete Samadi Lakshani Dissanayake shattered Harshani Wijesinghe’s meet record (14.66 secs) established in 2008 with a feat of 14.55 seconds.

In a remarkable field event achievement, Hasitha Kavinda Dissanayake of Gnanodaya M.M.V, Wariyapola cleared 15.14 metres to establish a new meet record in the Under 18 boys’ triple jump. It was the first time that an athlete in his age category cleared the 15 metres barrier in the Under 18 triple jump at these championships.

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