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Argy – Bargy meets BLACK WALL!

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by Rajitha Ratwatte

The much anticipated ‘payback’ match for New Zealand’s All Blacks against the Argentinian Pumas had finally arrived. In one of the hottest days recorded in decades, in Newcastle Sydney, the Pumas fielded a different team to their last game, with over ten changes. Probably looking for fresh legs as this was their third international in three weeks. Joe Moody the All Black number one, loose head prop was playing his 50th game in the black jersey. Akira Ioane was back in the starting XV in the number six jersey.

The Pumas’ were mourning the death of their football legend Diego Maradona and the All Blacks made a wonderful gesture before they started their Haka, in honour of their opponents. Sam Cane the skipper walked up to the Argentinian team who were facing up to the haka and laid down a black jersey with the name Maradona and the no10 on it. A very impressive move by the All Blacks and very much in keeping with the standards and behaviour that New Zealanders expect from the All Blacks! A very suitable honour for El Pibe de Ora – The Golden Boy.

The first scrum happened in the second minute and it was the All Blacks who dominated. The resulting scrum penalty was around 45 meters out and rather surprisingly, Jodie Barret was given the ball to take a shot at goal. He missed!

In the ninth minute, the All Blacks playing under a penalty advantage, well inside Puma territory saw Beauden Barret chip kick over the defence and center Lennert-Brown knocked on when collecting the ball. Usually referees play a much longer advantage but, on this occasion, and few others as the game progressed, the advantage for All Blacks was forgotten and a defensive scrum awarded to the blue and white team.

In the 12th minute a great long pass by Ritchie Muanga to Dan Coles the hooker, who has a penchant for lurking on the wing, saw him go over and score far right. Muanga converted and the Kiwis were into a 7 – 0 lead.

Aaron Smith who had a pretty average game showed some good clear, incisive thinking on this occasion, as he spotted a gap behind the Argentine line and kicked ahead gaining a lot of territory. A very kickable penalty was awarded to the All Blacks right in front of the posts and the three points were a mere formality. 10 – 0 to the New Zealand All Blacks.

The ABs were starting to dominate both in loose play and in the set pieces, particularly the scrums. However, the Argentine defence seemed impregnable and the Kiwis may even have been accused of trying too hard. Aaron Smith didn’t see a couple of opportunities to run with the ball and possibly score from five meters out and kept passing to heavily marked team members.

There were a few “pedantic” high tackle penalties awarded to the Pumas and some rough play from Argentina duly overlooked by the ref. A penalty advantage for the Blacks was also terminated rather quickly, again, but they kept their cool and refused to succumb to the mental games. There were a few uncharacteristic handling errors by the Pumas, possibly due to the high humidity levels and a greasy ball. In the 38th minute a penalty was awarded to the NZ team after many phases of dominating forward play. It was around 25 meters out and mid right, should have been an easy kick for Muanga but he struck the left upright and missed! So, the All Blacks went into half time with a 10 – 0 lead after having 76% of the possession and 77% of the territory! A tribute to the Argentinian defence. The All Blacks also missed two penalties, was this to prove costly?

The second half started with two All Blacks players crashing into each other when trying to collect the kick off from Argentina. Scott Barret and Caleb Clark both went for the ball and Clark came up with it, from what looked like a nasty clash. However, Scotty Barret sprang to his feet, but it left the spectators wondering what was going on. Akira Ioane who the referee had pinged a few times for largely imaginary offences, (one wonders if the officials earmark certain players who have reputations to watch closely during the game!) ripped the ball away for a turnover, from the Pumas during a possibly dangerous phase of loose play.

This was further emphasis of the dominance that the All Blacks had in loose play and one of the main reasons for their victory.

The Argentinian skipper was caught offside from kickable range, but the All Blacks chose to go for territory. The Argentinian defence was rock solid and it finally took a back peel from a line out, in the 52nd minute of the game, with Aardie Savea who stood at number two even though he was wearing the number eight jersey, charging through the defence to score mid left. Muanga managed the balance two points and 17 – 0 to the New Zealanders.

Sam Cane the skipper and hard-working wing forward of the All Blacks was impeccable in attack and defence. It was a treat to watch and a real lesson for an aspiring young player. He ensured the dominance in loose play and at the breakdown. From the 55th minute onwards both teams started resorting to their bench players. A couple of remarkable changes that made an impact on the score line was Sam Whitelock going off for Patrick Tuapoletu in the second row and Caleb Clark being replaced by Will Jordan in the wing.

In retrospect it was rather obvious that these players, particularly Jordan had been sent on to look for attacking opportunities as it was essential to win this game with a bonus point to have a better chance of securing the silverware at the end of the tournament.

Sure enough Will Jordan picked up a wild pass to nowhere by the Pumas, scythed his way through the defence and scored under the posts in the 68th minute, 24 – 0 to the All Blacks. This in the view of all New Zealanders was more like it.

In the 69th minute Jordan again intercepted an Argentine pass and ran around 35 meters to score far left. The replay showed Jordan out of position for defence as the Pumas were attacking, he was looking for the intercept! Muanga was back in kicking form and slotted it brilliantly, 31 – 0, bonus point under control and a fine clinical and professional performance from the New Zealanders.

In the 80th minute, after the hooter had gone, Ricco Ioane went over the line, but the try was disallowed as Lomax was pinged by the TV referee for a foul and yellow carded. I wonder when he will serve his time in the sin bin? As the rugby season is over. Maybe by eating his Christmas dinner 10 minutes late!!

The Pumas could have ended the match at this stage, but they chose to continue in a desperate attempt to cross their opponents line at least once. There was a penalty awarded when Sam Cane was cleaned out in what could even be deemed as a spear tackle. Cane got up bleeding from a gash on his right eye and this was too much for some of his team mates who went for the Argies. The penalty was promptly reversed in the mindless interpretation of the rules which has begun to characterise and degrade this game we love. However, the All Blacks were having none of this and found enough in the engine room to set replacement number four Patrick Tuapoletu off on a 20-meter run to score mid right. Insult to Injury for the Pumas with the final score 38 – 0 to the All Blacks.

All in all, a very ‘satisfying’ (in the words of Sam Cane) assertion of the quality of All Black rugby. Full kudos for sending Will Jordan on with the brief he had and the ability to ‘pick up the plums’ (in the words of the Coach). Respect your opponents by all means but beat them convincingly by playing professional rugby football. That is what this great game is all about.

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Enjoy James Anderson’s skills for one last time

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 Rex Clementine at Galle Fort

Spinners dominate in Asia and fast bowlers have their work cut out in unresponsive and flat pitches. There are those of course who are crafty enough to overcome challenges and do their best to the team. James Anderson is one such. He was nicely setting up Sri Lankan batsmen on the opening day of the second Test in Galle that got underway on Friday.

With the new ball, he reduced Sri Lanka to seven for two– accounting for Kusal Perera (6) and Oshada Fernando (0) early in the innings.

Lahiru Thirimanne and Angelo Mathews ensured that there was not a repeat of the first Test – a collapse. Thirimanne was beginning to breathe easy. He added 69 runs for the third wicket with Angelo Mathews and Sri Lanka were 76 for lunch. In the second ball after lunch, Anderson struck again. His line and length were impeccable.

It was hot and humid in Galle. Anderson barely sent down a loose ball. Of his 19 overs on day one, ten were maiden. Such efficiency in Asia is rarely seen by a seamer. The likes of Sir Richard Hadlee, Wasim Akram and Mitchell Starc had done it before. Anderson is doing the job for England and that’s one reason why they have not lost a series in Sri Lanka since 2007.

Fast bowlers last a maximum of a decade and half. Rarely do they go beyond 15 years. Anderson has defied those numbers. Super fit at the age of 38, the Lancastrian is on his 19th year of international cricket and he may stretch it to two decades.

This is Anderson’s fifth tour to Sri Lanka. It is unlikely that he will visit the island again. So we must enjoy his art for one last time. He gets wickets with the new ball with his impeccable line and length and once the ball gets softer, he is deadlier reverse swinging the ball expertly.

Anderson is the world’s fourth highest wicket taker. The top three wicket takers are spinners and he is the leading fast bowler with 606 wickets so far. He has featured in a ‘small number’ of 158 Test matches.  No fast bowler has featured in that many games.

When our fast bowlers are breaking down frequently barely lasting a full series, they have a lot to learn from Anderson who has gone onto achieve some remarkable feats.

Let’s enjoy Anderson’s skills for one last time.

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Majestic Mathews overcomes Anderson threat  

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Angelo Mathews scored an unbeaten hundred to help Sri Lanka consolidate in the second Test against England in Galle yesterday

Rex Clementine at Galle Fort

It was a superb day of Test match cricket in Galle yesterday as Sri Lanka were made to fight tooth and nail to seize the initiative and square the two match series against England. James Anderson, fresh after being rested for the opening Test, returned in place of Stuart Broad and he was on the money, rarely bowling a loose ball.

It was a battle between the two teams’ most experienced players – Anderson and Mathews. The 38-year-old Lancastrian set it up all dismissing Kusal Perera (6) and Oshada Fernando (0) in the space of five deliveries. KJP attempted a wild stroke without moving his feet and was snapped up by a leaping Joe Root at first slip. Oshada dragged one onto the stumps setting the stage for Mathews to walk in with the side in trouble at seven for two

Sri Lanka were under pressure having been shot out for 135 runs in the first Test and the batsmen needed to apply themselves to avoid a repeat. With Anderson his tail up, this was hard work.

Mathews first ensured that he saw off the new ball and then cashed in with spinners getting no assistance whatsoever. Partnerships were crucial for Sri Lanka. The third wicket stand between Mathews and Thirimanne was worth 69 runs.

Sri Lanka appeared to have recovered at lunch having reached 76 for two. But with Anderson you can not afford to relax. Thirimanne did and paid the price – caught behind for 43 in the second ball after lunch.

Mark Wood bowled a couple of lively spells, not seen here since Mitchell Starc ran through the batting in 2016. His hostile bowling saw Dinesh Chandimal being hit on the head and Mathews nearly gloving one but the ball landed where there was no fielder.

Mathews added 117 runs for the fourth wicket with Chandimal, who posted his 20th Test half-century. Wood had his man finally when he trapped Chandimal leg before wicket, a decision the batsman contested unsuccessfully.

Anderson barely bowled a bad ball with 10 of his 19 overs being maidens. He got the ball to reverse swing as well but Sri Lanka did well not to give away any more wickets to him.

England took the new ball immediately after it was available. But Mathews and Niroshan Dickwella added  36 runs for the fifth wicket to ensure Sri Lanka finished on 229 for four at stumps.

 

 

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NSSF provides electronic target facility to national shooters at a provisional range

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The electronic target facility has been setup at a provisional facility owned by the President of NSSF, Shirantha Peries near Kohuwala.

Asian Online Shooting Championship 2021

The National Shooting Sport Federation (NSSF) of Sri Lanka has made arrangements to introduce electronic target facilities to national shooters as it gears up to form a strong team for the upcoming inaugural Asian Online Shooting Championship 2021, which will be held on January 29 and 30.

The electronic target facility has been setup at a provisional facility owned by the President of NSSF, Shirantha Peries near Kohuwala.

“We have been craving for a permanent national shooting range since 2015, but so far nothing has materialised in favour of the sport. There were requests made to several Sports Ministers who were in and out of office during this period, but the NSSF had to finally make a crucial decision to setup this temporary shooting range in early 2019. Now the electronic targets are placed here for the use of national shooters,” Pradeep Edirisinghe, the General Secretary of NSSF said in a statement.

The introduction of electronic targets has several objectives. It will come handy to shooters of the national squad to train prior to any important international meet, which have been not held globally since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

More importantly, the introduction of electronic targets will facilitate the upcoming inaugural Asian Online Shooting Championship 2021, which will be held on January 29 and 30. Currently members of the national shooting squad are engaged in a qualifier trial meet in the 10m Air Rifle and 10m Air Pistol individual events for men and women.

“The trials are a good lead up to the NSSF as this is the first time Sri Lanka is taking part in an online Asian competition. Unlike at our local competitions where the whole process is done manually, the outcome at electronic targets happens in real time. We can fully rely on the accuracy of the process, as during the competitions the Asian Shooting Federation will monitor the whole course from Kuwait,” Edirisinghe explained.

According to the guidelines issued by the Kuwait Shooting Federation, the organisers of the competition, three participants each per discipline from each country, will be given the opportunity to compete. In Air Rifle and Air Pistol for both Men and Women, three shooters each must qualify based on the minimum qualifying standards set by the organisers.

“In addition skeet and trap events will take place during the same period, but Sri Lanka will be able to take part only in the skeet because we are having the NSSF Skeet Open this weekend and the top three shooters will automatically qualify for that. Air Rifle and Air Pistol shooters from all countries must qualify,” said Edirisinghe.

The Asian Online competition will start at 10.00am local time in each country at their respective shooting ranges and updates will be monitored in real time by the organisers based in Kuwait. The respective countries taking part must provide facilities to shooters under strict health guidelines, and ISSF qualified independent judges in each country will officiate the matches, before submitting the approved report with results to Kuwait.

“We will begin shooting at these competitions starting from 10.00am as instructed at this temporary facility in Kohuwala and at the Clay Target Shooting Club of Colombo’s shotgun range facility in Payagala. We, as the NSSF must take the responsibility for an honest report and these results are totally based on mutual understanding,” he further explained.

The NSSF intends to continue this exercise during the coming months as international meets are yet to resume since early 2020, due to the pandemic and global travel restrictions. However the introduction of electronic targets to Sri Lanka is a welcome sign for NSSF, as it will have the ability to provide its shooters a facility they could only experience overseas.

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