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Army making huge contributions for Sri Lankan cricket

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Rex Clementine in Abu Dhabi

Sri Lanka Army’s ambitious plans to become a force in Sri Lankan cricket have already yielded results and on the other hand, it has benefited Sri Lankan cricket immensely too. Possessing one of the best cricket infrastructures in the country, Army recruited two former Sri Lankan cricket captains Thisara Perera and Dinesh Chandimal offering them officer ranks and hiring many other fringe players as other rankers.

Mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana is a product of the Army and during the qualifying round of the ICC T-20 World Cup, he has been quite a handful having already picked up six wickets so far, joint highest in the competition along with Bangladesh’s Mustafizur Rahman.

“There are about 150 cricketers in the army. So the competition level is very high. We have our own T20 League and that helped me find a place in the LPL. There’s huge support for cricket. We can train at any time as the facilities are readily available. In the domestic competition, we were in the T-20 finals and reached the semis in the one-day tournament. Army has given tremendous support to uplift the game of cricket,” Theekshana told journalists after his match-winning performance against Ireland on Wednesday.

With Sri Lanka qualified for the World Cup in style, with a game to spare having topped the group, Theekshana said the pressure is now off the team.

“We were under lots of pressure coming into the tournament since we had to play the qualifiers. We were three wickets down with just eight runs on the board and we fought back with Wanindu counterattacking to change the complexion of the game.”

The presence of former captain Mahela Jayawardene as a mentor during the qualifying round of the competition has helped the team lift our morale. What has MJ brought into the side? “There’s a huge difference since he came in. There’s a lot of positive energy within the group. The way he speaks gives a lot of confidence to the players. He doesn’t talk much about the technical things but more about how you should handle situations. He gives clear plans. Even for Pathum Nissanka to score those runs he had to get his mindset right and Mahela’s input has been superb.”

Sri Lanka will play their final qualifying round today in Sharjah. The former champions could try out a different combination with qualifying already done and dusted. Their opponents, the Netherlands, are out of the competition having lost both their encounters.



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Thehan clinches men’s singles tennis title  

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Thehan Wijemanne won his first Colombo Championships open singles title on Wednesday. (Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

106th Colombo Championships

Royal College player Thehan Wijemanne clinched the men’s open singles title of the 106th Colombo Championships as he beat Chathurya Nilaweera in the final played at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Wednesday.

Wijemanne who partners Nilaweera in the men’s open doubles was tied 1-1 in the singles final before pulling off a 10-7 win to seal his victory. The final scores read 6-4, 4-6, 10-7.

The Royalist beat Kiran Vairavanathan and Archana Lokuge in a row to book his final place to meet the champion of the Under 18 age category.

Wijemanne registered a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Lokuge in the semis after beating Vairavanathan 4-2, 3-5, 11-9 in the quarter-final.

It is the first Colombo Championships singles title for Wijemanne who will celebrate his 18th birthday later this month. He is also the reigning Clay Courts Singles champion after winning the March final against Luca Knese.

Meanwhile, Gehansa Methnadi of Musaeus College reached the Under 12 girls’ singles final after recording a convincing straight sets win in the semi-final played on Wednesday. She beat Movindi Fernando 4-1, 4-1 in the afternoon.

In an Under 12 girls’ singles quarter-final Akeesha Silva beat Venuli Jayasinghe 4-1, 4-0 to reach the semi-final.

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Karunaratne climbs up in Test Player Rankings 

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Sri Lanka’s win in the first match of the ICC Men’s Test Championship has put the team on top of the table powered by MRF (on percentage points), and several players including skipper Dimuth Karunaratne have improved their rankings after the first Test in Galle.

Captain Karunaratne’s Player of the Match effort of 147 and 83 has lifted him four places to seventh, just one below his career-best sixth position attained in August 2019. Former captains Angelo Mathews (up two places to 23rd) and Dinesh Chandimal (up four places to 46th) have also advanced.

Left-arm spinners Lasith Embuldeniya (up four places to 37th) and Praveen Jayawickrama (up six places to 44th) and off-spinner Ramesh Mendis (up 28 places to 57th) have improved in the rankings for bowlers.

Fast bowler Shaheen Afridi has made it to the top five of the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s Test Player Rankings for the first time in his career after a fine show in the first Test against Bangladesh which Pakistan won by eight wickets.

The 21-year-old left-arm bowler, who grabbed seven wickets including a haul of five for 32 in the second innings of the Chittagong Test, has moved up three places to fifth position after overtaking James Anderson, Kagiso Rabada and Neil Wagner.

Shaheen’s new-ball partner Hasan Ali too is at a career-best position after finishing with a similar seven-wicket match haul that included a five-for in the first innings. Hasan has advanced five places to 11th place. His previous best in Tests was 14th, reached in May this year.

Pakistan’s opening batters were not the ones to be left behind. Abid Ali may have missed out on a century in each innings but his scores of 133 and 91 helped him shoot up 27 slots to a career-best 20th position while Abdullah Shafique enters the rankings at 83rd with scores of 52 and 73.

For Bangladesh, Mushfiqur Rahim is up four places to 19th with scores of 91 and 16 while Liton Das has moved up 26 places to a career-best 31st position after accruing 114 and 59. Left-arm spinner Taijul Islam has progressed two places to 23rd after an eight-wicket match haul that included seven scalps in the first innings.

The thrilling draw in Kanpur between India and New Zealand had quite a few performances from either side that reflect in the latest weekly update that also includes the first Test between Sri Lanka and the West Indies at Galle, which the host side won by 187 runs.

Debutant Shreyas Iyer’s Player of the Match effort of 105 and 65 helped him enter the rankings in 74th position while opener Shubman Gill (up six places to 66th) and Wriddhiman Saha (up nine places to 99th) also made notable progress after notching half-centuries.

Ravindra Jadeja is up two places to 19th among bowlers with five wickets in the match and is also up one place to second among all-rounders. Ravichandran Ashwin is the third-ranked all-rounder and 79th among batters.

For New Zealand, Tom Latham’s knocks of 95 and 52 place him back in the top 10 as he goes up from 14th to ninth. Fast bowler Kyle Jamieson is ninth among bowlers, his three wickets in each innings resulting in a gain of six places. Tim Southee has gained 15 rating points to reach within one point of second-placed Ashwin (840) after his eight-wicket match haul.

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Mickey’s ‘sloppy cricketers’ hand Windies the edge

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This could be the series defining moment as Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne is run out by a direct hit during Sri Lanka’s second innings of the second Test in Galle yesterday. West Indies have never won a Test match in Sri Lanka. 

Rex Clementine in Galle

Sri Lanka Head Coach Mickey Arthur once told The Island that he hates ‘sloppy cricketers’. Given how Sri Lanka approached batting in their second innings here in Galle yesterday, the 53-year-old would have given them a firm dressing-down. Having conceded a first innings lead of 49 in the second Test, Sri Lanka had to bat well to set West Indies a decent target. With the wicket turning square, the batsmen already had their work cut down and to gift West Indies two wickets through run outs was not ‘sloppy cricket’ but committing hara-kiri.

There’s a lot at stake here. Sri Lanka have never lost a Test match at home to the Windies and everyone is looking forward to give Arthur a grand send off. To make things worse, Angelo Mathews is down with a hamstring injury and that leaves a huge hole in the batting line-up. Sri Lanka’s batsmen barring Dimuth Karunaratne have been susceptible against spin and unless they bat out at least two full sessions on day four, history could be in the making for West Indies.

Dimuth was the first to be dismissed. Having pushed one to backward of point, he attempted a risky single, but instead of rushing he was watching the fielder. Kyle Mayers picked up the ball one-handed and threw down the stumps with a  direct hit to find the batsman well short.

The comedy of errors continued when Oshada Fernando was run out with the total on 39. Having pushed one to point, Oshada was walking down the track, half-hearted not knowing whether a run was on. There was none there and by the time he was sent back by the non-striker it was all too late and not even a dive could save him.

Sri Lanka’s batsmen spoiled the brilliant efforts of their spinners who did well to bowl out West Indies for 253. The tourists were well placed at one stage at 166 for two but then Ramesh Mendis’ career best figures of six for 70 saw Sri Lanka bounce back. West Indies at one stage slumped to 208 for eight, losing six wickets for 42 runs. But a ninth wicket stand of 38 runs between Mayers and Veerasammy Permaul ensured they ended up with a decent lead.

Kraigg Brathwaite was brilliant as he top scored with 72 runs that came off 185 deliveries with nine fours. A peach of a delivery from Lasith Embuldeniya accounted for the captain. The ball pitched outside of the leg-stump, spun viciously past the right-hander and clipped the top of off-stump.

Spinners accounted for all ten wickets to fall with Embuldeniya and Praveen Jayawickrama sharing four wickets between them well supporting Mendis.

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