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Arthur lauds Dhananjaya and ‘Brian Lara’ Embuldeniya



Mickey Arthur was quite emotional after his final game as Head Coach of Sri Lanka on Friday in Galle.

His was the type of happy farewell that few Sri Lanka coaches get. The team won the match by 164 runs, and the series 2-0. In the first innings, West Indies had been 24 runs behind Sri Lanka’s total with only three wickets down, when Ramesh Mendis imposed himself on the game, and sparked a collapse.

“The game did see-saw. After day one I thought we were in prime position (Sri Lanka had been 113 for 1),” Arthur said. “And then they knocked us over the next day. And then, they themselves had a good partnership. We did know that wickets fall in clumps here. It was tough to start. Once you got in, it became a lot easier to bat. Ramesh Mendis’ spell in the first innings brought us back into the game. A lead of 49 was not insurmountable.”

Sri Lanka also began their second innings with the bat poorly, however, and had been three down with a lead of only 24 when de Silva came to the crease. He helped Sri Lanka recover with a 78-run partnership with Pathum Nissanka, put on 51 runs alongside Mendis, and then really changed the game with the 124-run tenth wicket stand he managed with Lasith Embuldeniya, who hit 39.

“Dhananjaya de Silva’s innings was simply outstanding,” Arthur said. “On a pitch like this, the ease with which he played was incredible. It just shows how talented he is. That, for me, was the defining moment. I knew that once we got a lead of 250, our spinners would do the job for us. So that innings of Dhananjaya de Silva’s was paramount. He couldn’t have played it without Lasith ‘Brian Lara’ Embuldeniya at the other end.

“In terms of pressure of match situation, and in terms of pitch condition, the innings Dhananjaya played here, it was one of the better innings I’ve seen. It was remarkable. That’s testimony to the amount of work he’s put in. And it’s testimony to his talent and what a wonderful player he is.”

Mendis was the Player of the Series in the first full series he has played for the Test side, taking 17 wickets across the two matches, in addition to his contributions with the bat. Although at the lower levels, Mendis has been thought of as a batting allrounder, it is with the ball that he has announced himself at the top level. He has 26 wickets now at an average of 21.53, after eight bowling innings.

“One thing Mendis does do is he spins the ball really big,” Arhtur said. “We’ve just had to work on him being really consistent with his lines and with his lengths – the attacking lines that he’s worked on. I was just sitting next to [batting coach] Grant Flower out there and we were watching the guys out in the field. And I was saying, which guys have really made an impression on you? For both of us it was Ramesh Mendis.

“He’s toured with us almost since when I started two years ago. He didn’t play many games at the start, but every tour, he’s the guy that’s training the hardest. He wanted more and more throw-downs. He always wanted to bowl. He’s worked hard at his fielding. And I just think he’s getting his just rewards now. I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s an attacking cricketer, and he’s going to be an asset for Sri Lanka.”

Arthur has been with the Sri Lanka team for two years now, and given the travel restrictions to Australia, has spent almost that entire time either in Sri Lanka, or with the team as they traveled. With many players going straight into a Lanka Premier League bio-bubble on Saturday, the series-winning celebration on Friday night is Arthur’s last opportunity to spend time with many of the players he has coached in that time.

“I’m going to get really emotional tonight, when we eventually say farewell, because the characters who are in that dressing room are remarkable. They’re really a wonderful bunch of players and bunch of people.”

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Nine year old Mazel Alegado has Olympic dream in sight




Mazel Alegado, aged nine, qualified for the women's park final at the 2023 Asian Games (pic BBC)

At nine years old, skateboarder Mazel Alegado has the world at her feet.

The youngest member of the Philippines team at the Asian Games – and thought to be the youngest competitor at the entire event – finished seventh in the women’s park final in Hangzhou, China.

Now the United States resident has her eyes set on reaching the Olympic Games. 

“I’m really proud that I got here. My dream is to be a pro skater. I would love to go to the Olympics,” she told Japan Today. “I was so excited you know, because I was able to skate Asian Games. It was so fun,” she added.

She was inspired to take up the sport after watching her brother. “We were at my cousin’s house and I saw my brother skateboarding and I was like, ‘Can I try? Can I try?’ I got on the board and just loved it,” she said.

Alegado’s best score in the final came in her first run, when she posted 52.85.

Japanese skateboarder Hinano Kusaki, 15, claimed gold while China bagged silver and bronze with, respectively, 20-year-old Li Yujuan and Mao Jiasi, 15, finishing on the podium.

Skateboarding has attracted some of sport’s youngest athletes. Britain’s Sky Brown turned 13 shortly before claiming bronze at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics while silver medallist Kokona Hiraki was 12.


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Gymnastics Ireland ‘deeply sorry’ to Black girl ignored at medal ceremony




US seven-time Olympic medallist Simone Biles said the video 'broke my heart' (pic Aljazeera)

Ireland’s gymnastics federation has apologised for the allegedly racist treatment of a young Black gymnast who was skipped by an official handing out medals to a row of girls last year.

Footage posted on social media last week of an event in Dublin in 2022 showed the official appearing to snub the girl, the only Black gymnast in the lineup, who looked bewildered.

“We would like to unreservedly apologise to the gymnast and her family for the upset that has been caused by the incident,”  Gymnastics Ireland (GI) said in a statement posted on its website on Monday.

“What happened on the day should not have happened and for that we are deeply sorry,” said the statement.  “We would like to make it absolutely clear that [GI] condemns any form of racism whatsoever,” it added.

The video posted on Friday soon went viral and drew widespread condemnation of the girl’s treatment, including from star United States gymnast Simone Biles, who said she sent the girl a private video message of support.

“It broke my heart to see the video. There is no room for racism in any sport or at all,” Biles, a seven-time Olympic medalist, said Saturday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Biles’s US teammate Jordan Chiles described the incident as “beyond hurtful on so many levels”.

In an earlier statement, GI defended the official who it said had made an “honest error” but acknowledged it received a complaint from the parents of the girl alleging racist behaviour in March 2022.

GI said an independent mediation had led to a “resolution agreed by both parties in August 2023”, that the official had written an apology and that the girl had received her medal after the ceremony.

However, the Irish Independent on Sunday anonymously quoted the girl’s mother as saying GI had failed to publicly apologise and that she would take the issue to the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation in Switzerland.


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How home teams are thriving in ICC Men’s Cricket World Cups



MS Dhoni hit the winning six in the final against Sri Lanka.

Pressure or advantage? The conundrum that faces the hosts of each ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup.

If the last three editions are anything to go by, it is an advantage to be playing at home.

But, up until the 2011 edition, only one team had ever won as hosts, and that was Sri Lanka in 1996 when they co-hosted with India and Pakistan.

Even then, they only played two games at home, winning the final in Lahore.

Since 2011, a home team has triumphed every time with India setting the trend which Australia and, most recently, England followed.

Each team had unique challenges to face en route to the trophy, but what worked for the home teams?


India’s legends lead them home

Legends were made, celebrated, and inspired at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2011.

The final on 2 April was the most memorable day for the great Sachin Tendulkar as he was finally part of a World Cup-winning squad.

He made only 18 runs in the showpiece, but he had stewarded India there with a Player-of-the-Match- performance in the semi-final against Pakistan.

Yuvraj Singh had also done his job, winning Player of the Tournament after piling up 362 runs and 15 wickets, doing so without knowing he was suffering from cancer.

Each player was facing a personal Everest as well as the collective one of attempting to win a World Cup under what felt like insurmountable pressure.

To prepare, they spoke with Mike Horn, an adventurer who became the first person to solo circumnavigate the Equator, who put into perspective the challenge ahead of them.

The first challenge they faced was opening the tournament against Bangladesh, Virender Sehwag began with a boundary and that is how the tournament ended – MS Dhoni hit the winning six in the final against Sri Lanka.

The captain had moved himself above usual No.5 Singh, the change paying off as he then compiled 91 runs from 79 balls to see India to a second title and send the nation into ecstasy.

Doing so, the pressure was released and the curse of the hosts winning on home soil was broken.


Australia surge to fifth trophy

The most successful team in the competition’s history, Australia were never going to be able to fly under the radar, and their performances in 2015 certainly caught the eye.

The World Cup started on a positive note when they beat their old rivals England by 111 runs at the MCG.

But spirits were dampened by a washout against Bangladesh before New Zealand took a low-scoring thriller at Eden Park, winning by just one wicket.

And hell hath no fury like an Aussie team beaten.

Michael Clarke’s men responded by putting on the highest score at a World Cup, crashing 417 against Afghanistan in a 275-run win.

Comfortable defeats of Sri Lanka and Scotland followed before Australia brushed aside Pakistan and India in the knockouts.

The latter became the sixth team to be bowled out by Australia in the tournament as they were reduced to 233 runs, 96 short of their target.

The same fate befell New Zealand in the final in Melbourne as they were all out for 183 which Australia chased down with 101 balls to spare.

The experience of previous wins outweighed the pressure of home expectations, not something England could say four years later.


Four years in the making

England had never won the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup before and had been burned by a disastrous campaign in 2015.

But from the ashes grew new life, as captain Eoin Morgan led a rebuild with one aim, to win the World Cup on home soil.

There was time for beauty amid the ruthlessness, Ben Stokes’ stunning catch in the opener against South Africa firing up the tournament.

Morgan broke records as he blasted the most sixes in an innings against Afghanistan before Australia were blown away in the semi-finals.

The final at Lord’s was not about beauty or ruthlessness but as England attempted to do what had previously been impossible for them, they simply just needed to be in the contest.

The game ebbed and flowed as any good one-day match should before reaching a crescendo with a Super Over.

It almost had to be like this, the team who had set out to revolutionize the game, winning the World Cup in a way it had never been won before.

Now the tournament returns to the place where the trend started, and with India acting as solo hosts for the first time, all eyes will truly be on them.

But as 2011 showed, that is how they like it.

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