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Asalanka: Excellent find moving forward

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Charith Asalanka was Sri Lanka’s hero in their win over Bangladesh in Sharjah.

Rex Clementine in Dubai

Although results have not gone in Sri Lanka’s favour, several young players have stamped their authority in international cricket this year. First, there was Pathum Nissanka, hundred on debut in the Caribbean. Then there was Praveen Jayawickrama, a rich haul of wickets on debut against Bangladesh. In September, Maheesh Theekshana announced his arrival at the big stage with his mystery spin. In the T-20 World Cup, following Sri Lanka’s stunning run chase against Bangladesh in Sharjah, the cricketing fraternity is speaking of Charith Asalanka.

Not many know about Asalanka’s past; an impressive one. Here’s a bit that would interest our readers.

Charith Asalanka is a bright student. His schooling was at Ananda Vidyalaya, Elpitiya. He passed the Grade Five scholarship with flying colours and chose to shift to Richmond College, Galle, a cricketing powerhouse.

An opening batsman in his school days, Asalanka first represented Richmond ‘B’ team and the coaching staff was impressed with what he had to offer and fast-tracked him to the First XI team. Apart from being a prolific run-scorer, Asalanka has a good head above his shoulders and became the obvious choice for captain.

Richmond under him were stunning, picking up all awards in school cricket while the captain was setting the benchmark as the team’s leading scorer. In Richmond, scoring 1000 runs in the season or taking 100 wickets is not paramount. What is important is winning matches and titles. That mentality Richmondites like Asalanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, and Dhananjaya de Silva have taken onto the Sri Lankan dressing room as well. That’s a good sign.

Asalanka once scored a double hundred in a one-dayer in school cricket. By 16 he was playing First-Class cricket representing Galle CC and had his maiden first-class hundred the same year. He won the schoolboy cricketer of the year award twice.

The manner in which Asalanka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa completed the run chasse was impressive. A good back foot player who seems comfortable playing fast bowling, he had too much on his plate when Kusal Perera and Avishka Fernando departed for one and without scoring.

First, he shared a 69 run stand for the second wicket with Pathum Nissanka to steady the ship and then followed the fireworks with Bhanuka Rajapaksa in a record stand of 86 runs.

Asalanka finished unbeaten on 80 while Bhankua was dismissed for 53 but by that time the job had been done and Sri Lanka had cut Bangladesh to size.

There were some elegant strokes during the partnership and calculated risks taken by both batters. Fortune favoured the brave. Very cleverly the duo refrained from taking undue risks when Mustafizur Rahman, Bangladesh’s premier bowler was operating.

Sri Lanka are overjoyed that both Bhanuka and Asalanka are firing. Their pace looks awesome and spinners will have a field day when there is some assistance on the track. KJP and Avishka will come good at any time and they are looking formidable especially with number three and five firing on all cylinders.

At the post match media briefing, Bhanuka was generous with his praise of Asalanka. “The result is phenomenal because the way Charith handled the situation and how he kept the tempo of the game is unbelievable. It’s not easy playing at number three at a time we were struggling to find a proper number three batsman,” explained Bhanuka.

“I’ve batted number three and it’s not an easy position because you need to play with the scoreboard pressure mostly. Chasing 172 runs when we lost KJP early it was a massive blow. Charith has a bright future and I wish him all the best and I hope he will be performing like this throughout the tournament.”



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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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