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Athapaththu’s 48-ball 80* gives Sri Lanka consolation win

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Chamari Athapaththu and Nilakshi de Silva put on 77 for the third wicket

Sri Lanka had lost their last 12 T20Is against India, and had never beaten them in a home game. But all that was put to rest as their captain Chamari Athapaththu led them to a seven-wicket win in the final match of the three-match T20I series in Dambulla. The hosts managed to salvage pride after conceding the series with back-to-back defeats.

Athapaththu averages 22.57 in T20Is, but when she’s captained Sri Lanka to victory, she averages 42.61 and strikes at 142.41. Her best version was on show on Monday.

The Athapaththu show, the beginning

Sri Lanka’s pursuit of 139 began in an attacking fashion with young Vishmi Gunaratne whipping Renuka Singh for a four over midwicket in the first over. However, she fell two balls later, and Athapaththu took over. Her first boundary was a streaky slice in the fourth over, but she was more authoritative next ball when she danced down and smote the offspinner down the ground. The assault continued when she welcomed Radha Yadav with a fiercely cut four and followed it with a sweep through backward square leg.

The marauding left-hander then hit the only six of the chase when she slinked down the track to smash Deepti over long-off in the final over of the powerplay. Just like that, she had 28 off 15 as Sri Lanka ended that phase at 47 for 2.

The deciding alliance

In the experienced Nilakshi de Silva, Athapaththu found a reliable partner and the pair killed the chase, mixing caution with aggression. De Silva was happy to play her strokes as well, hitting Pooja Vastrakar down the ground before swiping Simran Dil Bahadur over the on side.

India’s shoddy fielding also contributed to Sri Lanka’s cause. Athapaththu’s mistimed slog to deep midwicket off Bahadur was spilled by Jemimah Rodrigues running to her right, and off the very next ball she found the gap between backward point and short third man to bring up her fifth half-century.

Athapaththu and de Silva added 77 in just 57 balls – the highest third-wicket stand for Sri Lanka in the format – before de Silva was run out. Athapaththu remained in the middle to ensure Sri Lanka ended their run of losses against India. She was aided by more fielding mishaps towards the close and finished unbeaten on 80 off just 48 balls.

India’s batting misfires

On a surface that seemed good to bat on, India’s batters failed to find their footing and were restricted to 138, which eventually was not enough. Smriti Mandhana found the going tough in scoring 22 off 21, and fell to Oshadi Ranasinghe for the second time in three games.

Sabbhineni Meghana hit three crisp fours but couldn’t rotate the strike constantly against Sri Lanka’s slow bowlers. It was once again down to Harmanpreet Kaur and Rodrigues to keep India on course. The pair added 64 for the fourth wicket but consumed 56 balls, leaving India devoid of momentum heading into the death overs.

Rodrigues fell for 30 while trying to scoop Ama Kanchana over short fine leg in the 19th over. Vastrakar’s 13 off six balls helped India get closer to the 140 mark – which had proved enough in the first T20I – while Harmanpreet stayed unbeaten on 39 off 33 balls at the other end. (cricinfo)

Scores:

 India 138 for 5 (Harmanpreet Kaur 39 n.o., Jemimah Rodrigues  33; Oshadi Ranasinghe 1-13)

Sri Lanka 141

for 3 (Chamari Athapaththu 80n.o., Nilakshi de Silva  30)



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All Seeded players through to semis

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P & S Sri Lanka Junior Open Golf Championship

The P&S Sri Lanka Junior Golf Match-play championship, sponsored by P&S Bakers group, entered the knock-out stage, with the quarter-final matches worked off with the seeded players moving through comfortably bar the thrilling cliff-hanger match between Jacob Norton Seeded 3 in the Silver Division and Varun Fernando (6th Seed) who fought all the way to take the match to the 20th hole, where Jacob prevailed.

Jacob Norton will meet second-seeded H.D. Adithya Weerasinghe (A’pura) who beat T. Deshan 6 & 4 comfortably. The top-seeded Reshan Algama beat Kaiyan Johnpillai convincingly 7 & 6, and will face fifth-seeded Jevahn Sathasivam who defeated fourth Seeded Keshav Algama with an easy 7 & 6 victory.

In the Gold Division, second-seeded Yannik Kumara withdrew after the qualifying round as he was scheduled to play in a tournament overseas and was not included in the match-play draw.

The top seed Haroon Aslam breezed through to the semi-final pulverizing W.G. Isurur  Shimal 9 & 7 and will meet Pranav Muralidharan the fourth seed who handsomely beat an experienced T. Vikash 7 & 6. In the bottom half of the Junior  Championship  Draw, second-seeded K. Danushan smashed Thenuk Sathnidu 8 & 7. He will play third seed Vinuka Weerasinghe who beat Yehan Kenthula 6 & 4.

In the Girls Gold Division number one seed Kaya Daluwatte will meet Yehani Perera who received a walk-over from Dhanushi Wanasinghe. Third seed Dhavinka Kanag-Isvaran beat R.M. Dinumi Sanjana 7 & 6 to set-up the second semi-final against second seed Sherin Balasuriya who also received a walk over from Sanduni Wanasinghe.

The Bronze Division Semi-Final clash between top seed Thejas Rathis Kanth and Keya Abhayarathne will be the feature battle. Keya Abhayarathne defeated Kaitlyn Norton 6 & 5 to set-up the semi-final match versus the top seed Thejas. In the bottom half of the draw second-seed Mohamed Saqeer Zuhar  will meet third-seeded Yehansa Senananayake.

In the Copper Division played over nine holes, Yuvan Rathis Kanth beat L.G. Anuja Methsara 6 & 4 to meet the second seed Jaeden Sathasivam whilst in the top half of the draw top seed Danik Daluwatte faces Taalia Silva.

The five semi-final matches scheduled for Thursday promise to be thrillers with the youngsters soaking in the pressure and performing well, adapting to the exciting Match-play format, that moulds the character of young golfers.

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Arjuna heads new Sports Council  

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Members of the newly appointed Sports Council pose with the Sports Minister

A new Sports Council was appointed by Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe yesterday with World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga taking the reign as the head of the apex body.

The other members of the Sports Council are: Lieutenant General H.L.V.M. Liyanage, Air Marshal S.K. Pathirana, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, Amal Edirisooriya, Maj. Gen. Rajitha Ampemohotti, Dr. Maiya Gunasekara, Shriyani Kulawansa, Ajith Pathirana, Sunil Jayaweera, Chrishantha Mendis, Lasitha Gunaratne, Nalinda Illangakoon, Sudath Chandrasekara, Sujani Bogollagama.

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NH bids adieu to Ladies’ College after 50-year stint as TT coach

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N.H Perera pictured with the Ladies’ College table tennis team players

By a Special Sports Correspondent

Former table tennis National Champion, National Coach and sporting legend N.H Perera probably set a record in the Sri Lankan school sporting arena when he retired from coaching Ladies’ College Colombo in the ping pong ball and racket game after serving this academic institute for 50 years.

NH, as he is fondly known in the table tennis circles, started coaching Ladies College back in 1972 following an invitation made to him by the teacher in charge of sports back then Delita Fernando. When he turns the pages of time the only reason that came to his mind to say yes to this coaching assignment was that he wanted to give something back to the sport. He was quite young then (21 to be exact) and had won the table tennis national singles crown twice (1968/70) by then. He recalled with fondness how the lasses from this school won the National School Games title in 2019.

He produced many outstanding female players from this school and the secret behind his success was him being a strict disciplinarian. At the time he said yes to coaching at Ladies’ College he had laid down a condition for the authorities of the school. That was to arrange practices in the morning. This was because he was gainfully employed in work done outside table tennis. This goes on to show the caliber of players in the golden years of the sport. A good many of them had the capacity to contribute to society using their brains and education unlike today where the players are forced to supplement their income through table tennis coaching. For the record, NH served several companies and institutes in many capacities; proving that engaging in competitive sport and showing commitment to employment are a possibility when the individual has the capacity to manage both. When he finally retired from work he held the post of Marketing Manager at United Arab Shipping Lines.

He had his education at Nalanda College and had the honour of being the first table tennis national captain to be produced by this academic institute.

He rates the 1970s as the golden era of the sport. “I say this because we were invited by the ITTF to contest the Afro Asian Latin American Table Tennis Championship in Peking, China. During his playing days, NH had beaten top players from Russia, China, and also Europe. The picture he sees now in Sri Lankan table tennis is not so rosy. “We even lost to Nepal at the last SA Games. I believe the TTASL must be dissolved and a Board of Control for Table Tennis must be formed instead. Today we see many coaches out there who cannot put the ball over the net,” said Perera.

NH sees more potential in the Sri Lanka female players. According to him, the women’s players from Sri Lanka had finished sixth at the previous Commonwealth Games. “I trust that the way forward would be to bring down a female table tennis coach and male trainer; both from China. This would raise the standard of our playing,” said Perera who many years ago qualified as a coach from the Peking University of China.

He also spoke about the psychological aspects to training players. NH underscored the importance of bringing in psychology to training to help players handle unexpected challenges in the game. “You have to do sessions to develop the minds of the players,” said Perera.

He is at present engaged in coaching the students at S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia. The school by the sea won the All Island Table Tennis Championships in 2019 under his guidance.

NH maintains high standards for his players and himself. He recalls an incident in the past; which occurred during the time he was young and already the national champion. “I was coming out of the YMCA training hall after training and a photographer asked me to pose for a picture. I was in slacks and this picture appeared in the newspaper. I was summoned to the TTASL and a top official asked me why I had disgraced the sport by not being properly attired for a photograph that appeared in a national newspaper. I learned a valuable lesson in life,” concluded Perera.

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