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Australia prevail in low-scoring game to reach eighth World Cup final

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Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc embrace after the win Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc embrace after the win (pic Cricinfo)

Australia made it to their eighth World Cup final with a hard-earned three-wicket win over South Africa in tricky conditions at the Eden Gardens. Pat Cummins’ side will now take on hosts India in the title clash in Ahmedabad on Sunday. For Temba Bavuma and Co. though, it was again a case of being so near yet so far in a semi-final, the fifth in five attempts that South Africa failed to get past.

David Miller’s sixth ODI hundred took Temba Bavuma’s side to 212 after opting to bat, but defending a below-par total was always going to be a challenge. Australia’s blazing start saw them gnaw away 60 runs out of the target in the first six overs, and it meant that the slowdown and collapse against spin in the middle overs counted for little. The mature hands of captain Cummins and Mitchell Starc then nudged and nurdled 22 quiet runs towards the end to get Australia over the line.

Perhaps the difference between the sides was in how they batted in the first PowerPlay. While South Africa took 53 balls to hit their first boundary, Australia took only two balls to hit their first boundary. And it came off the bat of Travis Head, the Player of the Match, who finished with 62 off 48, an innings that arguably closed the chase long before it was done. That from Head after he picked the crucial wickets of Heinrich Klaasen and Marco Jansen in the space of two balls.

The only time South Africa looked in the game was when their spinners were bowling. Aiden Markram struck with the first ball of spin that Temba Bavuma turned to, knocking over David Warner with a hint of spin. Keshav Maharaj, who was held back until the 15th over and was the last bowler into the attack, also struck with his first delivery which saw the back of hard-hitting Head.

The quiet overs that Tabraiz Shamsi and Maharaj stitched together after Head’s dismissal ultimately led to the wicket of Marnus Labuschagne, who missed an ill-advised reverse-sweep against the legspinner and was hit in front. Shamsi then went on to add the wicket of Glenn Maxwell, leaving Australia at 137/5.

It was always about bowling out Australia but the half-chances didn’t stick for South Africa. Quinton de Kock failed to hold onto a couple of tough ones behind the stumps but the dropped catch of Head by Reeza Henrdicks on 40 is what South Africa will look back on and rue. Gerald Coetzee, the bowler on that occasion, would come back and pick Steve Smith and Josh Inglis but having modest runs on the board hampered South Africa all along. But that they had as many as they did, especially from 24 for 4 was down to Miller’s extraordinary innings.

Batting under overcast skies was something even Pat Cummins admitted wanting to do, but it took only a few overs from Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood to hammer home the point that batting wasn’t going to be easy against the new ball. Bavuma lasted all of five deliveries at the crease, edging behind a delivery from Starc on nought but it was Hazlewood at the other end who proved to be more of a menace.

Hazlewood’s first spell read 6-1-12-2, the two wickets being that of de Kock (caught at mid-on after a string of dot balls) and Rassie van der Dussen (edged to second slip). Starc wasn’t too far behind at the other end, bowling seven overs on the trot and picking 2 for 18 in his first spell. Markram was the other batter Starc accounted for with an edge to backward point.

So tight were the lines and lengths from the new-ball bowlers, and so good Australia’s ground fielding, that South Africa huffed and puffed to 18/2 at the end of 10 overs. In comparison, Australia were racing at 74/2 at a similar point in time in their chase.

The 95-run association between Miller and Heinrich Klaasen helped, both of whom laying into inconsistent lengths from Adam Zampa on the other side of a 45-minute rain break. Six of the eight sixes hit in the innings were off Zampa’s bowling, with both the batters hitting two each.

Just when SA looked a bit steady after having added 44 runs between overs 21 and 30, Travis Head struck gold in his first over and returned two wickets off two balls. Bowling slow and accurate, Head beat Klaasen for length and bowled him by skidding one past his outside edge. Next ball, Marco Jansen was pinned in front by one that spun in from a long way outside off. That’s how difficult and fickle the conditions were in Kolkata.

There was another 53-run rearguard between Miller and Gerald Coetzee for the seventh wicket, with Miller doing most of the scoring in that partnership. It could have gone on for longer had Coetzee reviewed the decision for caught-behind; the short ball wasn’t top-edged as the on-field umpire thought but deflected off his arm behind to the keeper.

Miller got to his hundred off 115 balls, hitting 8 fours and 5 sixes en route to a memorable innings in a World Cup knockout but he would rue not batting until the end of 50 overs. Two balls after reaching the milestone, Miller fell while trying to pull one of the many short balls that Pat Cummins bowled from round the wicket.

Brief Scores:
South Africa
213 in 49.4 overs (Miller 101; Starc 3-34, Cummins 3-51, Halewood 2-12) lost to Australia 215/7 in 47.2 overs (Head 62; Shamsi 2-42) by 3 wickets



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Agriculture and tourism key sectors for the nation’s swift recovery- President

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Addressing the 37th session of the Asia and Pacific Regional Conference (APRC) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Colombo today (20), President Ranil Wickremesinghe affirmed the government’s dedication to elevating Sri Lanka as a prominent exporter of agricultural produce through rapid agricultural sector transformation. He emphasized the pivotal role agriculture played in navigating Sri Lanka through the previous economic crisis and highlighted agriculture and tourism as key sectors for the nation’s swift recovery.

The conference, which commenced on the 19th of February in Colombo with the participation of diplomats and representatives from 34 countries including the United States, China, and Russia, will conclude tomorrow (21). Sri Lanka’s chairmanship of the Asia-Pacific region of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization will extend from now until 2026.

This year’s conference, themed “Transformation of the Agro-Food System,” will delve into key areas such as promoting nutritious food production, ensuring food security, enhancing food production, safeguarding the environment, curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigating climate change risks.

Sri Lanka hosted the 2nd Asia and Pacific Regional Conference in 1955.

(PMD)

 

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2024 Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Day to be held on 10th March

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The Cabinet of Ministers was informed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs that actions were being taken to hold the 2024 Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Day at the Gall Face, grounds on  10th March with the participation of  Diplomatic missions of member countries, partner states and a large number of school students from all provinces of the island.

The theme for 2024 IORA Day is  “A Sustainable Indian Ocean for Future Generation

 

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Mathews, Hasaranga all-round show helps Sri Lanka seal series

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Sri Lanka won the second T20I by 72 runs

Angelo Mathews and Wanindu Hasaranga’s brilliant all-round show, well complimented by a steady half-century from Sadeera Samarawickrama, helped Sri Lanka prolong Afghanistan’s winless streak on in the ongoing multi-format tour and seal the T20I series 2-0 with a game to go. Sri Lanka posted a commanding 187/6 riding on the back of Samarawickrama’s fifty and cameos from the two all-rounders. However, Mathews opened the bowling as well after his unbeaten knock and triggered a top-order collapse that the visitors failed to recover from, eventually collapsing to 115 all out in reply.

Put in to bat first, the Sri Lankan openers got their team off to a flying start with a quickfire 45-run stand in under four overs. The pair launched a flurry of boundaries – they hit nine between them – as the hosts quickly raced away before Azmatulllah got the much needed breakthrough for Afghanistan by trapping Pathum Nissanka LBW. Kusal Mendis fell three balls later, as Afghanistan dented their progress.

Losing both set openers, and then Dhananjaya da Silva, in quick succession set was a setback Sri Lanka needed to quickly recover from and Samarawickrama came to the rescue with a steady half-century and caemos around it gave Sri Lanka firm control of proceedings. First, it was Wanindu Hasaranga who smacked a couple of sixes in his 9-ball stay for 22. And later it was Mathews who hammered four maximums and two more boundaries, chipping in an invaluable 42* in just 22 balls. His knock, that helped Sri Lanka plunder 49 runs in just the last three overs, proved the turning point as the hosts finished with a daunting 187 on the board.

Fresh off his batting heroics, Mathews picked up the new ball and delivered in the very first over by having Hazratullah Zazai caught behind. He accounted for the Afghanistan skipper, Ibrahim Zadran, as well in his following over, finishing his brief powerplay spell with impressive figures of 2-9 as Afghanistan slipped to 19/2. To make matters worse, Binura Fernando struck twice in the fifth over to make it 31/5 and Afghanistan were eventually at the point of no return.

The 39-run stand that ensued between Mohammad Nabi (27) and Karim Janat (28) was probably the only thing to write home about in all of Afghanistan’s chase. Nabi in particular was aggressive during his 17-ball 27, hitting a couple of sixes, but the target in front of them was too tall a mountain to climb. Hasaranga and Pathirana wrapped up the tail fairly quickly once the stubborn sixth-wicket stand was broken by Dasun Shanaka and Afghanistan fell a staggering 72 runs short.

Brief scores:
Sri Lanka 187/6 in 20 overs (Pathum Nissanka 25, Kusal Mendis 23, Sadeera Samarawickrama 51, Wanidu Hasaranga 22, Angelo Mathews 42*; Fazalhaq Farooki 1-31, Azmatullah Omarzai 2-40, Naveen-ul-Haq 1-46,  Mohammed Nabi 2-25) beat  Afghanistan 115 all out in 17 overs (Karim Janat 28, Mohammad Nabi 27; Angelo Mathews 2-9, Binura Fernando 2-18, Maheesh Theekshana 1-30,  Wanindu Hasaranga 2-19, Matheesha Pathirana 2-22, Dasun Shanaka 1-17 ) by 72 runs

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