By Roscoe Thattil from Suriyawewa
A stunning Avishka Fernando century delivered the knockout punch to Dambulla Giants, as they went down by 24 runs to the Jaffna Kings in Hambanthota on Tuesday.
Giants skipper Niroshan Dickwella played into the hands of the Kings when he opted to field first after winning the toss. Batting first and posting big totals has been a strength of Jaffna throughout the tournament.
A couple of early dropped catches by the Giants proved to be very costly as the opening duo of Fernando and Rahmanullah Gurbaz posted 122 for the first wicket. Gurbaz pulled up a hamstring just after reaching his half-century before he was eventually dismissed for 70 runs which came off just 40 balls.
Fernando wasn’t done though as he continued on his merry way before reaching his century off his 63rd ball as the Kings went past the magical 200-run mark. His knock included ten fours and four towering sixes as Jaffna finished on 210/4 in their twenty overs.
The Dambulla Giants’ bowlers had no answers to the onslaught by the Kings batters with Chamika Karunaratne conceding 53 off his four overs while only Nuwan Pradeep and Imran Tahir had economy rates of under ten.
The Giants had no option but to come out swinging from ball one and got to a brisk start as Niroshan Dickwella and Phil Salt put on 39 for the opening wicket in just over three overs but both of them were dismissed in the space of two overs as the Giants found it hard to keep up with the required run rate.
Maheesh Theekshana was the chief destroyer bowling out his quota of four overs in the first half of the innings returning impressive figures of 2/23. The lanky West Indian quick Jayden Seales’ pace and bounce were too hot to handle for the Giants middle order as he accounted for Sandun Weerakkody and Ramesh Mendis in quick succession.
The Dambulla Giants never really recovered from losing the top half of their batting and were eventually defeated by the all-round disciplined Jaffna Kings unit. Karunaratne though fought till the end with an entertaining half-century but could not prevent his team from going down by 24 runs.
The boys from up north will now meet the Galle Gladiators in the final of the LPL 2021 in Hambantota today (23). Interestingly Jaffna Kings have lost the three games they played against Galle Gladiators in the 2021edition. It will also be the repeat of the 2020 LPL final.
Delicate issue of franchise cricket and NOCs
by Rex Clementine
Time was when franchise cricket was frowned upon. That was a decade or so ago. The reason for this is that unscrupulous player agents used underarm tactics to get their players released from national commitments. There was very little Sri Lanka Cricket could do as franchise owners like N. Srinivasan, at one point cricket’s most powerful man as Secretary of Board of Control for Cricket in India, dictated terms and one could only feel sorry for the plight of SLC.
In 2009, SLC even had to cancel a tour of England as players were up in arms. With key figures like Srinivasan on their side, players had their wish. Those players have now moved on and at present hold key positions in administration. Now they say things differently.
Ten years ago, we just had the IPL but at present franchise cricket tournaments have mushroomed and there’s something that’s happening somewhere monthly. The IPL remains the big draw and although not many Sri Lankans are getting drafted in like they used to, there’s demand from other franchise league competitions.
Wanindu Hasaranga is the biggest draw as he’s world’s number one ranked bowler in T-20 cricket and the board has given him No Objection Certificates whenever there’s been no international commitments.
That should be the case with other players too. Many of us do not endorse everything that Bhanuka Rajapaksa does but his premature retirement could have been the result of him not being able to get frequent NOCs from the board.
Bhanuka is a contracted player and he requires SLC’s clearance to take part in franchise tournaments. Last year he missed out on a couple of T-20 leagues and he may have incurred losses around US$ 60,000 or more.
SLC’s plight is twofold; one is that they need all their contracted players fresh for national commitments and the other is that they can only pick players for national duty depending on their performance in domestic cricket and not on overseas competition. So they have got to strike a balance between the two.
One way to address the issue is to give players decent contracts. The fringe players who have not got elite contracts like Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Angelo Perera are on annual contracts with SLC that offers them US$ 6000. That’s Rs. 1.2 million and virtually it would come to Rs. 100,000 a month. That sum is not sufficient for someone like Bhanuka to feed his eight dogs leave alone looking after a family.
Another way of dealing with the problem is to allow players a minimum of say two overseas league tournaments when there are no international commitments. Surely, a T-20 specialist will be better off playing overseas league tournaments than let’s say, making himself available for First Class cricket.
We have the classic example of Isuru Udana, a T-20 specialist, who retired prematurely from international cricket so that he could be a freelancer playing franchise cricket in different countries.
Having said all that, Rajapaksa has been in public attention for reasons other than fans would remember him for. He is no doubt a player with immense potential but how many matches has he won Sri Lanka? Is it more than a handful? A player is doing little favours for himself by burning bridges. We have seen too many of them and let’s hope that we start talking of Bhanuka more and more for his cricketing excellence. Not two kilometer run, skin folds tests or NOCs.
Sri Lanka clinch series after bowling out Zimbabwe for lowest total at Pallekele
Rex Clementine at Pallekele
The deciding third ODI between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe turned out to be an anti-climax after the hosts shot out the tourists for 70 runs in just 24.4 overs to complete a massive 184 run win and wrap up the three match series 2-1 at Pallekele International Stadium yesterday. It’s the lowest total at Pallekele with the previous lowest being Sri Lanka’s 167 all out against South Africa in 2013.
It was an outstanding show by the bowlers after a below par effort by the batsmen as Sri Lanka were able to drive away the ghosts of 2017 where Zimbabwe came from behind to hand Angelo Mathews side a shock series defeat. It was their first and only series win over Sri Lanka in three decades.
There was a scare once again with Zimbabwe squaring the series on Tuesday with a 22 run win and in the final ODI Sri Lanka’s batsmen did not cover themselves in glory. The bowling, however, was terrific, putting early pressure and picking up wickets at regular intervals and it was a one-sided contest at the end.
If a current bowler resembles Michael Holding, ‘Rolls Royce of fast bowlers’, Dushmantha Chameera has got to be that. The world’s highest wicket taker in 2021, skipped the first ODI as he had not been medically cleared to play after testing positive for COVID. He was not all that effective on his comeback on Tuesday but yesterday he was on the money bowling with fire and Zimbabwe were not well equipped to take him on.
In his second over, he had Regis Chakabva caught at first slip and in the very next ball captain Craig Ervine edged one to the keeper as Zimbabwe were reduced to three for two wickets. They never recovered.
The spinners came on and tightened the grip with Jeffrey Vandersay being the pick of the bowlers claiming four wickets. Ramesh Mendis chipped in with two wickets. Only two batsmen crossed double figures and none managed a score of 20.
Pathum Nissanka batted superbly for his half-century and added 80 runs for the first wicket with Kusal Mendis. It was his second half-century in the series and he was named Player of the Series.
After a good start, Sri Lanka lost a few quick wickets and were 149 for four in the 31st over. Charith Asalanka then held the innings together stitching a few valuable partnerships with the lower middle order. He made 52. A 48 run stand for the seventh wicket between Ramesh Mendis (26) and Chamika Karunaratne (30) helped Sri Lanka to their eventual total of 254.
Apart from the series win, Sri Lanka will gladly pick up 20 points in the ICC Cricket World Cup Super League. Sri Lanka moved up to the fourth position in the table and need to remain in top seven to automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup.
Sri Lanka Under 19s looking to keep unbeaten status intact against hosts
by Reemus Fernando
Sri Lanka Under 19s will enter today’s final group ‘D’ encounter almost assured of their quarter-final place and fates of Australia and hosts West Indies in the ICC Under 19 World Cup in their hands. Despite leading the points table in their group the team will look forward to registering a win against the hosts.
“The team will try to enter the quarter-finals unbeaten and will field a team that can counter West Indies’ strengths,” a team official told The Island from St. Kitts yesterday.
Mahinda Halangoda, the manager of Sri Lanka Under 19 team was speaking to The Island after fellow Group ‘D’ team, Australia beat Scotland to remain in contention for a place in the quarter-finals.
“You need to win to avoid looking at net run rates to earn your quarter-final place. The team will not take chances,” Halangoda said.
Sri Lanka will meet hosts as the only unbeaten team in Group ‘D’. While Scotland are out of contention, West Indies will be looking to register a victory to secure a place in the quarter-final in the tournament proper.
Despite Australia’s big win against Scotland on Wednesday giving them a net run-rate boost, they are not assured of qualification. If West Indies beat Sri Lanka in a very close finish, then Australia could be eliminated to the Plate round. If Sri Lanka beat West Indies, Australia will qualify.
Sri Lanka registered a four-wicket win against Australia in their second tournament match on Monday to lead the points table. “No one expected us to beat Australia as they were a strong team, one of the favourites. Dunith Wellalage did really well to guide the team. A victory on Friday will be the ideal way to conclude the group stage,” said Halangoda.
Wellalage picked up his second five-wicket haul of the tournament on Monday before scoring a crucial half-century to lead the side to victory.
The tournament’s decisive phase has seen one of the team’s leading batsmen failing to deliver while a batsman replaced him producing results. Pawan Pathiraja who was the team’s most consistent batsman until the team reached West Indies was dropped after he failed to impress. It would be interesting to see if the team would recall him for the final group match.
Sakuna Liyanage who replaced wicketkeeper-batsman Anjala Bandara did a rescue job in the first match he played scoring a match-defining half-century. Liyanage also kept wickets for Sri Lanka as both wicketkeepers were not fit to play during the initial stages. Liyanage’s form has seen him retain his place despite Bandara returning to the match against Australia.
Sri Lanka banked on spinners to earn results in this World Cup and it would be interesting to note how the team from the land of legendary fast bowlers would take the final group encounter.
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