Impressive debuts from two young players at opposite ends of the experience spectrum led India to an impressive first-innings total on the opening day of their Test against England.
Satheesh Shubha representing her country for the first time, and Jeminah Rodrigues, playing her maiden Test after 113 white-ball appearances for India, both scored half-centuries on an accommodating pitch in Navi Mumbai as India posted 410 for 7, the second-highest total by a team on the opening day of a women’s Test behind England’s 431 for 4 against New Zealand in Christchurch in 1935, having bowled their opponents out for 44.
By midway through the first evening session of this four-day fixture, the hosts’ run rate hadn’t dipped below 4.5 per over. Yastika Bhatia and Deepti Sharma, with three Test caps between them heading into the match, also racked up fifties and each played roles in key partnerships – Bhatia with Harmanpreet Kaur, who fell agonisingly short of her half-century in a strange yet familiar run out, and Deepti with Sneh Rana.
Shubha’s selection was a surprise. She hardly played for Railways this season amid a lack of opportunities after moving from Karnataka, but was picked up by Royal Challengers Bangalore in the WPL. And the 24-year-old left-hander gave more than a glimpse of what her franchise can expect as she eased to 69 off 76 balls, coming in at No. 3 with her side 25 for 1 after they chose to bat.
Smriti Mandhana, dropped on 5 by Tammy Beaumont running back from short leg to catch a top edge that ballooned straight up in the second over, managed just 17 before she chopped onto her stumps off Lauren Bell. Kate Cross then sent Shafali Verma’s off stump cartwheeling with a delivery that moved away just enough to beat the bat, leaving India 47 for 2.
But then Shubha and Rodrigues settled into a 115-run partnership that not only steadied the innings but kept the home side scoring at an impressive rate, the 23-year-old Rodrigues finding the gaps seemingly at will as Shubha looked right at home. When the latter cut Cross through backward point with ease, using the pace of the ball for one of her 13 fours, a half-century was just one more stroke away. She produced that three balls later, driving so sweetly down the ground it looked like she had been doing this forever.
Heather Knight couldn’t cling onto a sharp chance to her right at slip that would have given Sophie Ecclestone her first wicket of the match when Shubha was on 51. That was the last ball before lunch and the India duo picked up where they left off after the break until Ecclestone broke through to remove Shubha, who picked out Nat Sciver-Brunt at short midwicket.
Rodrigues forged ahead, bringing up her fifty with the first of two fours in three balls, a beautiful off-drive off Bell. Back-to-back boundaries off Ecclestone followed next over for Rodrigues, driven through the covers and swept fine, but she eventually fell to Bell in a moment of indecision that left her neither playing forward nor back and bowled between bat and pad.
Bell put down a sitter to let off Bhatia on 15, her top edge off Charlie Dean looping up but going through Bell’s hands as she ran in from mid-on. Bhatia and Harmanpreet’s union for the fifth wicket was unbroken on 71 at tea, India having scored 125 runs in the afternoon session.
They bettered Shubha and Rodrigues’ stand by one off the same number of balls (146) before Harmanpreet was run out right when she should have had an overthrow to bring up her half-century. Having pushed the ball towards covers, she set off but had to turn back. As Danni Wyatt hit the stumps direct with an underarm throw, Harmanpreet’s bat got stuck in the pitch just short of her crease. The dismissal went from the realms of bizarre to ignominious given that she had been run out in a similar way in India’s T20 World Cup semi-final loss to Australia in February.
Bhatia produced some wonderful drives and rammed home her authority on the innings with the first six of the match, pulling Lauren Filer over deep-backward square leg to bring up her fifty. But Bell made up for her earlier mistake when she held a catch at mid-on to give Dean the wicket she should have had earlier and send Bhatia on her way.
Rana was off the mark immediately, turning Dean through fine leg for four on the next ball and she settled into a 92-run partnership with Deepti, who produced nine fours and an emphatic six off Ecclestone over wide long-on. England’s bowlers lacked penetration and their tiring fielders were left to rue those missed chances. Then Deepti brought up her third fifty from as many Test matches with a four off Bell through square leg late in the day.
That was before Sciver-Brunt ripped out Rana’s leg stump, and Pooja Vastrakar negotiated a tense final over from Ecclestone as the opening day of the first women’s Test hosted by India since 2014 and England’s first on these shores since 2005 ended up very much in the home side’s favour.
India 410 for 7 in 94 overs (Satheesh Shubha 69, Jemimah Rodrigues 68, Yastika Bhatia 66, Harampreet Kaur 49, Deepti Sharma 60*, Sneh Rana 30; Lauren Bell 2-64) vs England
Hasaranga suspended for two T20Is for outburst against umpire
Sri Lanka’s T20I captain Waniidu Hasaranga has been suspended for two matches by the ICC following his run-in with umpire Lyndon Hannibal in the third T20I against Afghanistan on February 21. Hasaranga was also fined 50% of his match fees and will miss Sri Lanka’s first two T20Is against Bangladesh next month.
The incident had occurred after umpire Hannibal did not rule a high full-toss from Wafadar Momand to Kamindu Mendis as a no-ball. Kamindu had shuffled down the pitch, but the delivery would have likely arrived higher than his waist had he been standing upright at the popping crease. This would constitute a no-ball as per the ICC’s playing conditions.
“That kind of thing shouldn’t happen in an international match,” Hasaranga had said. “If it had been close [to waist height], that’s not a problem. But a ball that’s going so high… it would have hit the batsman’s head if it had gone a little higher. If you can’t see that, that umpire isn’t suited for international cricket. It would be much better if he did another job.”
Sri Lanka needed 11 runs off the last three balls when this occurred and eventually lost the match by three runs to finish the series 2-1.
“Hasaranga was found guilty of breaching article 2.13 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel, which relates to ‘Personal abuse of a Player, Player Support Personnel, Umpire or Match Referee during an International Match’,” the ICC said in a statement. “Hasaranga’s accumulation of five demerit points (he got three for this infraction) results in a conversion to two suspension points. This means he will either get a ban for one Test match or two ODIs or T20Is, whichever comes first, for the player or player support personnel.”
Afghanistan batter Rahamanullah Gurbaz was also fined 15% of his match fee and given one demerit point for “disobeying an umpire’s instruction during an international match.” Gurbaz’s offence was “altering the grip of his bat on the field despite repeated warnings against doing so,” the ICC said. Gurbaz’s demerit-points tally now stands at two.
Kamindu Mendis needs to be persevered with
by Rex Clementine
A decade or so ago, Richmond College, Galle was winning all the silverware in school cricket. They played by a different set of rules. Often scoring 1000 runs and taking 100 wickets in the season had been seen as hallmark of a good player. But Richmond didn’t care for the personal milestones. They played to win. There were bold declarations, attacking field settings, free scoring batsmen and ambidextrous bowlers. Richmond thought out of the box.
Many of their players graduated to the Sri Lankan side after school cricket. Some of them have gone onto become household names of the game. Kamindu Mendis could go onto become the next big name in cricket from Richmond.
With Sri Lanka having taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three match T-20 series against Afghanistan at Dambulla, Kamindu Mendis was given a break in the dead rubber. He proved his mettle with an unbeaten 65 off 39 balls and nearly pulled off a win. It was his first game for Sri Lanka in three years.
For a 25-year-old on a comeback trial, the pressure didn’t take to Kamindu. He rotated the strike well and waited for the loose balls. His judgements were pretty good something that you can not tell about many young players these days.
One problem facing Sri Lankan cricket is that in white ball cricket among the top seven players there are not many bowling options. If you take successful Sri Lankan teams, among the top seven there were at least three bowling options. These were genuine batsmen who could bowl and that helped the selectors to balance the side.
Kamindu Mendis solves this problem for the current side. He is ambidextrous and can bowl finger spin from both hands and the left-arm spin is quite impressive. It’s a pity that he doesn’t bowl much these days in domestic cricket.
We all marvel that Sanath Jayasuriya took more ODI wickets than Shane Warne. Sanath’s bowling was largely neglected too until a certain Duleep Mendis called him to a side and told him in no uncertain terms that he needed to work on his bowling. Gradually Sanath improved his bowling. Maybe it’s time for Sanath to borrow a leaf out of Duleep’s book and give Kamindu a piece of his mind.
More than skill what impresses you about Kamindu is his temperament. He seem to have got a good head above his shoulders and these kind of players are rare these days in our backyard. Kamindu is a former Sri Lanka under-19 captain and authorities should start grooming him for bigger things.
Kamindu did get a chance in the Test side when the Aussies were in town in 2022. He made a polished 61 in the only innings Sri Lanka batted and never got to play Test cricket again. Let’s hope he doesn’t suffer the same fate in white ball cricket.
A solid batsman, someone who gives you plenty of bowling options and a secure fielder, you can not ask for more than that in white ball cricket. Kamindu has covers all the bases and needs to become a permanent fixture in the T-20 format. With Sri Lanka’s openers in ODI and T-20 cricket being right-handed, a left-handed option at number three isn’t a bad idea.
Dialog powers historic Royal – Thomian for 19th time
Dialog Axiata PLC, Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, has extended corporate backing for the 19th year as official sponsor of the country’s blue ribbon cricket encounter, the 2024 ‘Battle of the Blues’ between Royal College, Colombo, and S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia—played for the prestigious Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake Memorial Shield on March 7, 8 and 9 at the SSC Grounds, Colombo. The limited-over ‘Mustang’s Trophy’ match will be on March 16, also at the same venue.
The 145th cricket encounter will be aired LIVE on Dialog Television – ThePapare TV HD (Channel Number 126), live-streamed on ThePapare.com and the Dialog ViU App.
Further, Dialog initiated the ‘Play for a Cause’ charity initiative with a mission to uplift school cricket across Sri Lanka. Through a generous pledge of Rs. 1,000 for every run scored and Rs. 10,000 for every wicket taken, last year’s encounter raised a substantial donation of Rs. 1,128,000. The proceedings were distributed in consultation with the Principal of Royal College and the Warden of S. Thomas’ College. This commendable effort helped support and empower four deserving schools in the country.
In this year’s encounter, the boys from Mt. Lavinia will be led by Mahith Perera, while the lads from Reid Avenue will play under the captaincy of Sineth Jayawardena, the U-19 Sri Lanka skipper.
The ‘Royal-Thomian’ series spans an impressive 144 years, making it the second longest uninterrupted cricket series in the world, behind the annual encounter between St. Peters College, Adelaide, and Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, Australia, which began just a year earlier. This esteemed tradition kicked off in 1880 with a match at Galle Face, where the Taj Samudra Hotel is presently located. Both teams are said to have rowed boats over the Beira Lake to compete in the match. This storied rivalry predates even the renowned Ashes Series between Australia and England, underscoring its significance in the world of cricket.
The historic rivalry has been a testament to the enduring spirit of sportsmanship and camaraderie. The annual cricket match has been a symbol of excellence and mutual respect between the two institutions for over a century. The playing fields of the ‘Roy-Tho’ have the distinction of birthing cricketers who later became eminent heads of state, with S. Thomas’ producing the father of the nation, the late Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake MP whom the Shield is named after—and his son, the late Hon. Dudley Senanayake MP). Both were Prime Ministers of post-independent Ceylon. Meanwhile, Royal College produced the late Rt. Hon. (General) Sir John Kotelawala MP, also Prime Minister, and Sri Lanka’s first Executive President, the late J. R. Jayewardene.
The current tally between the two schools has Royal leading with 36 wins to S. Thomas’ 35, with the highly-debated match in 1885— where Royal College was all out for nine runs and refused to play on the second day—considered a win by S. Thomas’ and a draw by Royal (as described in the respective souvenir books of the two schools). In the 144th Battle of the Blues, under Dasis Manchanayake, Royal recorded a comprehensive 181-run win to register their first victory since 2016. The shield is presently displayed like a crown jewel amidst the silverware in the Royal College trophy cabinet.
Played in the highest tradition of excellence, the two schools have formed a bond of mutual respect, camaraderie, sportsmanship, and friendly adversaries on and off the field, which has stood for almost one-and-a-half centuries. As remarked by a yesteryear Principal of Royal College: “There is no Royal without S. Thomas’ and no S. Thomas’ without Royal.”
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