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Batting might, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shardul Thakur give India series

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An unbeaten 80 by Virat Kohli and a stunning half-century by Rohit Sharma in an unfamiliar but effective opening partnership set India up for a comfortable win in the fifth T20I before Bhuvneshwar Kumar finished it off to seal the series 3-2 in Ahmedabad.

India left out regular opener KL Rahul and brought in an extra bowler, T Natarajan, in a move Kohli described at the toss as prompted by a desire to “bring in a good balance with bat and ball”. But there was no denying Rahul’s struggles – he had made 1, 0, 0, and 14 in the series – and his absence meant Kohli would open for just the eighth time in T20Is. Kohli and Sharma combined for a 94-run stand from 56 balls to lead India to a commanding total of 224 for 2, their third-highest T20I total at home and fourth highest overall. Persisting with the back-of-a-length and short-pitched bowling which had brought them success through the series, England’s attack looked toothless on this occasion as India’s batsmen adapted and thrived.

 

India fined for slow over-rate

India have been fined 40% of their match fee for maintaining a slow over-rate during the fifth T20I in Ahmedabad.

Javagal Srinath, the ICC match referee, found the side two overs short of their target at the end of England’s innings after time allowances were taken into consideration. The charges were leveled by on-field umpires Anil Chaudhary and Nitin Menon, and third umpire KN Ananthapadmanabhan. There was no need for a formal hearing as India captain Virat Kohli pleaded guilty to the offence and accepted the sanction.

According to Article 2.22 of the ICC code of conduct, which relates to minimum over-rate offences, players are fined 20% of their match fees for every over their side fails to bowl in the given time.

England had said after India levelled the series 2-2 with an eight-run victory on Thursday that they would relish the pressure of a must-win clash as ideal preparation for the World Cup in October. They set out in pursuit needing to score at 11.2 an over and recovered from the early loss of Jason Roy as Dawid Malan and Jos Buttler carried them to 62 for 1 by the end of the powerplay, which compared favourably with India’s 60 for 0, en route to a 130-run partnership.

But some wonderful bowling by Kumar – who claimed 2 for 15 from his four overs, including 17 dot balls and the vital wickets of Roy and Buttler on a batting-friendly pitch – damaged England’s hopes beyond repair. Shardul Thakur accounted for Malan and Jonny Bairstow in the space of four deliveries, which left England needing 83 off the last five overs. When Eoin Morgan fell cheaply to Pandya, the task proved too much.

 

Rampaging Rohit

Going into the match with scores of 15 and 12 for the series after being rested for the first two matches, Sharma unleashed a masterclass of timing, power and elegance with an effortless-looking 64 off just 34 balls that consigned Kohli to the shade initially. No sooner had Kohli thumped Jofra Archer for a beautiful cover drive for four, Sharma signalled his intent, threading an Archer slower ball between point and cover for a boundary of his own. From there, Rohit took charge, nailing Adil Rashid over deep midwicket for the first of five sixes.

When Mark Wood came into the attack in the fourth over, India took 13 off it, including two fours that Rohit drilled straight back down the ground. Kohli brought up India’s 50 with a huge six over long leg in Wood’s next over and Rohit produced an almost identical shot three balls later. Wood, having taken 3 for 18 over the three previous powerplays he bowled in this series, ended up conceding 28 runs off two overs with nothing to show for it in this one. Rohit crashed sixes off Jordan, thudded over deep square leg, off Sam Curran to bring up his fifty having narrowly evaded Wood in the deep when his leading edge dropped short, and off Ben Stokes with an 83m hit down the ground. It was Stokes who finally made the breakthrough with a legcutter which Sharma dragged back onto his stumps to end an entertaining and valuable innings.

 

Kohli comes out to play

Kohli took his cue at Sharma’s dismissal and stepped into the limelight with an unbeaten 80 off 52 deliveries. He was well supported by Suryakumar Yadav, who had top-scored with 57 in the fourth match, which was just his second T20I. This time Yadav played a tidy cameo of 32, hitting not his first ball for six as he had in his previous innings, but his second and third, both off Rashid. After 10 overs, India had struck eight sixes. Only once had they hit more by the halfway stage of a T20I – 10 against New Zealand in Christchurch in 2009. Hardik Pandya was unbeaten with 39 off 17 but it was Kohli who provided the steel in an imposing India innings. He added another six to his earlier one off Wood and his seven fours, when he charged down the pitch to launch Stokes over long-on in the 13th over. He brought up his third fifty of the series with two clipped neatly through square leg off Wood and took 12 runs of Archer in the final over of the innings.

 

What a catch, Jordan

Chris Jordan’s torrid time with the ball was epitomised when he all but nailed his yorker to Yadav only to watch the batsman thread it nonchalantly between point and third man. Jordan managed a wry smile at the time but he brought a grin to his team-mates’ faces – none more so than Roy – with his hand in Yadav’s eventual dismissal. Yadav lofted Rashid down the ground and Jordan, running full-pelt towards the boundary to his right from long-on, stuck out his right hand and the ball stuck beautifully. That was until Jordan’s momentum continued to propel him over the rope and he had the presence of mind to lob it to Roy, waiting like a Cheshire cat at deep midwicket. The catch would go down next to Roy’s name, perhaps adding insult to the injury of Jordan conceding 57 from four wicketless overs, but his brilliance in the field was undeniable. And, while it’s little consolation, he wasn’t the only England bowler left hurting – Wood went for 53 runs from his four overs. (cricinfo)

 

Scores:

India 224 for 2 wkts in 20 overs (V. Kohli 80 n.o., R. Sharma 64)

England 188

for 8 wkts in 20 Overs (D. Malan 68, J. Buttler 52; S. Thakur 3-45, B. Kumar 2-15).

 

Malan to the fore

When Kumar had Roy out for a duck on the second ball of England’s chase, with one that swung in as the batsman charged down the wicket for an attempted slog over midwicket and clattered into middle and off, it was still India’s game. But then England showed the might of a top order that the likes of Alex Hales – historical off-field issues aside – and Joe Root can’t break into. England could have been tempted to tinker with line-up, with suggestions they should take a look at Stokes at No. 3, and they might have done had it been a dead rubber but, with the series on the line, they went with their full-strength side. Malan, the No. 1-ranked T20I batsman in the world, had not breached 25 in four innings going into the match. But his 68, combined with some power hitting by Buttler, who carted Rahul Chahar for two sixes in the eighth over and another in Chahar’s next as the bowler conceded 20 runs in seven balls, kept England in the contest.

Malan also broke Babar Azam’s record for the fastest batsman to 1000 T20I runs. Azam reached the mark in 26 innings, while Malan’s knock took him to 1003 runs in 24 innings.

 

Brilliant Bhuvi

It was Kumar who had put England on the back foot and he struck again when Buttler holed out to Pandya at long-off for 52 in a pivotal 13th over of the innings yielding not only the wicket but just three runs. By that stage England had fallen considerably behind at 130 for 2, compared with India’s 140 for 1. At the same time, Kumar had taken 2 for 9 from three overs to squeeze England before Thakur and Pandya accounted for Bairstow, Malan and Morgan in quick succession to leave the tourists short of answers.



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Sebs’ cricket stalwart Cooray retires after more than three decades of service

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by Reemus Fernando

Franklyn Cooray, the former Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association official, retired as the Master in Charge of Cricket of St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa after completing more than three and half decades of yeoman service recently. Franklyn Cooray who was popular in cricket circles as Frank Cooray, was the longest serving team official at the time of his retirement. During his 37 year association with schools cricket, Cooray witnessed the evolution of First XI cricket from mere Traditional matches to present day tournaments of varying divisions and was involved in St. Sebastian’s cricket as a coach and Master in Charge guiding the destiny of many future national cricketers.

Cooray played First XI cricket for St. Sebastian’s from 1962 to 1966 and was among the very few Sebs cricketers of his era to have tasted Big Match success. He captained all age group teams of St. Sebastian’s. After leaving school he worked at the Irrigation Department as a Senior Technical Officer and played in the Government Services ‘A’ Division Cricket tournament until making a premature retirement in 1983.

He was entrusted with the responsibility of training cricketers of St. Sebastian’s in 1984 by Rev. Bro. Nimal Gurusinghe, when coaching was voluntary. Three years later Cooray was included in the tutorial staff by Rev. Bro. Granville Perera. He was the coach cum Master in Charge of St. Sebastian’s from 1987 to 1994 and held the latter position until his retirement this year.

During his tenure as a coach, Cooray provided guidance at different levels to several Sebs who later became household names. Of them Dulip Mendis, Roger Wijesuriya, Susil Fernando, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Sajeewa de Silva went on to play Test cricket. “Kaluwitharana was coached by Brother Gurusinghe before he came under my supervision at senior level,” Cooray recalled in an interview with The Island.

Cooray was the Master in Charge of Cricket when the likes of Prasanna Jayawardena, Dinusha Fernando, Vishwa Fernando, Amila Aponso, Avishka Fernando and Oshada Fernando learnt their ABC of cricket at St. Sebastian’s.

While being the MIC, Cooray was also entrusted with the responsibility of the curator after a turf wicket was laid at the St. Sebastian’s ground in 1990.

He was selected to SLSCA Executive Committee in 1988 and a year later became the Under-19 tournament secretary, a position he held until 2006. He was among the leading officials of SLSCA who were instrumental in introducing the two-day league tournament and the Under-19 tournament structure with three Divisions. As of late it has undergone many changes.

However he was against introducing the points system that determined winners on first innings points. “That system would promote the culture of playing for trophies. I never encouraged the point system for first innings wins. We gave points only for outright victories. During our time we hardly batted after tea. We would try to score as much as possible in the morning and declared and get the opposition to bat in the afternoon. That way we would try to win outright. That was lost after the points system was introduced,” opined Cooray.

Cooray also lamented the absence of natural stroke play among present day cricketers. “Players going for their natural strokes is something that we are missing greatly these days. You must encourage batsmen to go for their natural strokes,” said Cooray.

He was the Under-19 tournament secretary of the SLSCA at a time when computers were yet be utilized for calculation of points and to make points tables of the league tournaments. Yet as schools cricket reporters would recall he was readily available with a near accurate points table of the tournament at the end of every week during the schools cricket season.

Apart from holding the Under-19 tournament secretary position, Cooray also held the junior national coach position briefly. He was the coach of the Sri Lanka Under-15 side that toured England for the Under-15 Lombard World Challenge.

His contribution to cricket was recognized by the International Cricket Council in 2009 when he was presented with a medal during its Centenary Medals Presentation for Volunteers.

As he steps in to retirement with loads of fond memories from cricket, Cooray thanked former administrators of St. Sebastian’s Rev. Bro. Nimal Gurusinghe and Rev. Bro. Granville Perera, late Rev. Fr. Bonnie Fernandopulle who made it possible for him to take up coaching and cricket administration and coaches including Kanishka Perera who helped during his tenure.

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Mendis and Babar; careers that have taken different routes

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by Rex Clementine

During the 2018 Asia Cup in Abu Dhabi, a group of us Sri Lankan journalists were discussing how good Babar Azam was. Former Pakistan captain Waqar Younis, who was one of the commentators was behind us. He heard the conversation and interrupted us. ‘You guys have no idea what talent is. If you want to look at real talent and pure class just take a look at that guy,’ he said so pointing his finger at the Sri Lankan team. They were warming up and Kusal Mendis was getting some throw downs.  

Both Kusal and Babar are 26. But the Pakistani has gone places. He is Pakistan’s captain in all three formats. In official ICC Rankings, he is world’s number one ranked batsman in ODI cricket. In Tests, he is in exalted company alongside the likes of Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Marnus Labuschagne at number six while in T-20 cricket he is ranked third.

Just two days ago Babar produced a stunning batting display at Centurion, one of the quickest wickets in the world, as Pakistan chased down a stiff target of 204 with two overs to spare. Babar’s 122 came off just 59 balls at a stunning Strike Rate of 206.

Where is Mendis while all these happened? Axed from the side after his four ducks in a row in January, he has been overlooked for the home series against Bangladesh as he has not done anything significant to merit a place.

From humble beginnings, Mendis became a celebrated sportsman overnight after his stunning 176 against a quality Australian attack spearheaded by Mitchell Starc. But soon anger and frustration replaced that admiration following his hit and run at Moratuwa that killed an innocent man on his way to work.

Mendis’ family and his agent did all within their means to bury the truth. That Mendis was driving on the wrong direction, did not care to take the injured to the hospital and surrendered to Police several hours after the incident were all hushed up. Police ensured that Mendis got bail in less hours than the time it takes Bandula Gunawardene to reverse a gazette.

The media kept the pressure up asking Mendis to behave. At this point, Mendis’ family reached out to the press telling us that young Kusal regretted his actions and has promised to build the family of the deceased a home and look after his child’s education. Later, it emerged that Mendis had not only taken the Police and the law for a ride but even the gullible press. He broke a gentleman’s agreement.

Sri Lanka Cricket handled the issue poorly. Well, what can you expect of them. Rienzie Wijetilleke a former Board Chairman put his foot down when a similar thing happened in 2001 and sacked the leg-spinner who was involved in a hit and run.

In Mendis’ case, SLC CEO said that this was a personal matter and closed the case. Well, a contracted player and the captain in waiting killing someone on the road and fleeing the incident did not deserve such leniency. Mendis’ CCC connections prompted SLC to turn a blind eye, perhaps. No wonder the CEO was exposed well and truly at the COPE hearing.  Ashley de Silva has committed too many blunders and the handling of Kusal Mendis is one such.

Everybody gets dropped from the side. Even the great Aravinda de Silva got the axed, rather unkindly. But not Kusal Mendis. Clearly, he was struggling in South Africa having picked up three ducks in a row. He didn’t want the burdens of Test cricket and probably was better off sorting out his game at RPS with the Batting Coaches and not against James Anderson. But pointing out some bizarre reasons SLC retained him, waited till he completed a fourth duck in a row before axing him.

Young players need good mentors. They get so much of good counseling when they are young by coaches and well wishers. But suddenly when they graduate into the senior side, they fall prey to ruthless player agents who themselves have little values. As some of our finest captains are getting together to restructure the game, they need to look at the role of player agents seriously. Sadly, some of them are under the thumb of crooked player agents themselves having shown more loyalty to Perera Gardens than Maitland Place and there will be not much done to address this issue.

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The brand of cricket we want to play is free and relaxed:  – Sangakkara

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The 2008 IPL champions employed five opening pairs in the previous edition.

As many as five opening pairs were experimented with by the Rajasthan Royals last season. Ahead of their season opener against Punjab Kings, Sanju Samson, the newly-appointed captain of the franchise says that this year around, more stability can be expected from the side that chopped and changed so much to the extent of being unable to settle on a side until much later in the tournament.

“Myself and Sanga will try to give the best combination,” said Samson on Sunday (April 11). “From my point of view, it’s crucial to give an individual or a pair of opening partners enough time in the tournament. So, I think a bit of stability will be seen in this tournament. The rest it depends on how we go.”

Much has been debated about the batting order. Whilst Jos Buttler’s record at the top speaks for itself, Ben Stokes has been their go-to man for the opening slot. With Robin Uthappa gone this year, will they persist with Stokes at the top with Yashasvi Jaiswal, or will they promote Buttler up to a position he loves? Without committing too much either way about their preferred sequence, Kumar Sangakkara, the director of cricket at the Royals said the combination will be a decision they will undertake with the “full buying of the players involved”.

“We look to finalise (combinations) later on today before we go for training and we want we want to keep our options open,” said Sangakkara. “The most important thing is that players are communicated to clearly as to what their roles are and get them to commit to it.

“What we planned to do is get a balanced side, everyone available, a full squad, try and have a consistent philosophy of cricket. The brand of cricket that we want to play is quite free and relaxed. Also in terms of preparing well and executing well… to get everyone prepared to think and to be problem-solvers. To think for themselves. It helps Sanju a lot on the field when people are thinking for themselves and know what’s going on. It builds a lot of trust within the group as well. Everyone has individual strengths that they bring into the side which are highly valued. We try and build that into a good unit where everyone knows what they’re doing, what their value is and what their roles are. Then we’ll go and try to play some good cricket.”

An overhaul in how the Royals went about their business was needed, having had finished last in 2020. Rajasthan just couldn’t crack the code of winning matches consistently and a lot of it had to do with the lack of the team striking together. There were moments of brilliance before they fell back.

“We have a lot of match-winners who are absolutely wonderful players…in Sanju Samson, Rahul Tewatia, our fast bowlers. The key is to have different people who do something a little bit special on the day and the point of a great team performance is to have your regular players performing consistently and once in a while. Someone stepping in to do a little bit extra. If it’s a different player most of the time and not the same person, it’s even better.”

Another area of concern last year was the lack of support from the contingent of pace bowlers around Jofra Archer, who was named MVP. Archer missing the first few games will be a big blow for Rajasthan. Sangakkara, however, threw his support behind the inexperienced Indian bowlers in their squad to come good.

“I think inexperience sometimes can work for you and against. Inexperience would probably mean that the opposition has not really seen them either, but fast bowling, specially in the IPL is not an easy task and we saw that yesterday as well. Sometimes the wickets are really good for batting or most of the wickets are, so you have to be quite skillful. So I’m pretty confident that our young fast bowlers will step up. We’ve had Kartik Tyagi who did very well last season in patches in various phases of the game and this year we have a new additions in Kuldip Yadav and Chetan Sakariya. So I think it’s about you know keeping them again focused on what their job is really and get them trained and prepared to execute all the different deliveries and scenarios and match plans for the opposition. But at the same time concentrate in giving them confidence of their own strengths.”

When asked if despite all his years in the game, the highs and lows, he feels pressure of expectations in his new role, Sangakkara didn’t mince his words.

“I think there are always expectations and pressure. You can’t get away from that and you got to accept it. And the only way you deal with it is really, you know ticking off the boxes that you want in terms of training, in terms of preparation, getting combinations right. Get the players involved take ownership of not their own roles, but also the team plans and that makes things a lot easier. You can’t guarantee what will happen on the day of a match, but what you can guarantee is that you can go out and control what you control. Take a great attitude out, and Sanju always talks about playing with passion and with heart. I think that’s a very important point as well. That can really lift a team to do some special things out there when the pressure is on.

“So for me personally, know my job is to get everyone ready and once they get on the field my job is actually secondary. It’s about them going out there and expressing themselves playing really good smart cricket. But we wait and see. I think everyone’s really looking forward to starting the tournament,” he added.

 

 

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