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Bearding the lion in its own den

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36th Anniversary of Sri Lanka’s first ever Test match at Lord’s – Part 2

by Rohan Wijeyaratna

By now it was clear Gower and the selectors had grievously erred in under estimating the visitors, while over-estimating themselves. Far from being overawed, Sri Lanka had risen to the occasion and set in motion a prolonged leather hunt, that was fast becoming an embarrassment to England. As they drearily dragged themselves on to the field for the third successive day at Lord’s, the truth slowly dawned upon all, that England hadn’t seen off even half the visiting side yet.

The only wicket for the day

But let’s not get too far ahead of the story. The wicket of Ranatunga midway through the second afternoon was the only success England enjoyed on day two. Possessing a composure and temperament that was well beyond his years, Ranatunga played a commendable hand for one so young in consolidating the Sri Lankan middle order. He enjoyed some luck along the way when Gower spilled him in the gully when on 66, but by lunch on day two, Sri Lanka were healthily placed at 271 for three, with Ranatunga on 74 and Wettimuny on 137. England had toiled hard in the morning session for no return.

Reputedly, the English crowds are the fairest in the world. It is a repute they wear very well. On this occasion they were genuine in their appreciation of the Lankan batting, even though it was at the expense of their own team. Tragically, with a Test hundred at Lord’s beckoning him, Ranatunga playing forward to Agnew, allowed a shaft of light to remain between bat and pad and was castled through it. He had made 84 in 248 minutes of batting, having added 148 for the fourth wicket. Sri Lanka were 292 for four, when Duleep Mendis walked in.

 

 

Unfinished business

 

Mendis knew he had some unfinished business in England. As previously mentioned (The Island – 23rd May, 2020), he could have won his side a famous victory nine years before, in the inaugural Prudential World Cup, but by knocking himself out via his own outer edge to a Thomson ‘screamer’ at a time when he had the Australian attack by its throat, he failed to fulfill that dream. That was when fate intervened and prevented what threatened to be a major tournament upset, when he and Sunil Wettimuny were involved in a furious attack on Ian Chappell’s men. Now at Lord’s, Mendis had Sunil’s younger brother for company and the stage could not have been better set for him to deliver a vintage ‘Mendis Special’. The wicket held no terrors; the bowling was near pedestrian; his team was well placed, and the man at the other end was looking like the Rock of Gibraltar by the minute! In short, Mendis could not have asked for a better setting to make the stage, indubitably his!

 

A man apart

 

England on the other hand seemed reminded that Mendis met his nemesis in 1975 whilst hooking. Thanks possibly to some old rope well swallowed, their bowlers determined they would give him a working over, with the short ball. Accordingly, Allott began with a hurried delivery that pitched and arrived head high to Mendis on an inconvenient off stump trajectory. Somewhat taken aback and definitely hurried, the batsman managed a reflex hook down to long leg – a shot of no great conviction. This encouraged all other leather flingers to smack their lips, dreaming of possibilities. Soon it was Agnew pitching short at Mendis. Back and across went the portly skipper, picking up the ball from his off and hooking it down to long leg for four. Agnew bowled slightly short again and Mendis – now going back, smoked it venomously wide of extra cover for four, to bring up the 300. With each shot he now played, Mendis assumed greater authority. Agnew next bowled a more fullish length and Mendis drilled it right back at him, like a blast from a cannon. It was a stinging blow and technically a chance, though Agnew had no hope in hell of catching it. A back footed square slash to a wide, short, Agnew delivery seemed almost violently dismissive. Everyone by now had come to realize they were watching a very special passage of play in the match, and a very special person enacting it. Everyone had also begun to realize that Duleep Mendis was a man apart, from those who preceded him.

But England hadn’t still lost hope. On came England’s man for all seasons – Ian Botham; now specifically tasked to remove this bothersome Mendis. It took no great intelligence to figure Botham would try and bounce out Mendis, and it took no even greater intelligence to figure, Mendis would accept the challenge. The crowd was expectant. The moment of truth had arrived.

 

Mendis versus Botham

 

A languid drive from Wettimuny to deep point brought him on to 154; the highest score by any batsman in his country’s first Test in England. It also brought Mendis on strike. Botham resuming, ran in and delivered. It was a mean bouncer on the off stump and curving in; head high and rising. There was a flurry of activity and in the blink of an eye the ball had disappeared into the Mound stand backward of square for six! The momentarily stunned crowd now broke into loud cheer. Not to be outdone, Wettimuny in the next over from Ellison, gloriously executed a cracking cover drive off his back foot to bring up his best score in Test cricket – 160 off 383 balls in 514 minutes of batting. The ball was now back in Botham’s hand for the following over.

Botham with his best days of pace behind him, was still, stubborn as a mule. He hadn’t probably heard that in the far outposts of the great empire, there were men who were no respecters of reputations. Possibly with such a bulldog mindset, Botham ran in and bounced again. Out came the hook shot in a flash; six more over square leg and into the Mound Stand! Although visibly wounded, Botham was still not ready to give up. Repositioning the two men he already had for the shot on the leg side boundary, he bounced one last time. It was on a middle and leg line and inconveniently close to Mendis’ head. Mendis undaunted, hooked yet again! The ball evaded the two men on the fence and ended up in the Mound stand for a third successive time. A visibly angry Botham was now seen muttering some ‘unprintables’ at his captain, for no doubt persisting with this daft idea of bouncing Mendis out. The Lankan skipper had now moved to 49, hammering three sixes off Botham in two overs and leaving no one in any doubt as to who was bossing the show in this particular contest. With each of his blows over the ropes, the crowd erupted, and with the third, the cheering rose to a crescendo. This was sensational stuff! Duleep Mendis the Lankan lion had bearded the British lion in its own den! At tea, Sri Lanka were 370 for four with Mendis on 52 and Wettimuny on 173.

 

Ran ‘em ragged

 

It took only 14 balls after tea for play to be suspended through bad light for 94 long minutes. Hence when play resumed, close of play was extended well beyond six o’clock. Between Mendis’ arrival and the eventual close of play, the score had surged by another 142 runs with Mendis making exactly one hundred of them. They came off 112 deliveries and mostly in fading light; sometimes almost too dark to recognize the dusky Sri Lankan skipper from 22 yards away! Thrice Mendis refused the offer of light and finally when he accepted, it was only after he had reached three figures. By now he had shown that between him and those that came before, there was a clear distinction. While most of the others applied grace and beauty from a bygone era around their technical correctness, Mendis’ method remained simple. He either blocked it or smashed it. And there was nothing vulgar about it at all. It was just that when in the mood he had this god given ability to reduce any bowling attack to pulp, without slogging. Simply put, Mendis ran England ragged. He was without doubt, the master of all he surveyed, that afternoon.



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Will Smeed hits the Hundred’s first hundred to get Birmingham Phoenix off the mark

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Will Smeed hit the first hundred in the Hundred as Birmingham Phoenix thrashed reigning champions Southern Brave by 53 runs in a sun-soaked Second City.On NHS Heroes Night at Edgbaston, with NHS workers and support staff invited along as a thank you for their brilliant work, a 14,000 crowd was royally entertained as Smeed socked an unbeaten 101 off 50 balls to lift his side to 176 for 4.Brave replied with a paltry 123 all out as Henry Brookes enjoyed a dream debut on the ground he has always called home. The Edgbaston product took 5 for 25 and two excellent catches in the outfield as Phoenix banked their first victory of the campaign and handed James Vince’s side their first defeat in nine matches.

After Phoenix were put in, they leaned heavily on Smeed after Chris Benjamin, promoted to open, and Moeen Ali each raced to 17 but then perished. Benjamin sent up a skier off Marcus Stoinis before Moeen, having lifted George Garton deep into the crowd at midwicket, chopped James Fuller’s first ball on to his stumps.Smeed galloped to a 25-ball half-century, reached with six over long off off Jake Lintott in a stand of 80 in 44 balls with Liam Livingstone. Livingstone was the top six-hitter in last year’s Hundred, but this time never really hit his stride, scoring just two from his first seven balls and 21 from 20 before lifting Lintott to extra cover.

Into the last ten balls, the big question was whether Smeed could complete his first professional hundred. He needed five runs from the last three, and a four and a two took him to the landmark from 49 balls.Phoenix set about defending their total with an increasingly depleted seam attack, Adam Milne (Achilles) having joined Matt Fisher, Chris Woakes and Olly Stone on the absentee list. But Kane Richardson soon stepped up, bowling Vince with his first ball after the Brave captain had smote Moeen for 16 in three balls in the first set.

Richardson conceded just a single from his first five balls and Phoenix struck again when Stoinis was brilliantly caught by Brookes at short fine leg off Tom Helm.Brookes followed that up in sensational style by striking with his second, tenth, 13th, 15th and 17th balls. Quinton de Kock sent back a return catch, Tim David lifted to deep square leg, Alex Davies was bowled through an attempted scoop and Fuller and Garton were pinned lbw. Who needs Milne, Fisher, Woakes and Stone?

Brookes hadn’t quite finished. At 108 for 7, Brave’s one sliver of remaining hope lay in some pyrotechnics from the big-hitting Ross Whiteley, but when he hoiked Benny Howell to long leg who was waiting underneath the ball? Brookes made no mistake and Phoenix closed out a victory which owed everything to the precocious talent of two young Englishmen.Birmingham Phoenix 176 for 4 (Will Smeed 101*) beat Southern Brave 123 (Alex Davies 33, Henry Brookes 5-25, Kane Richardson 3-19) by 53 runs

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Niroshan Dickwella stars in Greens 8-run win over Reds

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Opening batsman Niroshan Dickwella hammered an unbeaten 76 off 56 balls packed with 8 boundaries as Team Greens defeated Team Reds by 8 runs to register back to back wins in the SLC Skyexchange Invitational T20 League 2022 at the R. Premadasa International Stadium yesterday. Batting first the Greens ran up 161 for 6 off 20 overs with Dickwella dominating the innings. Skipper Dasun Shanaka struck 21 off 12 hitting 3 boundaries before getting run out followed by Dhananjaya de Silva 19 off 12 with 3 boundaries and Ramesh Mendis 11 off 8 (1×4).

The Reds did make a match out of it making 153 for 5 but lacked the final charge to make it despite having enough wickets in hand. Bhanuka Rajapaksa top scored with 34 off 28 with 2 boundaries while skipper Kusal Mendis made 30 off 28 with 3 boundaries and Kamindu Mendis 24 off 22 hitting a six.Upfront opening batsman Lasith Croospulle struck 31 off 24 inclusive of 3 boundaries for the Reds. Dickwella was adjudged Player of the Match.

CHIEF SCORES:

Team Greens 161/6 (20 Overs) (Niroshan Dickwella n.o. 76, Dasun Shanaka 21, Dhananjaya de Silva 19,.Dinesh Chandimal 15, Ramesh Mendis 11, Asitha Fernando 2/32, Sahan Arachchige 1/13, Matheesha Pathirana 1/25, Wanindu Hasaranga 1/30).

Team Reds

153/5 (20 Overs) (Bhanuka Rajapaksa 34, Lasith Croospulle 31, Kusal Mendis 30, Kamindu Mendis 24, Sahan Arachchige n.o. 19, Ramesh Mendis 1/22, Nimesh Vimukthi 1/23, Nuwan Thushara 1/32, Dhananjaya Lakshan 1/39).

(SLC)

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New Zealand juggernaut rolls on with another all-round win

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Odean Smith’s all-round show went in vain as West Indies’ batting once again did not manage to come to the party. Chasing 186, West Indies fell 13 runs short in the opening T20I in Jamaica as New Zealand’s juggernaut rolled on.

New Zealand had their returning skipper Kane Williamson put up a solid 47 off 33, and with Devon Conway’s 29-ball 43, the pair gave New Zealand a solid foundation to pile on the runs. There was a rain interruption in the 12th over for almost two hours, and although New Zealand lost momentum, briefly then, they recovered pretty quickly. Glenn Phillips and Daryl Mitchell got starts but couldn’t convert them. It was, however, Jimmy Neesham’s 15-ball 33 in the end that propelled New Zealand towards the finish they wanted. Odean Smith finished with a career-best 3-32, striking at vital junctures to dismiss New Zealand’s top three; else the West Indies could’ve been chasing a lot more.

Tim Southee struck in the second over to dismiss Kyle Mayers, but West Indies would take heart from Shamarh Brooks’s fighting 42 off 43 while wickets fell at the other end as all of New Zealand’s bowlers cashed in. West Indies were reduced to 114/7 with the inevitable end drawing closer, but resistance came, albeit late, of 50 off 23 balls from the eighth-wicket stand Smith and Romario Shepherd.

Smith smashed four boundaries and a six in his unbeaten 27 off 12, while Shepherd struck three sixes and a four in his 31 not out off 16 balls. New Zealand’s spinners shone through once again on a wicket that assisted them, returning four wickets. Santner was the pick with 3-19 in his four leading New Zealand’s defence, making the most of the knowledge gained from his CPL experience.

Brief scores:New Zealand 185/5 in 20 overs (Kane Williamson 47, Devon Conway 43; Odean Smith 3-32) beat West Indies 172/7 in 20 overs (Shamarh Brooks 42; Mitchell Santner 3-19) by 13 runs.

(Cricbuzz)

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