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‘Best time for me to leave’ – Suranga Lakmal looks back at Test career before final hurrah

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Ahead of his final Test, Suranga Lakmal talks about why he’s stepping away now, who can step into his boots, and what his own hopes for the future are.

What are your thoughts about the journey you’ve travelled?

More than thinking about my performance, I thought about what I can do for my team. I’ve played for 13 years, and now I’m 35. Rather than sticking around for a couple more years, I thought I’d give my place to someone younger. This is the best time to take my leave of Sri Lanka cricket.

You’re so close to 200 wickets, and there are quite a few Tests on the schedule this year. Why are you quitting now?

If I was going after 200 wickets, I don’t know how many more Tests I’d have to play. Maybe ten. Maybe five. But then you’re just going after personal goals. I didn’t want to be like that. If from my leaving, we can get one or two players who can take my place and have those opportunities – that’s what’s important.

You’re giving up the baton now, but there’s no one obvious to take it from you. Dimuth Karunaratne said this too. Couldn’t you have played for longer?

If I carried this baton even further, it’ll take even longer for someone else to come up and take my place. It could just be a few months, but it could be longer. We’re all playing for this Test Championship and a lot of service is expected of me there, but a lot of the Tests we will play in the rest of the year are in Sri Lanka. We all know that we prepare spinning pitches there. Even if there’s just one or two seamers playing, you have the opportunity to groom someone new. There are good players who don’t have experience, and they should get that chance.

Who might fill your place in the team?

Right now, there’s Vishwa Fernando, Lahiru Kumara, Dushmantha Chameera, Asitha Fernando, and Kasun Rajitha has started to play again as well. There are others in the domestic leagues like Pramod Madushan. We’ve got to look after them and make sure they have access to good trainers and physios. Now we’ve got four-day cricket starting soon as well. If we can get the national team players involved in that and play a couple of games, that would be great for younger players.

You’re going to Derbyshire county. Do you have any plans beyond that?

I really wanted to play a county cricket season before I retired, so I’ve got that opportunity. I’ve also been discussing the possibility of playing in Australia. Let’s see what happens this first year. If I can do something for Sri Lankan cricket, I’m very happy to do that. I’ve told the younger players they can call me any time. I’m not a legend, but whatever little I can do I will do. What I’ve got in life is thanks to cricket, and we have to love the game. I might be playing for Derbyshire, but I’d love to do as much as I can for our players.

What was the biggest success in your career?

Probably my biggest success was winning the pink-ball Test in Barbados under my captaincy. That was the first time an Asian team won there. Also whitewashing Australia at home in 2016. Winning in South Africa as the first Asian team to do that was great as well.



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New Zealand Tour of West Indies

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Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph set up West Indies five-wicket win

On a surface aiding the bowlers, Akeal Hosein made merry with a devastating spell of 3 for 28 in 10 overs while Alzarri Joseph too picked three wickets, bundling out the visitors for just 190 in the 46th over. The chase was not straightforward by any stretch of imagination, but Shamarh Brooks’s calm 79 off 91 balls ensured West Indies tasted rare ODI success in the series opener in Barbados.

Given the tricky conditions, Martin Guptill and Finn Allen made a circumspect start, until the seventh over when the latter took on Jason Holder to clobber one four and two sixes. New Zealand got to 40/0 in 8 overs when the passing showers halted play briefly. Though the break was hardly for 10 minutes, it allowed West Indies to regroup and make quick inroads right after play resumed. First to go was Allen, as he danced down to take on the left-arm spinner Hosein, only for Nicholas Pooran to run back from extra cover and take an excellent, diving catch.

Hosein took out Guptill in his following over to dent NZ further. New Zealand struggled for partnerships from there on as they fell from 53 for 2 to 116 for 5, even as Kane Williamson fought on from one end. That endeavour too was brought to a premature end, as Alzarri Joseph dismissed him for a 50-ball 34 – that ended up being the best batting effort for New Zealand in the game. A 40-run stand for the seventh wicket between Michael Bracewell and Mitchell Santner, followed by a 20-run alliance between Santner and Tim Southee pushed New Zealand past the 150-run mark and close to 200. But Southee and Boult fell in successive overs, leaving New Zealand with 190 in 45.2 overs.

Four balls into the chase, rain arrived again. But this time too it was passing showers that kept the players off the field for 15-odd minutes. When they returned, the senior duo of Boult and Southee saw the back of the West Indies openers by the sixth over, pushing West Indies on the backfoot early in chase. Up stepped Brooks to forge solid partnerships to defy the New Zealand bowlers as he and Keacy Carty added 37 for the third wicket off 48 deliveries. But Santner trapped him leg before to keep the pressure on the chasing side as they were down to 74 for 3. What ensued was the match-winning partnership between Brooks and his captain Nicholas Pooran, as they batted out the next 14.3 overs to add 75 runs.

Southee then came back with some success, as he induced an inside edge off Pooran’s bat that wicketkeeper Tom Latham pouched low. Brooks, who’d got his half-century during his partnership with Pooran, was set to see his team through to the finish line, before Boult too returned to clean him up. But at 149 for 4, New Zealand’s strikes were too little too late. Jason Holder and Jermaine Blackwood – who was playing in his first ODI since 2015 – saw the team through with five wickets and 11 overs to spare.

(Cricbuzz)

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Rabada five for floors England 

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Rex Clementine at Lord’s

There aren’t too many lethal bowling attacks in the world than South Africa’s. Well spearheaded by Kagiso Rabada, captain Dean Elgar can turn to Anrich Nortje if he wants extra pace or rely on the versatile Lungi Ngidi for control. If variety is what the South African captain is after, he can bring on Marco Jansen, the left-arm quick. Given such a pace attack, the spin option of Keshav Maharaj becomes indispensable and he wasn’t required to bowl as England were shot out for 165 in their first innings.

The Rainbow Nation is well represented with blacks, whites and coloured players forming the nucleus of the attack. Rabada finished with a five wicket haul, becoming the fourth South African since readmission to get his name in the Honours Board; others being Allan Donald (2), Makaya Ntini (2) and Vernon Philander. How Shaun Pollock and Dale Steyn missed out is indeed a good question.

Rabada had overnight batsman Ollie Pope dropped in the first over of the morning but eventually he cleaned him up for 73. The fifth wicket came when James Anderson was trapped leg before wicket, a decision the batsman unsuccessfully reviewed.

Nortje, probably the quickest bowler in the world at the moment, claimed three wickets while Jansen had two scalps. The 22-year-old from Potchefstroom is considered the next big thing in South African cricket. It’s said he could go onto fill the boots of Jacques Kallis but if he could achieve half the things the great all-rounder finished with, South African cricket will benefit immensely.

South Africa had moved to 27 for no loss at lunch. The first day had been interrupted by bad weather with just 32 overs possible.

Sri Lanka have been well represented at Lord’s Test with former captain Ranjan Madugalle functioning as Match Referee while Kumar Sangakkara is a commentator with Sky. The ex-skipper has signed a three years deal with the host broadcaster replacing Michael Holding.

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Emma Raducanu routes Victoria Azarenka in Cincinnati

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British number one Emma Raducanu produced another eye-catching display as she routed former world number one Victoria Azarenka less than 24 hours after beating Serena Williams.Raducanu continued her preparations for the forthcoming defense of her US Open title with a 6-0 6-2 win in Cincinnati.

The 19-year-old played Belarusian veteran Azarenka just 18 hours after beating Williams, who will retire after the US Open, 6-4 6-0 on Tuesday.Raducanu faces Jessica Pegula next.The Briton, ranked 13th in the world, will meet the American seventh seed in the last 16 of the Western and Southern Open on Thursday.

“I was playing a great match for sure and to play Vika I had to stay focused throughout,” said Raducanu, who beat 22nd-ranked Azarenka to earn her first top-30 win since last year’s US Open.

Raducanu stunned the sporting world with her unexpected triumph in New York last year, when she became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title in what was only her fourth senior tournament.

The victory propelled the previously little-known teenager into global superstardom, but she has since faced the difficulties often encountered by young players in their first full season on the WTA Tour.Regularly hampered by fitness issues this year as she adjusts to the rigours of the senior tour, Raducanu arrived in Cincinnati with a record of 11 wins and 14 losses this season.But with her fearless and accurate ground strokes, she has so far shown a similar level in the WTA 1000 event to the one which led to her success at Flushing Meadows.

Pegula, however, is likely to provide a sterner test – and a more accurate appraisal of Raducanu’s current level – than Williams or Azarenka.In what was her first career meeting with 23-time major champion Williams and likely to be the last, the teenager clinically took advantage of the 40-year-old’s lack of sharpness by hitting 14 winners and making just one unforced error in a ruthless victory.After that night session, Raducanu returned to Cincinnati’s centre court against 33-year-old Azarenka and produced another dominant display.

The forehand continued to be a potent weapon, while she was also helped by wayward returning from the two-time Grand Slam champion.After cruising through a 26-minute opener to record a second straight bagel, Raducanu raced into a 4-0 lead in the next set, before Azarenka finally got on the scoreboard with back-to-back holds.She offered a little more belated resistance when Raducanu served for the match, earning two break points and saving a match point before the Briton wrapped up victory.

“In the second set I could feel the important moments and a couple of turning points that could have made the second set really difficult,” added Raducanu.

“I am really pleased with how I dug in, and serving it out in that last game was really difficult.”

American teenager Coco Gauff has played down the seriousness of the ankle injury which forced her to retire from a first round match against Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova on Tuesday.With her home Grand Slam looming, the 18-year-old said it was a minor sprain that “should be healed very soon”.

Romania’s Simona Halep pulled out of the Cincinnati event with a thigh injury before Wednesday’s match against Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova, while Polish world number one Iga Swiatek, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and Tunisia’s world number five Ons Jabeur reached the last 16.

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