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‘Boks’ come out to play!



by Rajitha Ratwatte

The second game in the final round of the rugby championship takes precedence as far as reporting goes for the simple reason that it was one of the best games of Rugby union seen in a long time. The Springbok – All Black rivalry is legendary, and this game was second to none. The referee Mathew Carley of England was up to the task and kept a firm hold on the game, made good decisions on the field and got sucked in by insidious professional fouls only as often as the situation warranted when making decisions at speed.

 The Africans opened scoring with some slick handling of the ball by Lukhanyo Am (no13) sending their no 12 Damian de Allende over mid-right. Handre Pollard couldn’t convert and 0–5. Jordie Barret pulled a penalty back for the ABs’ from far left of the field 3–5. The ABs’ conceded another kickable penalty soon enough (as was the situation through the game) taking the score to 3–8. Willie Le Roux had a forgettable game for the ‘Boks dropping the ball off the next kick off and giving the Abs’ a good attacking position which they capitalised on when Seevu Reece went over the line in spite of brilliant cover defence from no 8 Vermeulen. Only five points and the scores tied up eight all. The first scrum of the game took place in the 18th minute and the ‘Bok tight five began to dominate and complement the great work of their third row with skipper Salesi playing his usual inspirational game. Akira Ioane was pinged for offside right in front of the posts and gifted another three points to Pollard and the lead to the Africans 8–11. The ABs’ picked up the pace of the game and this was the only period in which they seemed to have the Springboks on the back foot. Ardie Savea went over the line with a rather dramatic dive off a break made by Rikko Ioane with Seevu Reece joining the line and covering good ground. Jordie Barret converted, and the All Blacks were back in the lead 15–11. At this stage we were into 30 minutes of the first half and Jordie Barret broke the Springbok line covered good ground and the Blacks won a line out on the ‘Bok throw (a very rare occasion in this game) and Brad Webber wormed his way over the line and scored extreme left. The kick was too much for the youngest Barret and the score read 20–11.

The Africans regained their dominance of the line out and Handre Pollard’s boot brought them back into the game 20–14. We were just five minutes from halftime and the ‘Boks replaced their entire front row! A tactic not seen before and the commencement of what was prove to be total dominance by the ‘Bok tight five in all aspects of the game. A notable happening just before halftime was the referee giving the South African “water boy” a severe dressing down for attempting to intimidate the touch judge by chasing after him and yelling at him and trying to influence a decision.

The second half started with another penalty conceded to the Africans taking the score to 20–17. The renewed energy and commitment shown by the Africans in the second half was not matched by the ABs’ and even Beauden Barret seemed to be suffering from what can only be described as a “brain freeze” when he forgot the 50–22 rule which is being trialled and conceded a line out throw to the ‘Boks.! (When a kick made by the team in their own half lands in the field of play and goes out inside the opposition 22, the team who kicked the ball is rewarded with a line out.)

The All Black defence was caught out of position by probing kicks and even guilty of simply watching and conceding territory. The ‘Boks went back into the lead after a scrum penalty won by them was turned into three points by Pollard 20–22. There was some rather “sophisticated” lying on players by the ‘Boks in loose play that fooled the referee for a while but either with or without off-field help he got onto it, but only after a couple of penalties were awarded. One such penalty resulted in a further extension of the lead to 20–25. A late tackle to Jordie Barret resulted in three points off his boot and the All Blacks got within two points 23–25. Another penalty taken by the youngest Barret in the 73rd minute took the ABs’ back into the lead 26–25 but there wasn’t time for spectators to even think before Elton Jantjies on as a sub for Pollard slotted a drop goal and took the ‘Boks’ back in front 26–28. The ‘Boks were playing under a penalty advantage and the commentators wondered if this was actually a mistake as they could have run the clock down further if the place kick was taken. With around two minutes remaining in the game, Jordie Barret got a chance to try and repeat history with a penalty and he duly obliged 29–28 to the New Zealanders. Elton almost ruined his brilliant drop goal by fluffing the kick-off and conceding a 50-meter scrum to the ABs’ with less than a minute to go. However, the dominance of the African tight five prevailed, they won a penalty gained territory and the New Zealanders who seem to concede a penalty every time for their defenders coming up too soon and being caught offside did so again giving the substitute no 10 a golden opportunity to win the game for his side with an unmissable penalty right in front of the sticks. He did what was expected and the side with the better forwards won a real “humdinger” of a game of Rugby Football 29–31.

 The old adage in golf when one “drives for show but putts for dough” when translated into Rugby parlance should read something like “backs are for show but the tight five make things glow”! The presence of Sam Whitelock, Dan Coles (unknown reasons) and the early exit due to injury of Scott Barret were sadly missed and the team with superior commitment and on-field nouse (ability to think on their feet) won a game that removed many doubts about the South Africans’ right to be ranked among the top teams in the world.

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Thehan clinches men’s singles tennis title  



Thehan Wijemanne won his first Colombo Championships open singles title on Wednesday. (Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

106th Colombo Championships

Royal College player Thehan Wijemanne clinched the men’s open singles title of the 106th Colombo Championships as he beat Chathurya Nilaweera in the final played at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Wednesday.

Wijemanne who partners Nilaweera in the men’s open doubles was tied 1-1 in the singles final before pulling off a 10-7 win to seal his victory. The final scores read 6-4, 4-6, 10-7.

The Royalist beat Kiran Vairavanathan and Archana Lokuge in a row to book his final place to meet the champion of the Under 18 age category.

Wijemanne registered a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Lokuge in the semis after beating Vairavanathan 4-2, 3-5, 11-9 in the quarter-final.

It is the first Colombo Championships singles title for Wijemanne who will celebrate his 18th birthday later this month. He is also the reigning Clay Courts Singles champion after winning the March final against Luca Knese.

Meanwhile, Gehansa Methnadi of Musaeus College reached the Under 12 girls’ singles final after recording a convincing straight sets win in the semi-final played on Wednesday. She beat Movindi Fernando 4-1, 4-1 in the afternoon.

In an Under 12 girls’ singles quarter-final Akeesha Silva beat Venuli Jayasinghe 4-1, 4-0 to reach the semi-final.

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Karunaratne climbs up in Test Player Rankings 



Sri Lanka’s win in the first match of the ICC Men’s Test Championship has put the team on top of the table powered by MRF (on percentage points), and several players including skipper Dimuth Karunaratne have improved their rankings after the first Test in Galle.

Captain Karunaratne’s Player of the Match effort of 147 and 83 has lifted him four places to seventh, just one below his career-best sixth position attained in August 2019. Former captains Angelo Mathews (up two places to 23rd) and Dinesh Chandimal (up four places to 46th) have also advanced.

Left-arm spinners Lasith Embuldeniya (up four places to 37th) and Praveen Jayawickrama (up six places to 44th) and off-spinner Ramesh Mendis (up 28 places to 57th) have improved in the rankings for bowlers.

Fast bowler Shaheen Afridi has made it to the top five of the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s Test Player Rankings for the first time in his career after a fine show in the first Test against Bangladesh which Pakistan won by eight wickets.

The 21-year-old left-arm bowler, who grabbed seven wickets including a haul of five for 32 in the second innings of the Chittagong Test, has moved up three places to fifth position after overtaking James Anderson, Kagiso Rabada and Neil Wagner.

Shaheen’s new-ball partner Hasan Ali too is at a career-best position after finishing with a similar seven-wicket match haul that included a five-for in the first innings. Hasan has advanced five places to 11th place. His previous best in Tests was 14th, reached in May this year.

Pakistan’s opening batters were not the ones to be left behind. Abid Ali may have missed out on a century in each innings but his scores of 133 and 91 helped him shoot up 27 slots to a career-best 20th position while Abdullah Shafique enters the rankings at 83rd with scores of 52 and 73.

For Bangladesh, Mushfiqur Rahim is up four places to 19th with scores of 91 and 16 while Liton Das has moved up 26 places to a career-best 31st position after accruing 114 and 59. Left-arm spinner Taijul Islam has progressed two places to 23rd after an eight-wicket match haul that included seven scalps in the first innings.

The thrilling draw in Kanpur between India and New Zealand had quite a few performances from either side that reflect in the latest weekly update that also includes the first Test between Sri Lanka and the West Indies at Galle, which the host side won by 187 runs.

Debutant Shreyas Iyer’s Player of the Match effort of 105 and 65 helped him enter the rankings in 74th position while opener Shubman Gill (up six places to 66th) and Wriddhiman Saha (up nine places to 99th) also made notable progress after notching half-centuries.

Ravindra Jadeja is up two places to 19th among bowlers with five wickets in the match and is also up one place to second among all-rounders. Ravichandran Ashwin is the third-ranked all-rounder and 79th among batters.

For New Zealand, Tom Latham’s knocks of 95 and 52 place him back in the top 10 as he goes up from 14th to ninth. Fast bowler Kyle Jamieson is ninth among bowlers, his three wickets in each innings resulting in a gain of six places. Tim Southee has gained 15 rating points to reach within one point of second-placed Ashwin (840) after his eight-wicket match haul.

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Mickey’s ‘sloppy cricketers’ hand Windies the edge



This could be the series defining moment as Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne is run out by a direct hit during Sri Lanka’s second innings of the second Test in Galle yesterday. West Indies have never won a Test match in Sri Lanka. 

Rex Clementine in Galle

Sri Lanka Head Coach Mickey Arthur once told The Island that he hates ‘sloppy cricketers’. Given how Sri Lanka approached batting in their second innings here in Galle yesterday, the 53-year-old would have given them a firm dressing-down. Having conceded a first innings lead of 49 in the second Test, Sri Lanka had to bat well to set West Indies a decent target. With the wicket turning square, the batsmen already had their work cut down and to gift West Indies two wickets through run outs was not ‘sloppy cricket’ but committing hara-kiri.

There’s a lot at stake here. Sri Lanka have never lost a Test match at home to the Windies and everyone is looking forward to give Arthur a grand send off. To make things worse, Angelo Mathews is down with a hamstring injury and that leaves a huge hole in the batting line-up. Sri Lanka’s batsmen barring Dimuth Karunaratne have been susceptible against spin and unless they bat out at least two full sessions on day four, history could be in the making for West Indies.

Dimuth was the first to be dismissed. Having pushed one to backward of point, he attempted a risky single, but instead of rushing he was watching the fielder. Kyle Mayers picked up the ball one-handed and threw down the stumps with a  direct hit to find the batsman well short.

The comedy of errors continued when Oshada Fernando was run out with the total on 39. Having pushed one to point, Oshada was walking down the track, half-hearted not knowing whether a run was on. There was none there and by the time he was sent back by the non-striker it was all too late and not even a dive could save him.

Sri Lanka’s batsmen spoiled the brilliant efforts of their spinners who did well to bowl out West Indies for 253. The tourists were well placed at one stage at 166 for two but then Ramesh Mendis’ career best figures of six for 70 saw Sri Lanka bounce back. West Indies at one stage slumped to 208 for eight, losing six wickets for 42 runs. But a ninth wicket stand of 38 runs between Mayers and Veerasammy Permaul ensured they ended up with a decent lead.

Kraigg Brathwaite was brilliant as he top scored with 72 runs that came off 185 deliveries with nine fours. A peach of a delivery from Lasith Embuldeniya accounted for the captain. The ball pitched outside of the leg-stump, spun viciously past the right-hander and clipped the top of off-stump.

Spinners accounted for all ten wickets to fall with Embuldeniya and Praveen Jayawickrama sharing four wickets between them well supporting Mendis.

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