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‘Boks’ fail to impress and the Black juggernaut rolls on

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by Rajitha Ratwatte

The current “world champions” trying to save face after the two-point defeat last week, took on the resurgent Wallabies in front of over 35,000 fans at the Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. Great playing condition with the temperature in the mid-twenties and dry conditions underfoot. Michael Hooper the Australian skipper captaining for the 60th time! Dave Rennie the Kiwi-born and raised coach of the Australian side, had made a few changes and among them not playing Hunter Paisamy at no12 and replacing him with Len Ikitau, the “human cannonball”, hooker Taniela Taupo also got a start. The change in the center was justified with Len Ikitau forcing his way over the line in the 12th minute to score mid-left and Quade Cooper sullied his impeccable record by hitting the upright with his attempted conversion. 5–0 to the Wallabies. Handre Pollard got three points back for the Springboks with a penalty converted from 35 meters out and mid-right. 5–3 was the score until Taniela Taupo displayed his great strength and low center of gravity by making good ground and allowing Ikitau to ground his second try. This time QC made no mistake 12–3. Pollard did his thing again literarily shaving the right upright and in the 25th minute, the score read 12–6. The Wallabies reliable full-back Tom Banks suffered what is now thought to be a broken hand and was replaced by Reece Hodge 30 minutes into the game. Quade Cooper slotted another penalty taking the Wallaby lead to 15–6 until another ludicrous TMO intervention resulted in a yellow card for the Australian no 6 Lachlan Swinton. The Boks could only manage two penalties during the period in which they had numerical superiority taking the score along to 15–12 at halftime.

The South Africans were the first to score in the second half with their playmaker and nov9 Faf De Clerk kicking ahead to allow their no13 Lukhanyo Am to score far right. Pollard was unable to convert 15–17 and the Boks ahead for the first time in the game. Quade Cooper rectified matters converting a penalty from right in front of the posts and putting the wallabies back into the lead 18–17. Marika Korombeiti decided that it was time to show his skills, dotting down twice in quick succession once off a great pass from his skipper Hooper which QC converted, and then from a great turnover by Reece Hodge which Cooper couldn’t add the extra points to. 30–17 and the Wallabies convincing in their dominance of the World Champions who definitely seem to be fortunate to have the title. This win takes Australia to number three in the world ranking the computation of which seems to be understood only by the mandarins of the IRB and also gaining the Nelson Mandela trophy.

The crowd had swelled further for the second game of this week’s doubleheader. The Argentineans playing the NZ All Blacks for the second time inside seven days. Quinn Tupea wearing the no 12 black jersey for the first time due to injuries and Reiko Ioane very much a makeshift no 13 were the only perceptible areas of weakness in the NZ Line up. Santiango Carreras coming in at no10 for the Pumas was expected to make a difference. Ethan Blackadder at no 6 and Hoskins Sututu at no 8 showing the depth of selection available to the All Blacks. Damian Mackenzie starting at no 10 for only the second time in his All-Black career. That too probably due to Beauden Barret nursing a calf injury. Patrick Tuapoletu the Auckland Blues skipper playing in the second row led the way with the first seven pointer of the game in the fifth minute and the Pumas pulled one back three minutes later converting a penalty from right in front of the posts when Ethan Blackadder was pinged for being offside, 7-3. The ABs gave Jordie Barret the ball as he was doing the kicking for this game in the 11th minute to add further three points off a “gimme” penalty right in front of the posts, 10–3. In the 16th minute, Jordie Barret went over the line but was denied a score due to a forward pass, this was one of four occasions on which the ABs went over the line and were denied for infringements. The New Zealanders scored two more tries in the first half once off no 9 T.J. Peranara and again when a chip ahead created by Ardie Savea was picked up by Hoskins Sututu who passed to Topu Vaa’I in the no 5 jersey. Jordie Barret completed an impeccable first half of kicking duties with a penalty taking the score to 24–3 at halftime.

The Pumas came back roaring in the second half and scored first through a penalty 40 meters out but right in front. 24–6 Ethan Blackadder continued his hard unrelenting Mahi (Maori word for work) showing great handling skills, combining with Will Jordan, and sending Samisoni Taukeiaho over the line. Jordie Barret struck the left upright with his attempted conversion from the right touchline. 29–6 until Emiliano Boffelli in the no 11 jersey for the Pumas broke a three game drought of tries against the All Blacks and scored off a perfectly weighted cross-kick by their no 10 Santiago Carreras. This seven pointer took the score to 29–13. The All-Black bench came on and it must be said the Finlay Christie the Auckland no 9 looked a little out of his depth but the Canterbury Crusader no 8 Luke Jacobsen who had scored twice in the last game fitted right in. The Argentines’ found another gear and attacked relentlessly retaining 70% of possession but the NZ defence stood firm. The Black forwards began dominating the scrums and Taupo Vaa’i got his second from a great offload by Scott Barret his fellow second-rower. The conversion took the score to 36–13 where it remained until full time.

This completes nine wins in a row from the New Zealand All Blacks and unless the algorithms and permutations used in calculating the IRB world rankings have another unfathomable calculation, should result in the All Blacks regaining their well-deserved place at the top of the rankings.

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Cricket moans nation’s first Test captain’s death

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by Rex Clementine  

There are some who always back underdogs. While the winners’ men go places, those who support the underdogs remain at odds with the system. With the larger circle of course, the fans for example, which is what matters, they remain hugely popular. One such breathed his last yesterday after a brief illness. Bandula Warnapura the nation’s first Test captain was 69.

Two of his contemporaries, Roy Dias and Duleep Mendis, also 69ers, were speechless. They had played lot of cricket together. The trio had toiled to put Sri Lanka in the world map and after retirement had shaped Sri Lankan cricket to great heights. While Roy and Duleep still contribute sharing the wealth of their knowledge, Bandu has gone, too soon and leaving a huge void.

Bandu was not an authoritative captain. You don’t have to be to succeed as captain. There was bit of Kane Williamson in him; friendly, trustworthy and authentic. His best virtue as skipper was his instincts. Filling in for injured skipper Anura Tennekoon during the 1979 World Cup, Bandu sensed an opportunity. Not because Sri Lanka were better than India. Man to man, India with Gavaskars, Vengsarkars, Viswanaths, Kapils, Amarnaths and Bedi, were a far better side. But there was in fighting among Indians and as a result none of the above captained the side. Venkataraghavan had become captain, by default. Bandu went for the kill and Sri Lanka were victorious. There was no denying of Test status from thereon.

The fact that Bandu faced Sri Lanka’s first ball in Test cricket made him the nation’s first Test cricketer as Bob Willis delivered the first ball in Test cricket in Sri Lanka. His time in Test cricket was short lived having got on the payroll of Dr. Ali Bacher opting to go to apartheid South Africa.

Morally it was not the right thing to do. South Africa was whites only those days. As a black, you would be made a honourary white citizen so that you could move around Wanderers, Newlands and Kingsmead.

His conscience would have told Bandu that this was not the right thing to do. But there comes a time in life where all of us have to make choices. Having lived through COVID for 18 months now where there have been so many financial challenges, you tend to break a few rules. Not to rob a bank but set aside your values and settle for something that provides you some financial security to look after your family. Some of us get away with these things. Some of us pay a small price. Some others pay a heavy one. Bandu lost everything having been banned for 25 years.

Eventually, Gamini Dissanayake mellowed. He reduced the ban to eight years. But that was for the players. The captain had to serve one more year before he could be allowed into cricket.

Bandu went places at SLC. He was only second in command to Duleep Mendis holding the post of Director, Cricket Operations. From there, he went to Malaysia and joined Asian Cricket Council and went a step further joining the ICC. He was hugely popular among his colleagues and superiors. Quite efficient too as he oversaw the development of several up and coming teams.

There was no better story teller in cricket than Bandu. He had one for every occasion. Television channels used his expertise in reality shows where he held his own.

But cricket could have used his services more than local television stations. They chose not to. Bandu was in a different camp. Actually, he was an independent man. What is it with our cricket that we keep our captains at arm’s length or maybe even avoid them like the plague? Bandu had no role to play in recent years. Duleep has no role to play. Arju has no role to play. Sanath has no role to play. Marvan has no role to play. Mathews has no role to play. The list goes on.

Bandu will be missed. May he attain the supreme bliss of nibbana.

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Sri Lanka U19s pull off one run win

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Sri Lanka Under 19s took a 2-0 lead with a stunning one run victory over Bangladesh as bowlers did well to defend a total of 228 runs in the second Youth ODI at Dambulla on Monday.

Chasing a target of 229 runs to win Bangladesh were in control after top order did well to take them past 100 runs for the loss of two wickets. They were troubled by spinners Dunith Wellalage and Treveen Mathew and paceman Matheesha Pathirana in the middle overs but the visitors still had hope as they needed just 19 runs in the last three overs. That was when Pathirana changed things picking up two wickets in the 48th over.

The match went to the last over with visitors just eight runs behind the target but Sri Lanka kept their cool to inflict a run out to pull off a stunning win with three balls remaining in the Bangladesh innings.

Earlier electing to bat first home team lost their first wicket for 11 runs before the St. Joseph’s College pair Sadeesh Jayawardena and Shevon Daniel added 66 runs for the second wicket. While Jayawardena top scored with 58 runs (4x4s) Daniel added 34. That was before Trinity batsman Pawan Pathiraja came up with his second consecutive half century of the series to make the middle order strong.

The late order batting by Raveen de Silva and Chamindu Wickramasinghe who added valuable 20s and a run a ball 15 by skipper Wellalage enabled the hosts reach their eventual total.

The two teams will next meet in the third Youth ODI on Wednesday.

Scores:

Sri Lanka U19s

228 for 8 in 50 overs (Sadeesh Jayawardena 58, Shevon Daniel 34, Pawan Pathiraja 51, Raveen de Silva 25, Chamindu Wickramasinghe 27; Ashikur Zaman 2/54, Ripon Mondol 3/49)

Bangladesh U19

227 all out in 49.3 overs (Mahfijul Islam 75, Iftikher Hossain 36, SM Meherob 33, Ariful Islam 23; Dunith Wellalage 3/30, Treveen Mathew 2/47, Matheesha Pathirana 3/26)

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Sri Lanka one step closer to World Cup qualification

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Sri Lanka completed a seven wicket win over Namibia yesterday in Abu Dhabi.

Rex Clementine in Abu Dhabi

They say, well prepared is half done. Sri Lanka’s intense preparation ahead of the ICC T-20 World Cup stood in good stead for them as they cruised to a seven-wicket win with 39 deliveries to spare winning their first qualifying game against Namibia here at Sheikh Zayed Stadium yesterday. Following the comprehensive win, the former champions are one more win away from qualifying for the showpiece event.

Sri Lanka’s bowling was too strong for the Namibians as they were shot out for 96 with three deliveries to spare.

Maheesh Theekshana was going to be their trump card in the qualifying round and he was on the money picking up a wicket off his first ball and finished with figures of three for 25.

Leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga and Lahiru Kumara, a last minute addition to the squad finished with two wickets each. However, the bowler who impressed most in the game was Dushmantha Chameera, who bowled a quick spell clocking 149 kmph at one point.

Sri Lanka’s obvious target would be to qualify but if they need to go further in the competition, Chameera with his ability to pick up early wickets is going to be the key.

Sri Lanka chased down the target in 13.3 overs and the big win helping them to sit comfortably with a healthy Net Run Rate.

There was bit of a scare as Sri Lanka lost three wickets for 26 runs inside the Power Play. But a 74 run unbroken stand in 51 balls between Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Avishka Fernando helped them to get over the line comfortably.

Avishka has been scoring heavily leading up to the competition and he has been the in-form batsman. Sri Lanka will be feeling happy that Bhanuka ended up top-scoring with 42 runs as his form has been patchy. He ended the game with a flicked six. His unbeaten 42 came off 27 balls and contained four fours and two sixes.

Avishka Fernando was unbeaten on 30 off 28 balls with two sixes.

As expected, Sri Lanka held Avishka back playing him at number four. With their batting sorted, Sri Lanka, written off by many, look to make an impact in the competition.

Sri Lanka’s next game is on Wednesday where they take on Ireland at the same ground. They will move to Sharjah for the final qualifying round game against Netherlands on Friday.

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