Former Pakistan captain and Galle Gladiators coach Moin Khan during a training session. Galle Gladiators will take on Jaffna Stallions in the LPL final tonight at Suriyawewa.
by Rex Clementine
The finals of Lanka Premier League will take place tonight with tournament favourites Jaffna Stallions taking on giant killers Galle Gladiators at Suriyawewa. Galle Gladiators had a horrible start to the competition losing five games in a row. Their campaign is a reminder of Pakistan’s stunning World Cup win in 1992. Imran Khan’s side was almost eliminated from the competition in the first round itself when their captain urged the team to fight like ‘cornered tigers’ and they went onto win the World Cup beating favourites New Zealand in the semis and England in the finals.
Galle Gladiators narrowly edged Kandy Tuskers out on Net Run Rate and then in the semis they created a major upset beating table toppers Colombo Kings. A win in the final would complete one of the finest comebacks in the game.
Opening batsman Danushka Gunathilaka has carried the Galle side single-handedly having scored 475 runs at an average of 67 and Strike Rate of 145. No other batsman has managed 300 runs in the tournament.
Galle’s heavy dependence on their spin bowling all-rounders has not given them the desired results and against a well grilled unit like Jaffna Stallions mistakes will be costly.
Jaffna Stallions have most bases covered and one of their weak-links is absence of a batsman who could play the anchor role. But their bowling is so versatile and skillful that they defend any modest target.
With 16 wickets to his name, Wanindu Hasaranga is the highest wicket taker in the competition and Thisara Perera has used him well as an attacking option. Not many have picked his wrong’un but even if they do, batsmen have to deal with his leg-break which has caused trouble.
When T-20 cricket was mushrooming, many believed that spin will have little impact in the game. To the contrary, wrist spinners have thrived.
So if Hasaranga is Jaffna Stallions key man, Lakshan Sandakan has done a fine job for Galle Gladiators. He has 11 wickets in the tournament but has played two games lesser than Hasaranga. Sandakan may not have the control of Hasaranga, but he still could be handful.
Mohammad Amir bowled a couple of hostile spells when the team most needed him and Galle Gladiators will be hoping he makes some early inroads for the likes of Sandakan to put pressure.
An interesting contest is on the cards tonight.
Eight Sri Lanka cricketers fail fitness tests
Avishka Fernando has failed a second fitness test inside ten days.
By Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka Cricket has issued an ultimatum to its contracted players after eight of them failed a fitness test in Colombo. A pool of 20 shortlisted players for the upcoming tour of West Indies underwent fitness tests in Colombo and eight of them did poorly failing the tests. The list includes several permanent members in the side and some senior players.
The players have now been given an ultimatum to get their act together before another fitness test on February 3rd. If they failed the second fitness test, they will be ineligible for selection for the tour of West Indies. Sri Lanka will play two Tests, three ODIs and three T-20s in the Caribbean.
Fitness has been a growing concern within the team and Head Coach Mickey Arthur has demanded excellence in this aspect. Opening batsman Avishka Fernando was sent home from Galle lead up to the Test series against England after he failed the fitness test. It is believed that Fernando had failed a second fitness test as well conducted yesterday.
It has been argued that players remaining at home during COVID times had resulted in poor fitness levels. But question marks about fitness standards had been there for a while now.
Meanwhile the bio-bubble in Galle has been pruned to 17 players after Sri Lanka Cricket informed team management to send home five players. The bubble will be reduced by a further two on the day of the match making the squad to 15 players, like during pre-Covid days.
The reserves engaging in card games when the batting was collapsing on day one of the Test match had angered fans and former players. It is believed that the drastic measure to send players home was taken as a reaction to it. The players were not in the dressing room when cameras caught them playing cards but in a floor above the dressing room.
Accordingly, Dimuth Karunarante, Kusal Mendis, Nuwana Pradeep, Minod Bhanuka and Lahiru Kumara have been sent home. Karunaratne and Mendis were not involved in card games. The former has been released as he is injured while the latter has been sent to the High Performance Center at RPS to work on technical aspects of the game. Mendis picked up four ducks in a row.
Suranga Lakmal and Oshada Fernando, two players who engaged in card games, have recovered from their injuries and are expected to feature in the second Test match. While Lakmal is expected to share the new ball with Asitha Fernando, Oshada is expected to fill the vacant number three slot.
Niroshan Dickwella will continue to bat at number six but has been asked to provide more consistency.
Yasitha, Anika looking to add doubles titles
Tennis Nationals 2020
Men’s and women’s singles champions Yasitha de Silva and Anika Seneviratne will look to secure the doubles titles as well as they booked final spots in the respective doubles tournaments of the Tennis Nationals 2020 at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Monday.
Just a day after winning his first men’s singles national title de Silva paired Sankha Atukorale to beat Nishendiran Sivendran and Michael Siyaguna 9-1, 6-3 in the men’s doubles semi-final. Now they will meet giant killers 16-year old Chathurya Nilaweera and 17-year-old Thehan Wijemanne in today’s final.
Nilaweera and Wijemanne ousted defending champions Sharmal Dissanayake and Rukmal Cooray in the quarter-finals before edging out Dhilvan Herath and Archana Lokuge in a closely contested semi-final. They bounced back from a 5-7 defeat in the first set to secure their final place they scored 6-2, 11-9.
Meanwhile Anika Seneviratne, who won her second women’s singles national title on Sunday, advanced to the women’s doubles final with her sister Alalna as they secured a 6-1, 6-3 win over Oneli Perera and Sethmi Sumanaweera. Seneviratne sisters are the defending champions.
They will meet Janali Manamperi and Savini Jayasuriya in the final. Manamperi and Jayasuriya beat Neyara Weerawansa and Tuvini de Alwis 6-3, 3-6, 10-7 in the semis. (RF)
Dimuth ruled out of second Test
Dimuth Karunaratne (R) has been ruled out of second Test against England.
Rex Clementine in Galle Fort
Captain Dimuth Karunaratne has been ruled out of second Test against England that will get underway later this week. The opening batsman missed the first Test as well.
Karunaratne was hit on the hand by Wiaan Mulder during the second Test match at Wanderers leaving him with a fractured left thumb. That didn’t deter him from going onto post a hundred.
However, the recovery has been slow and Karunaratne who missed the opening Test match has been ruled out of the series as well. He’s expected to return to lead the side for the series against West Indies. Another player who was injured South Africa – Dhananjaya de Silva has started rehabilitation. De Silva who tore a thigh muscle is expected to return for West Indies series.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Cricket has expressed dissatisfaction towards team management after several players were seen engaging in card games while wickets were falling in a hurry on the opening day of the Test match. Sri Lanka were bowled out for 135 after winning the toss. Although they bounced back and fought hard over the next three days, they were always catching up having conceded too much advantage to the opposition.
The four players involved in card games are Suranga Lakmal, fellow fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep, top order batsman Oshada Fernando and left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan.
The extended Sri Lanka squad during COVID times contains 22 players and these four players were not in the dressing room when cameras captured them but on a floor above the dressing room.
Five players who are not going to be part of the second Test match will return home today.
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