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Cool Kapp keeps her nerve to take South Africa over the line



Fending off the opposition with the tail, Marizanne Kapp kept her nerve in a crucial cameo of 34 to clinch a narrow two-wicket win for South Africa in a low-scoring final-over World Cup thriller against New Zealand in Hamilton on Thursday. Having made a strong comeback with the ball at the death to restrict the hosts to 228 despite a well-paced 93 from skipper Sophie Devine, South Africa themselves faced a collapse after fifties from Laura Wolvaardt and Sune Luus. But Kapp’s experience came to the fore, amidst regular wickets, to propel South Africa to the second spot in the points table with this fourth successive win.

Despite losing the dangerous Lizelle Lee early to a run out in a cautious start, Wolvaardt dropped anchor and forged two defining partnerships that kept the chase on track for as long as she stayed at the crease. With Tasmin Brits, she added 48 runs for the second wicket stand, after South Africa posted 33/1 from their powerplay. It was during her 88-run third-wicket partnership with Luus that South Africa seemed to be taking control and cruising in their modest chase. The pair took the team past the 100-run mark in the 25th over – same as New Zealand – before the stylish opener raised a third successive fifty in the World Cup, off 72 balls, with a drive.

The duo picked up pace soon after, taking the side to 159/2 at drinks but Amelia Kerr’s twin strikes prompted a mini collapse of 3 for 9 to turn the chase on its head. The spinner first broke through the threatening partnership by trapping Wolvaardt plumb in front of the stumps after a 94-ball 67. In the following over, she ended Mignon du Preez’s stay in her 150th ODI prematurely by having her caught behind on just 1. Luus got to her fifty right after, but also ended up sending a faint nick the keeper’s way as South Africa slipped to a precarious 170/5, needing a run-a-ball 59 thereafter.

With the equation down to 31 off 30, another mini collapse ensued when Mackay struck twice in her successive overs to take out Chloe Tryon (14) and Trisha Chetty (3). But Kapp hit back to back boundaries off Tahuhu in the interim to keep up with the asking rate. Devine brought herself back into the attack for the penultimate over when South Africa needed 14 off 12, and knocked over Ismail’s stumps with a slower one but regaining strike, Kapp found two timely boundaries to take her side over the line from a position they ideally shouldn’t have found themselves in to begin with.

Earlier in the day, Devine put on two handy partnerships – worth 81 with Amelia for the second wicket and another of 80 runs with Maddy Green for the fourth – but the hosts fluffed up the death-overs acceleration to fold for a sub-par 228 despite being in a position of strength at 198/4 when the skipper fell seven short of her second World Cup century. Credit due to the pacers, led by Ismail and Khaka, who tightened their lines and lengths, and used the slower ones to good effect to prompt a fatal collapse of 6 for 30.

Ismail forced New Zealand to rethink when she bowled Suzie Bates through the game with a ripper in just the third over after the hosts elected to bat first. Runs dried up as Devine and Amelia sought to stabalize the innings, taking New Zealand to just 30/1 after powerplay. However, erratic bowling from the visitors ensued and Devine started to free her arms more regularly. South Africa were either too short or gave too much room as Devine took full toll to push the run-rate up. Having taken 13 deliveries to open her account, Kerr also caught up and even briefly went on to out-score her captain into the 40s.

Against the run of play, though, Luus trapped Amelia lbw on 42 and three balls later Khaka had Amy Satterthwaite edging behind to leave Devine to rebuild once again. From 88/3 after 20, it took the hosts another five overs to reach triple figures while Devine raised her personal fifty, off 61 deliveries, with the second of the back to back boundaries in the same over.

The pair ticked along as New Zealand upped their scoring once again but Green’s untimely run out gave South Africa an opening going into the death overs. Devine, who marched into the 90s with a mighty slog over long-on ropes off Marizanne Kapp, was yorked by Khaka in the very next over, reducing them to 198 for 5. From there on, the South African pace battery did not let the lower-order breathe. Ismail got through the defences of Katey Martin and La Tahuhu, Kapp bounced back to claim two in two in the 46th over and Ismail polished it in the 48th with her third.

Brief scores:

New Zealand

228 all out in 47.5 overs (Sophie Devine 93, Amelia Kerr 42; Shabnim Ismail 3-27, Ayabonga Khaka 3-31) lost to South Africa 229/8 in 49.3 overs (Laura Wolvaardt 67, Sune Luus 51, Marizanne Kapp 34*; Amelia Kerr 3-50, Frances Mackay 2-49) by 2 wickets


Kandy, Galle, Puttalam Schools win combined schools hockey titles



Kandy Schools ‘Blues’ and Galle Schools ‘Golds’ were declared as boys’ joint winners.

Kandy Schools ‘Blues’ and Galle Schools ‘Golds’ were declared as boys’ joint winners and Puttalam Schools were the girls’ winner at the 55th Sri Lanka Combined Schools Under 20 boys and girls Hockey Nationals held from 27th to 30th June at the Torrington Astro Turf .

The boys’ final, between Kandy and Galle ended in a one-all draw; both goals scored in the first half, Kushan Ratnasuriya scoring for Galle and the equalizer by Bhanuka Ranasinghe for Kandy.

In the play off for the third and fourth places, Colombo beat Matale 1-Nil.

In the Semi Finals – Galle beat Colombo 4/3 on penalties and Kandy beat Matale 4/3 also on penalties.

Tharusha Pallewatte from Kandy ‘Blues’ was adjudged the best player and Anushka Maduwantha from Galle ‘Golds’ was picked as the best Goal Keeper.

In the girls’ final, Puttalam Schools beat Kandy Schools by two goals to nil. Both goals were scored in the second half via Madushika Fernando and Dinuli Nihansa.

In the play-off for the third and fourth places, Matale beat Colombo ‘Reds’ 1-nil.

Puttalam Schools were the girls’ winners.

In the Semi Finals – Kandy beat Colombo, 3-nil and Puttalam beat Matale, 4-nil.

Nipuni Ishara Fernando was adjudged as the best player and Neeliya Kaushini was picked as the best Goal Keeper (both from Puttalam).

The finals & the closing ceremony was attended by Athula Jayawardhana, Director of Sports, Central Province Education Department, (Chief Guest), Deva Ellepola, Vice Patron /Mercantile Hockey Association (Guest of Honour), Shashikala Senadheera (President), Anuruddha Herath Bandara (Secretary), Chandrakanthi Karunanayake, ( Deputy President), Wasantha Kumara (Vice President), Indrawansa Herath (Vice President) – All from Sri Lanka Schools Hockey Association.

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More barriers ahead for hurdler Dharshana



by Reemus Fernando

In the Under 20 age category, athletes of only four countries in Asia have run the men’s 400 metres hurdles under 52 seconds, this year. One of them is a Sri Lankan. Dhanuka Dharshana, who is only 18 years old, has been the hurdler to beat during the last two years in his age category in Sri Lanka. In April, the athlete trained by reputed coach Anura Bandara turned the tables on his senior counterparts to emerge the national champion in the men’s 400 metres hurdles at the Centenary National Athletics Championships.

One of the first Sri Lankan juniors to qualify for the World Junior Athletics Championships to be held in Cali, Colombia in August, Dharshana is the most consistent performer in the men’s category among the Sri Lankan juniors to qualify for the event. However, like the few junior athletes who showed potential to excel in the future in the pet event of Olympic Medalist Duncan White during the last two decades, will Dharshana find track and field not so exciting to pursue after leaving school?

“It is incumbent upon us to motivate our athletes to remain in the sport. But how can you do so when they do not get the opportunity they deserve. Participation in World Junior Championship is something that young athletes cherish. It is a huge learning opportunity for the up-and-coming athletes and will motivate them to remain in the sport,” said Dharshana’s coach Bandara.

Like Dharshana many others who reached qualifying standards for the World Junior event remain uncertain about the prospect of competing in Cali due to the financial constraints the country is currently facing though Sri Lanka Athletics has sent the names of seven out of the nine athletes who reached qualifying standards for the World event for the Sports Ministry approval and financial assistance. The Ministry has given only the approval and their participation will heavily depend on Sri Lanka Athletics’ ability to find much-needed funds for the costly trip.

Dharshana’s pet event, the 400 metres hurdles is the discipline that has won the highest number of medals for Sri Lanka at the junior Asian level during the last decade though a vast majority of the athletes who won those medals did not pursue track and field after leaving school. The most prominent female hurdler to emerge during the last one and half decades also came from Dharshana’s school, Ambagamuwa Central and was trained by Anura Bandara. Yamani Dulanjali won the first Asian Youth Championship hurdles gold medal in 2015, held the Under 20 Junior National Championship 400 m hurdles record until this year. With impressive performances as a junior, she was expected to excel at the senior level as well. Hailing from a not-so-well-to-do family she instead took up a teaching job.

Kaushalya Madushani, another 400 metres hurdler, who won junior Asian international medals, joined Sri Lanka Army, the final refuge for many a future prospect, after leaving school. She was yet to reach her full potential when she died a couple of months ago; it is alleged she took her own life.

Maris Stella College hurdler, Uditha Chandrasena, was yet another bright prospect to have excelled in the 400 metres hurdles at the junior level. He too gave up athletics after leaving school.

Although Sri Lanka has seen the emergence of hurdlers in the calibre of Dhanuka Dharshana at the junior level there had been no system to nurture them and make them stick to track and field.

Dharshana, who too is hailing from an ordinary family, has received the support of Olympian and Asian Games Gold Medalist Sugath Thilakaratne, the most famous product of his coach, Anura Bandara. He has also received the support of the school’s PTIs Indika Prasad and Amali Abeytunga and another benefactor whom he identified only as Nayana. But pursuing track and field as a senior athlete is an uphill task which requires more funding.

Ambagamuwa Central, where Dharshana learnt his ABC of athletics, has reaped the benefits of Bandara’s coaching with the school winning podium places at junior competitions every year. And, every year Bandara faces a dilemma as his trainees leaving the school have not found the right platform to launch a career in athletics.

With the junior athletes’ participation at the forthcoming World Junior Championships remaining uncertain to date, the coaches like Bandara will find it even harder to persuade athletes to remain in track and field.

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Lyon set to become second most successful off-spinner in history



Lyon is currently among the top ten wicket takers in the world and if he takes seven wickets in Galle in the second Test starting on Friday, he will go onto become the second most successful off-spinner in the history of Test cricket.(Getty Images)

by Rex Clementine

Leg-spin legend Shane Warne retired from cricket in 2007 having achieved two key milestones; Australia had regained the Ashes and Warne had become the first man in history to take 700 wickets in Test match cricket. Since his retirement, Australia tried various spinners to fill his big shoes but with little success. Fellow leg-spinner Stuart MacGill was the natural successor to Warne, but he too threw in the towel 18 months after Warne’s retirement. Then Cricket Australia tried a host of finger spinners and some wrist spinners without much success. The wait ended in 2011 in Sri Lanka. For some reason, all good spin bowlers make their impact in our shores.

Australia arrived in Sri Lanka in 2011 with a new captain in Michael Clarke and their spin resources were untested. In fact, the team’s lead spinner was uncapped. His story was interesting. He had been a curator at Adelaide Oval and with his skill to bowl off-spin identified he was given a break in Sheffield Shield cricket. Seven months later, he was set to make his Test debut against the likes of Sangakkaras, Dilshans, Jayawardenes and Samaraweeras. That too in Galle, the Gabba of Sri Lankan cricket. There the legend of Nathan Lyon was born.

Lyon’s first ball in Test cricket was round the wicket to a left-hander. The ball pitched, turned and had bounce. The batsman was playing away from his body with an open face; the ball took the outside edge and was snapped up by Michael Clarke at slip. A wicket off first ball in Test cricket is just the dream stuff. It’s even more special when the batsman you have dismissed is Kumar Sangakkara, word’s number one ranked batsman at that point.

Lyon didn’t look back from thereon. He claimed a five wicket haul in the first innings as Australia secured a big win and went onto claim the series.

Ten years on, Lyon was quite handful again as he was the standout performer in the first Test in Galle. Sri Lanka’s spin was thin on experience and yet the hosts chose to prepare a track that would turn from day one and they ended up playing into Lyon’s hands as he finished with nine wickets.

Sri Lanka’s young spinners have much to learn from Lyon. He just figured out a length to bowl and kept pitching it there consistently and with batsmen taking too many risks with cross batted shots, it was just a matter of time before a wicket fell.

Lyon’s overall wicket tally is now 436 in 109 Tests and during the Galle game he went past several greats of the game like Kapil Dev (434), Rangana Herath (433) and Sir Richard Hadlee (431).

Lyon is currently among the top ten wicket takers in the world and if he takes seven wickets in Galle in the second Test starting on Friday, he will go onto become the second most successful off-spinner in the history of Test cricket. Muttiah Muralitharan leads the list with 800 and India’s Ravichandran Ashwin follows him as the second most successful offie with 442 wickets.

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