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Cricket’s invisible men

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India played three spinners in the Test match. Sri Lanka opted for one spinner. Indian spinners accounted for 15 of the 20 wickets in Mohali. Sri Lanka's planning in India has been awful.

Rex Clementine in Mohali

As the national cricket team made a mockery out of the opening Test match against India here in Mohali with wrong selections and combinations the team is faced with more trouble as they are unable to fly in replacements due to delay in processing visas.

Asitha Fernando, who has featured in three Test matches was the possible replacement Sri Lanka were trying to bring in but that’s not gone to plan and even if he gets the visa, he is unlikely to be available for selections for the second Test in Bangalore as he has to undergo a three day quarantine before joining the team.

With Lahiru Kumara ruled out with a hamstring injury, Dushmantha Chameera, who was expected to feature in the second Test is complaining of ankle pain and Sri Lanka are wary of exposing the injury prone fast bowler ahead of a hectic cricket season. Although Binura Fernando is the automatic choice, the team management have concerns about him as he has previously broken down in middle of games. That makes Chamika Karunaratne the Hobson’s choice and he’s expected to feature in the side along with Suranga Lakmal and Vishwa Fernando. If Chameera doesn’t play, it will be a killer blow for Sri Lanka.

In the first Test, playing Kumara without a single First Class game under his belt since his last injury as if weren’t a bad enough, it surprised many when he limped out to bat struggling to move his feet. Assuming it was a case of Sri Lanka needing ten runs to avoid the follow on, sending out the injured last man would have made sense. But here Sri Lanka were trailing by 400 runs. Then with the team all set for a massive defeat, Kumara was sent out again in the second innings. Surely, your number 11 is not going to make a hundred. The only thing that could have happened with him coming out to bat was the fast bowler aggravating the injury.

The coaching staff seems to be heavily relying for input from Colombo, worried to take decisions independently. Video footage of the Mohali pitch was sent to Colombo to ask what combination the team should play. Sri Lanka went with three seamers and one spinner whereas India went with three spin options. Eventually, the team became the laughing stock as seamers got little purchase while India’s spinners were handful with Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin accounting for 15 of the 20 wickets.

Young Pathum Nissanka had done a terrific job as an opener having scored three half-centuries in the two match series against West Indies in December. What crime he had committed to be demoted to number three remains a mystery. Interestingly, his replacement Lahiru Thirimanne since playing the Bangladesh Test match last year had not featured in any First Class games. Tactically, it was a blunder sending two left-handed batsmen against the off-spin of Ravichandran Ashwin.

As expected, Ashwin came onto the attack in the fifth over of the innings and had his man. In the second innings, Ashwin didn’t wait that long. He bowled the first over and once again dismissed Thirimanne, this time for a duck. The invisible men in Colombo had thought it was fit that Thirimanne was good enough to open batting against world’s best bowling attack having not featured in a First Class game for nearly a year.

The confidence level of the team is at a low ebb. The coaching staff seems to be not putting their foot down in areas where they need to show authority as they know they are all on borrowed time with interim appointments.

For every minute thing the invisible men in Colombo are consulted and the results have been disastrous with Sri Lanka suffering their third heaviest Test defeat in history. Team’s planning has been awful.

Sri Lanka Cricket often gets the blame for team’s sorry performances, but this debacle can not be placed on the doorstep of the board for they clearly mange only the administrative part with cricket being run by invisible men. They are not in India with the team but very soon will arrive here after the Test match is over as the carnival is set to begin. By then, the horse has bolted and the image of nation’s cricket team would have taken a huge blow. The invisible men will not get exposed. They will get their men like Mubaraks and Kandambys to run the show now that they have failed to bring in Farbrace and Ford. Cricket remains their private property and only their friends will play a role in cricket. Invisible men will continue to be invisible.



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Mushfiqur, batters and late Taijul show give Bangladesh tiny advantage

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If day three of the first Test in Chattogram belonged to Tamim Iqbal, the fourth day was all about Mushfiqur Rahim. Not only did he become the first Bangladesh batter to reach 5000 runs in Test cricket, his eighth century in the format also made sure Bangladesh stayed ahead in Chattogram at the end of day four.

Mushfiqur’s 105, to go with Tamim Iqbal’s 133, and half-centuries from Litton Das and Mahmudul Hasan Joy helped Bangladesh end their first innings on 465 , and secure a lead of 68 runs in reply to Sri Lanka’s first innings score of 397.

Dimuth Karunaratne and Oshada Fernando then started their second innings steadily before the latter was run out needlessly for 19. Lasith Embuldeniya, the nightwatchman, had a few nervy moments but did his job before being bowled off the final ball of the day by Taijul Islam. At stumps, Sri Lanka had reached 39 for 2, still trailing Bangladesh by 29 runs. Karunaratne was unbeaten on 18, and will be joined by Kusal Mendis, in all likelihood, tomorrow morning.

The start of the day’s play was delayed by 30 minutes because of rain but once play resumed, it did not take long for Mushfiqur to reach the 5000-run mark. He began the day just 15 runs away from the landmark and breached the milestone with a deflection off his gloves down to fine leg shortly after the first drinks break. Adopting a cautious approach, Mushfiqur surged ahead and soon reached his century after lunch, his first in Test cricket in more than a year.

Bangladesh resumed their day on 318 for 3, with Litton and Mushfiqur picking up from where they had left on the third evening. Both batters were cautious but made sure no wickets were lost as Bangladesh reached 385 for 3 at lunch. The Sri Lankan bowlers, much like the third evening, lacked the bite and could not get much out of the surface.

However, the visitors came back well in the second session. Rajitha struck straight after lunch, first removing Litton before uprooting Tamim’s middle stump the very next ball. Litton, in particular, would be kicking himself for missing a third Test hundred after edging an innocuous short and wide first ball after lunch to the wicketkeeper. The ball to Tamim, though, was a good one. Coming back to bat after retiring hurt at tea on the third day, Tamim went for the expansive drive to a fuller delivery. However, Rajitha, bowling from around the wicket, got the ball to angle in and it crept between Tamim’s bat and pad to hit the middle stump.

Shakib, having survived a close chance at short leg, was rattled by a bouncer barrage from Asitha Fernando. He was hit by the pacer on the helmet, and soon after was dismissed going for the pull shot for 26.

Mushfiqur, meanwhile, held his own at the other end even as things started heating up in the middle. There were a few glares and words exchanged with Asitha, but the batter remained firm. He reached his century with a faint tickle off Asitha down the leg side and celebrated wildly.

Mushfiqur’s 282-ball vigil finally ended after tea, when looking to play the sweep against Embuldeniya, he missed the line and found his stumps in a mess. Taijul Islam and Shoriful frustrated the Sri Lankans with a 26-run stand before Asitha sent Taijul back. Bangladesh innings ended on 465 after Shoriful, struck on the hand by a bouncer, retired out.

Sri Lanka toiled away and bowled well in patches, particularly in the middle session on both the third and fourth days. However, a couple of wicketless sessions cost them. Rajitha, who was not even part of the playing XI and came in as a concussion sub for Vishwa Fernando, was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with 4 for 60.

Sri Lanka started their second innings well with both Karunratne and Oshada looking comfortable. However, a direct hit at the bowler’s end from Taijul sent Oshada packing. Karunaratne also had an escape when he mistimed a drive back to Nayeem Hasan, but replays showed the ball had just fallen short of the bowler.

Embuldeniya gave Karunaratne good support, but the surface started to show tricks late in the day with the odd-ball staying low. How Sri Lanka survive the final day remains to be seen.

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Tamim century puts Bangladesh in control over Sri Lanka 

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Bangladesh's Tamim Iqbal celebrates after scoring a century during the third day of the first Test match against Sri Lanka in Chittagong on May 17, 2022. 

Opener Tamim Iqbal hit his tenth Test century to help Bangladesh take control on day three of the first Test against Sri Lanka, reaching 318-3 on Tuesday.

Tamim made 133 off 217 balls before being retired hurt due to a muscle cramp. Then, Mushfiqur Rahim and Liton Das put on a 98-run unbroken stand to keep Bangladesh in a commanding position.

Liton was batting on 54 with Mushfiqur on 53 at stumps as Bangladesh cut the first innings deficit to 79 runs.

Sri Lanka were bowled out for 397 in the first innings, with Angelo Mathews scoring 199.

Tamim, who recorded 15 fours, aggressively went after the Sri Lankan bowlers after Bangladesh resumed on 76-0, hitting Vishwa Fernando for consecutive boundaries in the first two balls he faced.

Fernando, who was hit on the helmet during Sri Lanka’s innings, went for a medical checkup after bowling four overs in the morning.

He was later ruled out of the match and Kasun Rajitha replaced him as a concussion sub.

Tamim raised his 32nd Test half-century off just 73 balls, cutting off-spinner Ramesh Mendis for a boundary past point.

Mahmudul was restrained but never hesitated to punish the loose deliveries.

He reached his half-century from 112 deliveries, flicking paceman Asitha Fernando through mid-wicket. Mahmudul was on 51 when he got a reprieve in Asitha Fernando’s next over, with Lasith Embuldeniya dropping a catch at fine-leg.

But Mahmudul (58) couldn’t survive long, hitting a delivery of Asitha that went down the leg-side to give the visitors their first breakthrough.

Tamim, however, continued in attack mode and brought up a century off 162 balls, flicking Asitha for a single through mid-wicket.

Rajitha then troubled Bangladesh for a brief period and got the reward, dismissing Najmul Hossain (1) and captain Mominul Haque (2), leaving Bangladesh at 184 for three.

Mominul has produced five straight single-digit figures and 10 in the last 13 innings.

Tamim and Mushfiqur Rahim helped Bangladesh regain control despite losing three wickets for 22 runs.

But Sri Lanka could have removed Tamim for 114 had Dhananajaya de Silva not dropped him at slip after Tamim went for an expensive drive.

Tamim retired hurt on 133 after suffering from a muscle cramp but Liton and Mushfiqur kept the side going, frustrating the Sri Lanka bowlers further.

Liton in fact played the role of Tamim, going after the visiting bowlers in an aggressive fashion while Mushfiqur was largely watchful.

The contrasting batting approach served the team well and put Bangladesh in a strong position.

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Wasim remembered at Galle Face protest site

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A vigil service was conducted at Galle Face Green protest site remembering former rugby star Wasim Thajudeen, who was brutally murdered ten years ago.

Yesterday marked the tenth death anniversary of former S. Thomas’ College, Havelock and Sri Lanka rugby star Wasim Thajudeen. Wasim was 28-years-old when his body was found burnt in his vehicle in Narahenpita in 2012. Although his death was initially called an accident, investigations conducted later in 2015 found that he had been in fact murdered. Police claimed that earlier investigations were shelved due to political pressure.

A vigil service was conducted in memory of Wasim at the protest site at the Galle Face Green by the rugby fraternity yesterday.

Wasim’s friends at S. Thomas’ College addressed a large gathering at the presence of his parents and other family members.

Wasim, a former vice-captain of S. Thomas’ College went onto captain Havelock Sports Club and in 2009 become the nation’s Most Popular Rugby player.

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