Niroshan Dickwella with his audacious stroke play helped Sri Lanka to reach 469 for six at stumps on day two of the second Test against Bangladesh at Pallekele yesterday. The wicketkeeper batsman brought up his half-century in 48 balls and was unbeaten on 64.
Rex Clementine at Pallekele
There are a few things that will never change; Ranil giving up the UNP leadership; Vatican electing a black Pope; US speaking so much on gender equality but not voting a woman as President. In cricket too some things never change. Niroshan Dickwella and his sweep shot for example. The first ball he faced yesterday from a spinner, Dickwella swept Mehidy Hasan to the square-leg boundary. When Bangladesh skipper Mominul Haque placed a fielder at square leg, Dickwella played the paddle sweep, sending the ball finer to the vacant fine-leg boundary.
Dickwella is one of the cheekiest players around and fans love to see him bat. Mickey Arthur, however, must be very nervous when he is in the middle.
Sweep wasn’t Dickwella’s bread and butter. He played some forceful drives against spin and the ramp shot to good effect against pace. While he was doing all that Sri Lanka recovered from 382 for six to 469 for six as he added 87 runs with Ramesh Mendis. The unfinished seventh wicket partnership came in double quick time as it took only 117 balls.
Dickwella reached his 18th half-century in just 48 balls and he was unbeaten on 64 when play was called off early due to bad light.
Bangladesh started off the day so well. The morning session saw Sri Lanka managing only 43 runs in 26 overs while losing three wickets. Taskin Ahmed was on the money generating pace and accounting for three leading batsmen. His figures should have looked much better than three for 119. Najmul Shanto put down two chances – Mendis yesterday and Karunaratne on day one, both at slip.
Dickwella’s brilliance has put Sri Lanka in a solid position. He should now help himself as well. Having been dismissed on 90s twice this year, here’s a fine opportunity for him to score his maiden hundred. Whether he would make it count remains to be seen.
The seamers benefited from the cloud cover in the morning moving the ball making things difficult for the Sri Lankans. There was more assistance for spinners as well than in the first Test that produced a tame draw.
Sri Lanka will be hoping that the weather stays good for them to have enough time to push for a win. If the conditions remain overcast, ideally, they should declare overnight and let Suranga Lakmal have a crack. Dimuth Karunaratne is a traditional captain and he is unlikely to do so. He will bat on until the team crosses the 550 mark or until they are bowled out.
Dickwella one day when he succeeds Karunaratne might think different. To get there, he’s got to get his act together, off the field. Sri Lankan cricket will be in good hands with a bold captain; Arjuna Ranatunga for example.
Athletics in limbo as travel restrictions imposed
Local track and field athletes have already suffered setbacks due to the Covid 19 pandemic as they missed quality international competitions.
by Reemus Fernando
Athletes who were looking forward to vie for Olympic entry standards at weekend’s first stage of the 99th National Athletics Championships were in dilemma yesterday after government imposed new travel restrictions due to the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic.
Yesterday, the government announced new travel restrictions starting from 11pm on May 11 to 4.00 am on May 25 and 11.00pm on May 25 to 4.00 am on May 28. That will put in jeopardy the first stage of the National Athletics Championship, which is the final opportunity for local athletes to reach entry standards for the Tokyo Olympics.
Last week, Sri Lanka Athletics decided to conduct the National Championship in four stages (during four weekends) in a bid to minimize participation at venues and scheduled Olympic targeted events of the 99th National Athletics Championship to the May 22-23 weekend.
Sources said that the Olympic targeted events were scheduled for the first weekend in anticipation of a possible lockdown during the Wesak week. But now with travel restrictions imposed to minimize the spread of the virus the Sri Lanka Athletics is faced with a dilemma.
Local track and field athletes suffered several setbacks due to the Covid 19 pandemic as they missed quality international competitions, which help improve their world rankings. They also could not get enough local competitions to get closer to entry standards for Olympics. The cancellation of several international events including the Asian Championships and the Asian Relay were severe blows.
While Italy based Yupun Abeykoon and US based Ushan Thivanka have improved Sri Lanka National records in men’s 100 metres and high jump after taking part in quality competitions this season , local athletes were yearning for competitions from early last year.
When contacted, a top official of Sri Lanka Athletics said that the track and field governing body was in a dilemma. “We had almost completed necessary arrangements to conduct the meet. Now we are in a dilemma,” a top official told The Island.
A source said that that there had been requests to provide accommodation for all competing athletes in Colombo in a bid to avail the final qualifying opportunity for Olympics.
It would be a huge logistical nightmare for Sri Lanka Athletics to provide all participating athletes lodgings in Colombo.
Last year, Sri Lanka Athletics postponed the National Championship to December due to the pandemic. This year’s National Championship was earlier scheduled to be held in April.
Sri Lanka Athletics is likely to take a decision regarding the meet today.
Bangladesh ODI series crucial for Sri Lanka
By Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka have arrived in Dhaka for a short three match ODI series that will get underway next week after the players complete mandatory quarantine. The series is important for both sides as the winners will gain significant progress in the ICC World Cup Super League, the event that will select the seven automatic qualifiers for the sport’s showpiece event in 2023.
Sri Lanka would be keen on a series win no doubt but more importantly, they would be looking to build the nucleus of their limited overs team after abject failures over the last three years. National selectors have made some tough calls lead up to the series axing as many as six senior players, including five former captains.
Top order batsman Kusal Perera has been named as captain and he spoke of the need to play without fear of losing. “We should not be afraid to lose and always look to win. I would tell the boys to be positive. This is a young team no doubt but at the same time, these guys have played lot of domestic cricket and I am sure they will be up to the task,” KJP told journalists.
Kusal Mendis has been named his deputy and he is the man tipped to take over the side in the long run across all three formats of the game. “I am very happy to being appointed vice-captain. I have played under KJP for the Kandy team in the LPL. He is a good leader. After being dropped from the side, I worked hard on my game and fitness. I think it was a good break that I got and I am looking forward for the series,” Mendis said before the team’s departure to Dhaka.
While Sri Lanka’s batting still has the fire power and experience, it is the bowling that has had little exposure in the international circuit. Particularly the focus will be on the seam bowling that is raw and Fast Bowling Coach Chaminda Vaas has a tough job at his hand.
Bangladesh will be at full strength with Shakib Al Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman expected to return. Both players missed the two match Test series at Pallekele due to their IPL commitments.
The series is vital for both sides. Sri Lanka are currently ranked 12th in ICC World Cup Super League with minus two points after being whitewashed 3-0 in the Caribbean. A 3-0 rout of Bangladesh will help them to move three places to number nine.
Bangladesh meanwhile are at number six in the table and a series win will see them securing the top spot of the table above World Champions England.
The first ODI will be played on the 23rd of May in Dhaka.
Sri Lanka also have lot of white ball cricket over the next three months with the team set to tour UK in June followed by a series against India at home. Sri Lanka Cricket is negotiating with Cricket South Africa to play a postponed series soon after the Indian tour.
1st ODI: 23 May in Dhaka
2nd ODI: 25 May in Dhaka
3rd ODI: 28 May in Dhaka
Scoops, ramps, paddle and reverse sweeps no good for ODIs
by Rex Clementine
Anybody who attempts to scoop Kagiso Rabada’s first ball – a thunderbolt clocked at 150 kmph – over the wicketkeeper’s head must be out of his mind; unless he is Niroshan Dickwella. This was not on the slow surfaces of Dambulla or Suriyawewa, but at The Wanderers, a fast bowler’s paradise. Dickwella with his fearless approach and cheeky batting should be a must in the ODI team but in Sri Lanka he is a Test match specialist. His last ODI was more than two years ago – in March 2019.
It was confirmed that Dickwella will be snubbed during the Bangladesh ODIs as well after captain Kusal Janith Perera admitted that he will keep wickets. But here’s are a few points for the selectors and Head Coach Mickey Arthur to ponder.
Dickwella has cemented his place in the Test team and more recently has shown maturity as well. He’s been so good with the bat that in 2021, he’s the sixth highest run getter in the world in Tests.
Not that Dickwella has suddenly transformed himself as a Test batsman. He has cut down a few high risk shots but still provides entertainment. Sri Lanka from a few shaky positions have gone onto consolidate thanks to Dickwella whose biggest strength is not being afraid to play shots. He is someone who is quickly able to put pressure back on the bowlers.
When he is able to pull off such tricks in a format where there are few fielding restrictions, imagine what he is capable of doing when restrictions are on. To be fair, Dickwella’s best returns have come in ODI cricket as he has scored two hundreds and nine fifties in 49 innings at an average of 32 and strike rate of 93. Well, true, it’s nowhere near M.S. Dhoni class who averaged 50 in ODIs.
Dickwella is pretty good with his glove work too. Is he the finish product yet? Of course not! Someone needs to sit down with Dickwella and have a long chat on a few things. Let’s start with reviews. The wicketkeeper’s input is so valuable in reviews and Dickwella misleads his captain. The expert opinion of Dickwella during reviews should be taken with a pinch of salt, very much like input of the nation’s intelligence chief during the Yahapalana regime. Both are flawed, highly.
When England whitewashed Sri Lanka 3-0 in 2018, Dickwella’s reviews were outrageous. At occasions he had exhausted all reviews before the team’s best bowler – Rangana Herath had come onto the attack. Impulsive and immature, Dickwella has never learned and it has reached a point where the captain doesn’t trust him anymore.
Still, he’s got to be part of the ODI side. He is fearless to the extent that he does some crazy stuff. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread they say. Dickwella is like the fool who is willing to go any distance just for the sake of winning.
His infamous fight with Virat Kohli in Calcutta in 2017 surprisingly earned the Indian captain’s applause. “I like to see that character. I liked that competitiveness on the field. He is a very feisty character and that works for his game. Credit for him for maintaining that and I am sure he will do many good things in Sri Lankan cricket,” Kohli said.
In that same series, in Delhi, Sri Lanka were battling to save the Test match. Entering into the last hour, they had an outside chance to win – requiring 110 runs in 15 overs. Dickwella urged his partner Roshen Silva to have a crack but the senior opted to play it safe.
Sri Lanka were 1-0 down in the series. Dickwella’s attitude was to square the series and in the process if the team ended up losing 2-0 tough luck. Here’s a guy who plays to win. You need chaps like that moving forward.
KJP has already got too much on his plate. This is a young side. He has to lead from front and why take up the additional burden of keeping wickets too. Let him give it to the nation’s best wicketkeeper – Dickwella.
We are yet to see Dickwella’s best – both cricket skills and madness. Sometimes madness is required to get under the skin of someone like Virat Kohli. Not often does the Indian captain get into an ugly altercation with an opponent and then praises him.
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