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DILSHAN – THERE’S BEEN NEVER ONE LIKE HIM

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by Rex Clementine

A reporter once informed T.M. Dilshan that the scoop shot had brought about his downfall umpteen times and he should reconsider playing it frequently. Dilshan said that there is a 90 percent chance of him scoring a boundary off the shot and a ten percent chance of getting dismissed. He added that he would trust his instincts and play the stroke first ball in the next game if it was in the zone. True to form he did it. The reporter never gave Dilshan batting tips after that Dilshan turned 44 yesterday and many anecdotes relating to him were recalled on social media.

Four Sri Lankans have scored more than 10,000 runs in ODI cricket. The usual suspects are Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene, people hardly remember Dilshan’s name. It has been a case throughout his career. He always lived in the shadows of Mahela and Sanga. But make no mistake. He was a vital cog in the Sri Lankan wheel for more than a decade and mighty effective too.

There is nothing in cricket that he could not do. He was a prominent figure in the middle order filling in the big shoes of Arjuna Ranatunga. Then the selectors asked him to move up the order as Sanath Jayasuriya was set to bring the curtain down on his remarkable career. How did he fill these shoes? Effortless.

Dilshan played his last game for Sri Lanka two months before his 40th birthday. Even at that stage he was the team’s best fielder – by a country mile. The selectors were at ease when Dilshan was in the side as they could be flexible and experiment. He could keep wickets. He could bowl ten overs of tidy off-spin. There was nothing in the game of cricket that was impossible for him. He was a Jack of all trade and a master of them too.

Dilshan was the Hobson’s choice for captaincy in 2011. A tour of England was his first assignment. He faced many challenges. The team’s premier fast bowler retired hastily. The players arrived in England in different batches giving priority to their IPL commitments and Sri Lanka looked a team in disarray. True to form they were blown away for 82 runs in the opening Test in Cardiff to lose by an innings. It was time for Dilshan to lead from the front. He surely did in the next Test posting a career best 193 at Lord’s and in the process broke Sidath Wettimuny’s record for the highest individual score at the Home of Cricket by a Sri Lankan – a record that had stood for more than a quarter century. Ironically, it was Wettimuny who had picked Dilshan from total oblivion in 1999.

The rumblings continued. Despite the setbacks Sri Lanka won their maiden Test match in South Africa when they overcame the Proteas in Durban. Dilshan’s leadership skills should have been celebrated. Yet, he was sacked unceremoniously at the end of the tour. The then President of Sri Lanka Cricket had conspired with a senior player to remove Dilshan after the tour come what may. It was a deal, sealed at Perera Gardens.

You tend to get the feeling that some seniors were disruptive elements during Dilshan’s captaincy. Dilshan captained the side in nine Tests away from home. There was one particular senior who did not make a single half-century in those nine games. Yet, he shamelessly took up the captaincy when Dilshan was sacked. 

Next up Australia. If someone did something wrong to you, you would naturally want to give them a taste of their own medicine? Not Dilshan. He came off with flying colours in Australia in the tri-nation competition finishing as the highest run getter of the tournament. Mind you this was the very next series after he had been sacked as skipper. His 513 was more than that of David Warner (506), Virat Kohli (373) et al. So next time you hear rumours questioning Dilshan’s honesty do keep in mind that Perera Gardens and not Maitland Place used to run our cricket a decade ago.



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Will Smeed hits the Hundred’s first hundred to get Birmingham Phoenix off the mark

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Will Smeed hit the first hundred in the Hundred as Birmingham Phoenix thrashed reigning champions Southern Brave by 53 runs in a sun-soaked Second City.On NHS Heroes Night at Edgbaston, with NHS workers and support staff invited along as a thank you for their brilliant work, a 14,000 crowd was royally entertained as Smeed socked an unbeaten 101 off 50 balls to lift his side to 176 for 4.Brave replied with a paltry 123 all out as Henry Brookes enjoyed a dream debut on the ground he has always called home. The Edgbaston product took 5 for 25 and two excellent catches in the outfield as Phoenix banked their first victory of the campaign and handed James Vince’s side their first defeat in nine matches.

After Phoenix were put in, they leaned heavily on Smeed after Chris Benjamin, promoted to open, and Moeen Ali each raced to 17 but then perished. Benjamin sent up a skier off Marcus Stoinis before Moeen, having lifted George Garton deep into the crowd at midwicket, chopped James Fuller’s first ball on to his stumps.Smeed galloped to a 25-ball half-century, reached with six over long off off Jake Lintott in a stand of 80 in 44 balls with Liam Livingstone. Livingstone was the top six-hitter in last year’s Hundred, but this time never really hit his stride, scoring just two from his first seven balls and 21 from 20 before lifting Lintott to extra cover.

Into the last ten balls, the big question was whether Smeed could complete his first professional hundred. He needed five runs from the last three, and a four and a two took him to the landmark from 49 balls.Phoenix set about defending their total with an increasingly depleted seam attack, Adam Milne (Achilles) having joined Matt Fisher, Chris Woakes and Olly Stone on the absentee list. But Kane Richardson soon stepped up, bowling Vince with his first ball after the Brave captain had smote Moeen for 16 in three balls in the first set.

Richardson conceded just a single from his first five balls and Phoenix struck again when Stoinis was brilliantly caught by Brookes at short fine leg off Tom Helm.Brookes followed that up in sensational style by striking with his second, tenth, 13th, 15th and 17th balls. Quinton de Kock sent back a return catch, Tim David lifted to deep square leg, Alex Davies was bowled through an attempted scoop and Fuller and Garton were pinned lbw. Who needs Milne, Fisher, Woakes and Stone?

Brookes hadn’t quite finished. At 108 for 7, Brave’s one sliver of remaining hope lay in some pyrotechnics from the big-hitting Ross Whiteley, but when he hoiked Benny Howell to long leg who was waiting underneath the ball? Brookes made no mistake and Phoenix closed out a victory which owed everything to the precocious talent of two young Englishmen.Birmingham Phoenix 176 for 4 (Will Smeed 101*) beat Southern Brave 123 (Alex Davies 33, Henry Brookes 5-25, Kane Richardson 3-19) by 53 runs

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Niroshan Dickwella stars in Greens 8-run win over Reds

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Opening batsman Niroshan Dickwella hammered an unbeaten 76 off 56 balls packed with 8 boundaries as Team Greens defeated Team Reds by 8 runs to register back to back wins in the SLC Skyexchange Invitational T20 League 2022 at the R. Premadasa International Stadium yesterday. Batting first the Greens ran up 161 for 6 off 20 overs with Dickwella dominating the innings. Skipper Dasun Shanaka struck 21 off 12 hitting 3 boundaries before getting run out followed by Dhananjaya de Silva 19 off 12 with 3 boundaries and Ramesh Mendis 11 off 8 (1×4).

The Reds did make a match out of it making 153 for 5 but lacked the final charge to make it despite having enough wickets in hand. Bhanuka Rajapaksa top scored with 34 off 28 with 2 boundaries while skipper Kusal Mendis made 30 off 28 with 3 boundaries and Kamindu Mendis 24 off 22 hitting a six.Upfront opening batsman Lasith Croospulle struck 31 off 24 inclusive of 3 boundaries for the Reds. Dickwella was adjudged Player of the Match.

CHIEF SCORES:

Team Greens 161/6 (20 Overs) (Niroshan Dickwella n.o. 76, Dasun Shanaka 21, Dhananjaya de Silva 19,.Dinesh Chandimal 15, Ramesh Mendis 11, Asitha Fernando 2/32, Sahan Arachchige 1/13, Matheesha Pathirana 1/25, Wanindu Hasaranga 1/30).

Team Reds

153/5 (20 Overs) (Bhanuka Rajapaksa 34, Lasith Croospulle 31, Kusal Mendis 30, Kamindu Mendis 24, Sahan Arachchige n.o. 19, Ramesh Mendis 1/22, Nimesh Vimukthi 1/23, Nuwan Thushara 1/32, Dhananjaya Lakshan 1/39).

(SLC)

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New Zealand juggernaut rolls on with another all-round win

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Odean Smith’s all-round show went in vain as West Indies’ batting once again did not manage to come to the party. Chasing 186, West Indies fell 13 runs short in the opening T20I in Jamaica as New Zealand’s juggernaut rolled on.

New Zealand had their returning skipper Kane Williamson put up a solid 47 off 33, and with Devon Conway’s 29-ball 43, the pair gave New Zealand a solid foundation to pile on the runs. There was a rain interruption in the 12th over for almost two hours, and although New Zealand lost momentum, briefly then, they recovered pretty quickly. Glenn Phillips and Daryl Mitchell got starts but couldn’t convert them. It was, however, Jimmy Neesham’s 15-ball 33 in the end that propelled New Zealand towards the finish they wanted. Odean Smith finished with a career-best 3-32, striking at vital junctures to dismiss New Zealand’s top three; else the West Indies could’ve been chasing a lot more.

Tim Southee struck in the second over to dismiss Kyle Mayers, but West Indies would take heart from Shamarh Brooks’s fighting 42 off 43 while wickets fell at the other end as all of New Zealand’s bowlers cashed in. West Indies were reduced to 114/7 with the inevitable end drawing closer, but resistance came, albeit late, of 50 off 23 balls from the eighth-wicket stand Smith and Romario Shepherd.

Smith smashed four boundaries and a six in his unbeaten 27 off 12, while Shepherd struck three sixes and a four in his 31 not out off 16 balls. New Zealand’s spinners shone through once again on a wicket that assisted them, returning four wickets. Santner was the pick with 3-19 in his four leading New Zealand’s defence, making the most of the knowledge gained from his CPL experience.

Brief scores:New Zealand 185/5 in 20 overs (Kane Williamson 47, Devon Conway 43; Odean Smith 3-32) beat West Indies 172/7 in 20 overs (Shamarh Brooks 42; Mitchell Santner 3-19) by 13 runs.

(Cricbuzz)

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