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Dilshi, Amasha, Kalinga among half a dozen to reach tough elite standard



98th National Athletics Championship – Review

by Reemus Fernando

With Sri Lanka Athletics announcing qualifying standards in advance to select several pools targeting international events, the 98th National Athletics Championship, which concluded on Tuesday, witnessed a number of athletes pushing their limits to produce outstanding performances. Despite being hampered by the absence of preparation meets including the trial meets which were abandoned in the eleventh hour due to the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, several athletes inspired the rest to be resolute even in adversity.

Sprinter Amasha de Silva and middle distance runner Dilshi Kumarasinghe who announced their arrival at the Asian Junior Championships in 2018 as future prospects, not only cemented their positions as formidable senior contenders at this meet but also provided hope of earning top Asian rankings.

Both turned tables on senior campaigners. Amasha the athlete trained by Sanjeewa Weerakkody clocked an outstanding 11.55 seconds to win the 100 metres dash. It was hailed as one of the top 100 metres performances in history by a female athlete. The outstanding feat secured the former Swarnamali Balika sprinter a place in the Sri Lanka Athletics elite pool as she overpowered former champion Rumeshika Ratnayake.

Dilshi Kumarasinghe surprised the veterans Nimali Liyanarachchi and Gayanthika Abeyratne during the last 200 metres of the 800 metres final. With her outstanding feat she not only secured her a place in the elite pool but also pushed the two veterans out of their comfort zones to achieve the qualifying marks to enter the elite pool. The 2:0280 seconds effort was outstanding in many ways. It improved her personal best and got her almost closer to the national record held by Liyanarachchi and powered her to the second position in the Asian Rankings. However, the former Ratnayake Central, Walala athlete did not do justice to her true potential in the 400 metres pushing hard a bit too late.

A feat of 53.47 seconds to win the women’s 400 metres was a welcome sign as Nadeesha Ramanayake, who was making a return after being sidelined at the South Asian Games due to dengue fever, retained her title. Kumarasinghe clocked 53.81 seconds to settle for silver. But had she given her best, it would have stood in good stead for Ramanayake too as a closer competition would have pushed them to the elite pool. The qualifying standard for the elite pool in the 400 metres was 53.20 seconds.

Sprinter Kalinga Kumarage who was returning to track after two years following a Disciplinary Committee clearing him of doping, clocked a wind-assisted 20.79 seconds to win the men’s 200 metres. His 400 metres performance of 46.25 seconds secured him the place in the elite pool.

While men’s long jumpers struggled competing against the wind, South Asian Games gold medalist Sarangi Silva touched the elite qualifying mark clearing a championship record distance of 6.33 metres in the women’s long jump.

Gayanthika Abeyratne was well within the range of the standard set for elite athletes when she clocked 4:17.58 seconds to win the women’s 1500 metres.

Triple jumpers Hashini Balasooriya (13.07 metres in the women’s event) and Sanjaya Jayasinghe (16.32 m) and Sreshan Dananjaya (16.12m in the men’s event) were outstanding but fell just short of securing a place in the elite pool. So was Olympian Sumeda Ranasinghe who had a notable 76.10 metres which was better than his South Asian Games bronze winning feat.

Ireshani Rajasinghe (13.85 secs) clinched the national title winning the 100 metres hurdles against defending champion Lakshika Sugandi (13.89 secs). Both were notable performances for athletes returning to action after one year.

A majority of athletes returning for their first meet in a year found it hard to match the elite standard. Even Nilani Ratnayake, who has a high world ranking, eligible to secure a place in the Olympics, could not reach the elite selection timing finishing her pet event the 3000 metres steeplechase (in 10:15.86 seconds) some 15 seconds slower.

One could feel sorry for Rusiru Chathuranga who was left at the threshold of the qualifying mark of the elite pool with his 1:49.82 seconds effort in the men’s 800 metres. With other leading runners including National record holder Indunil Herath failing to get even to the national pool mark (1:51.50 secs) the Asian Championship participant Chathuranga’s effort must be commended.

Sprinter Himasha Eshan’s 10.27 seconds in the 100 metres had assistance from wind.

It would augur well for athletes if the Athletics authorities could reconsider the standard for elite pool before finalizing it.

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Ramesh Mendis set to debut in Galle



Rex Clementine at Galle Fort

Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda has presented the nation with some exceptional talents be it cricket, basketball, swimming, military, public service or politics. Ramesh Mendis could be the latest sensation to come from the school as he is expected to make his Test debut today against England in the second Test here in Galle.

The 25-year-old Mendis is expected to play instead of Dasun Shanaka as Sri Lanka strengthen their spin department. He has been more than a reliable player with the bat too in First Class cricket having posted five hundreds for Moors SC.

Mendis, a son of a policeman, is yet another cricketer to benefit from the scholarship scheme of Foundation of Goodness run by philanthropist Kushil Gunasekara. Sri Lankan legend Muttiah Muralitharan rates him highly. He has got a good reputation as a leader as well having captained SSC for the Under-23 title a few seasons ago. The last three seasons he has been with Moors.

Sri Lanka will make two other changes for the must win game briniging in seamer Suranga Lakmal and Oshada Fernando. Both players return to the side after injuries and replace Kusal Mendis and Wanindu Hasaranga.

England only need a draw to win the series but a draw will be the last thing in their minds. They are currently fourth in the ICC Test Championship standings and a win here will give them 60 points. That will enable them to move above Australia to third place. Their 412 points would be just behind second placed New Zealand (420).

England are expected to do three changes. All three seamers who played the last Test are expected to be left out with James Anderson, Olly Stone and Chris Woakes expected to return. None of the seamers did badly in the last Test but it shows England’s depth.

Sri Lanka need to pull up their socks, especially after a pathetic show in the first innings where they were bowled out for 135. The hosts came up with an improved performance in their second innings but they were only catching up.


Sri Lanka (Probable XI)

Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Perera, Oshada Fernando, Dinesh Chandimal (Captain), Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (Wicketkeeper), Ramesh Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Lasith Embuldeniya, Asitha Fernando, and Suranga Lakmal.

England (Probable XI)

Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root (Captain), Daniel Lawrence, Jos Buttler (Wicketkeeper), Chris Woakes, Jack Leach, Dom Bess, Olly Stone and James Anderson


Kumar Dharmasena (SL) and Ruchira Palliyaguruge (SL)

Third Umpire:

Lyndon Hannibal (SL)

Match Referee:

Ranjan Madugalle (SL)

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Lasith Malinga retires from franchise cricket



Lasith Malinga has retired from franchise cricket, his IPL team Mumbai Indians revealed on Wednesday. The Sri Lankan speedster informed his decision to the Mumbai Indians management earlier this month, making himself unavailable for the upcoming season and wasn’t retained in the squad.

Malinga has been a part for Mumbai Indians since the second season of IPL, missing only two editions – 2018 and 2020. He served as the bowling mentor of the side in 2018 before returning to playing duties and delivering Mumbai a title win – his fourth with the team – with what has turned out to be his final delivery in the competition. He missed the 2020 season due to personal reasons but remains the highest wicket-taker in the tournament’s history with 170 scalps to his credit, from 122 appearances.

The Sri Lankan speedster has also been a part of Jamaica Tallawahs, Guyana Amazon Warriors, Khulna Tigers, Rangpur Riders and Melbourne Stars among other T20 franchises around the world. With 390 wickets in 295 matches, he is only behind Dwayne Bravo in the list of leading T20 wicket-takers. His last T20 appearance came in March 2020, when he led Sri Lanka against West Indies, and hasn’t played any games during the pandemic.

Speaking of his decision Malinga said: “After discussing with my family, I think now is the right time to retire from all franchise cricket. The pandemic situation and the restrictions on travel will make it difficult for me given my personal circumstances to participate fully in franchise cricket for the next year and therefore it is best to make this decision now.

“I have discussed the same with Mumbai Indians management in recent days as they prepare for the upcoming auction and they have been very supportive and understanding. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Ambani family, everyone at the Mumbai Indians franchise and all our fans for the wonderful 12 years.

“Mumbai Indians has treated me like family, supporting me 100 % in every situation both on and off the field, and always giving me the confidence and the freedom to play my natural game whenever I walked onto the field.

“I have collected so many happy memories that I cherish and I am very grateful to have played for so long for the best franchise in world cricket. I would like to wish Mrs Nita Ambani, coach Mahela Jayawardene, Akash Ambani and the MI family all the best for the upcoming season.” (Cricbuzz)

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Lakmal  and Oshada set to return for second Test  



By Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s card game heroes Suranga Lakmal and Oshada Fernando are expected to make a return to the side for the second Test against England that gets underway at the Galle International Stadium tomorrow.

The former captain and number three batsman were caught on camera engaging in card games as Sri Lanka were collapsing in a hurry to be bowled out for 135 on the opening day of the first Test. The players were one floor above the dressing room, formerly the press box but now reserved for families of the players.

There was intense criticism at the players’ action and Sri Lanka Cricket decided to send all additional players home. During COVID times, the squad has been extended to 22 players. So while five players were sent home on Tuesday, two more will be leaving the bio-bubble on the day of the match reducing the squad to 15 players.

Lakmal and Oshada have been on the mend for more than a month now. They were taken to South Africa still recovering from injuries and failed to get back to full fitness during the Test series and were unavailable for the opening Test against England as well which Sri Lanka lost by seven wickets.

Lakmal, Oshada and Lakshan Sandakan who were all involved in card games were lucky not to be sent home or face sanctions.

Kusal Mendis has been axed from the side and one of the three spinners is expected to be dropped as Sri Lanka are looking to strengthen their seam bowling options. Instead of them, Lakmal and Oshada will play.

Niroshan  Dickwella meanwhile will continue to bat at number six. With Dhananjaya de Silva out of the  side, Sri Lanka took a massive gamble by getting Dickwella to bat at six. The thinking of the team management is understandable as they seem to be keen on the  wicketkeeper to take up more responsibility. Dickwella failed. But he’s been backed to come good. His wicket keeping has been pretty good but in Galle he spilled a few chances and his reviewing was appalling.

England meanwhile are expected to rest all three seamers who played the opening Test. So, with Stuart Broad, Sam Curran and Mark Wood expected to be left out, Olly Stone, James Anderson and Chris Woakes are expected to get a game.

England need only a draw to win the series. They have not lost a series in Sri Lanka in 14 years.

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