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.
Will Smeed hits the Hundred’s first hundred to get Birmingham Phoenix off the mark
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
Niroshan Dickwella stars in Greens 8-run win over Reds
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.
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).
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).
New Zealand juggernaut rolls on with another all-round win
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.
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