by Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka’s Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne has hit a purple patch this year and the 147 he scored against West Indies in the first Test in Galle this week was his fourth hundred in 2021. The 33-year-old came up with an equally solid 83 in the second essay as Sri Lanka won by 187 runs and a session to spare.
His exploits have seen him accumulating 854 runs this year in Test cricket at an average of 77. Only Joe Root and Rohit Sharma have scored more runs in 2021 although they have played more games with the England captain featuring in 12 Tests and the Indian star appearing in 11 games compared to Dimuth’s six Tests.
Dimuth has now scored six consecutive half-centuries and a 50 in the second Test starting on Monday will see him equaling a World Record shared by six other players. Everton Weeks, Kumar Sangakkara, Andy Flower, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, Chris Rogers and K.L. Rahul have all scored seven consecutive fifties in Test cricket.
In the list of most runs in Test cricket for Sri Lanka, Dimuth went past former skipper Arjuna Ranatunga this year and he is currently the ninth highest run scorer. He’s on 5406 runs and if he scores 96 more runs in the second Test, he will knock off three more Sri Lankan greats; Tilan Samaraweera (5462), T.M. Dilshan (5492) and Marvan Atapattu (5502). That will see him sitting at number six among the highest run scorers for the country.
Dimuth is hungry for runs and he wants to finish his career with 10,000 Test runs. Only two other Sri Lankan greats have achieved the milestone. Kumar Sangakkara with 12,400 runs and Mahela Jayawardene with 11,814 runs are the only members of the exclusive 10,000 club.
“Scoring 10,000 runs is my dream. I don’t know if I’ll be able to achieve that, but that’s what I’ve got in my mind. If I can continue this form, I’ll be able to get close to 10,000 runs. I like to improve as much as I can, and whenever I finish a match, I’ll go and check where I am on the Sri Lanka run charts, to figure out how many I need to score to pass someone,” Karunaratne explained.
The Sri Lankan captain was Man of the Match as Sri Lanka took a 1-0 lead to retain the Sobers-Tissera Trophy. The win also enabled Sri Lanka to collect 12 points in the ICC Test Championship.
Exciting finish in Galle
Sri Lanka ‘A’ came agonizingly close to wining the first unofficial Test against England Lions in Galle on Friday as they claimed seven wickets after setting a target of 333. The Sri Lankans had only themselves to blame as they gave their bowlers only 48 overs to have a crack at the Englishmen.
After quick Milan Ratnayake accounted for the first three wickets to fall, his new ball partner Amshi de Silva claimed another wicket to reduce England to 67 for four. There was some resistance from Josh Bohannon (57) and Jack Haynes (43) who added 88 runs for the fifth wicket. Off-spinner Lakshitha Manasinghe provided the breakthrough by removing both batters. However time was running out and at younger levels captains should be encouraged for sporting declarations.
On the final day, Sri Lanka ‘A’ resumed from the overnight score of 580 for three and declared on 663 for nine having batted for 19 overs and added 83 runs.
Opening batsman Nishan Madushka was the hero posting 241 in a 423 ball marathon in which he hit 25 fours and four sixes. He added 219 runs for the fourth wicket with captain Nipun Dananjaya, who made 128. Test batsman Oshada Fernando too posted a hundred after Lakshitha Manasinghe (73) and Nuwanindu Fernando (80) hit half-centuries.
It was a remarkable fight back by Sri Lanka ‘A’ after they were shot out for 136 in their first innings with Test fast bowler Matthew Fischer claiming five wickets. England Lions then responded with 467 all out. With a first innings deficit of 331, Sri Lanka were under tremendous pressure and they did well to dig themselves out of trouble.
Up to 40 countries could boycott Paris Olympic Games, says Poland sports minister
Up to 40 countries could boycott the next Olympic Games, making the whole event pointless, said Poland’s sport and tourism minister Kamil Bortniczuk.His comments came after Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia jointly rejected an International Olympic Committee (IOC) plan to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete in 2024.
Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Paris Olympics if that occurs.But the IOC said on Thursday that any boycott would only “punish athletes”.
Bortniczuk said he believed it would be possible to build a coalition of 40 countries, including Great Britain, the United States and Canada, to support a block on the IOC’s plans before a meeting on 10 February.
He added: “Considering this I don’t think we will face tough decisions before the Olympics and, if we were to boycott the Games, the coalition we will be a part of will be broad enough to make holding the Games pointless.”
The IOC announced last week that it would “explore a pathway” to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris under a neutral flag, adding that “no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport”.
The move prompted condemnation, with the UK Government saying the plan was a “world away from the reality of war”.
Ukraine sports minister Vadym Guttsait said the country’s sporting bodies needed to “strengthen communication” with international federations to keep a ban in place on Russian and Belarusian athletes, which was imposed by the IOC’s executive committee immediately after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
However, IOC president Thomas Bach has since said that was only intended as a “protective” measure towards those athletes, and now insists they should not be discriminated against.On Thursday, sports ministers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland said “any effort by the International Olympic Committee to bring back Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, even under a neutral flag, should be rejected”.
They added: “Efforts to return Russian and Belarusian athletes to international sports competitions under the veil of neutrality legitimize political decisions and widespread propaganda of these countries.”
And they called on “all international sports organisations and federations” to remove Russian and Belarusians athletes from international competitions until the war ends.
The United States government said it supports suspending Russian and Belarusian sport governing bodies from international sports organisations and is also encouraging organisations to stop broadcasting events into both countries.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre added that, if athletes are permitted to participate in events such as the Olympics, it should be as neutral athletes and “it should be absolutely clear that they are not representing the Russian or Belarusian states”.
The IOC reiterated that no discussions on the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to competition had yet taken place and warned Ukraine and other nations about the implications of threatening a boycott.
“Threatening a boycott of the Olympic Games, which the NOC of Ukraine is currently considering, goes against the fundamentals of the Olympic movement and the principles it stands for,” the IOC wrote in a question-and-answer document published on Thursday.
“A boycott is a violation of the Olympic charter, which obliges all NOCs to ‘participate in the Games of the Olympiad by sending athletes’. As history has shown, previous boycotts did not achieve their political ends and served only to punish the athletes of the boycotting NOCs.”
South Africa’s chances of direct World Cup qualification hit by over-rate penalty
South Africa’s hopes of direct qualification for the ODI World Cup later this year have suffered a setback after they were docked one point from their tally in the Super League standings for maintaining a slow over-rate during their defeat to England in the third ODI in Kimberley on Wednesday.
Match referee Jeff Crowe imposed the sanction, finding Temba Bavuma’s team to be one over short of the target after time allowances were taken into consideration. South Africa were also fined 20% of their match fee for the offence.
South Africa are currently ninth with 78 points – they had 79 before the penalty – in the ODI Super League. The top eight teams gain automatic qualification to the 2023 World Cup, while the bottom five in the Super League will have to play the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier along with five Associate teams. Two teams from that qualifier will then progress to the World Cup and complete the line-up of ten contenders.
Seven of the top eight spots in the Super League have already been taken by New Zealand, India, England, Pakistan, Australia, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The only spot that is still open is presently occupied by West Indies, who have 88 points, with South Africa (78), Sri Lanka (77) and Ireland (68) in the running as well.
Qualification scenarios for the 2023 World Cup South Africa
Played: 19, Points: 78, NRR: -0.410, Remaining matches: 2 vs Neth (H)
Two wins for South Africa will take them to 98 points (barring any further over-rate penalties). Sri Lanka can go past them if they win all three ODIs in New Zealand, which is a tall order given that New Zealand have a 17-4 win-loss in home ODIs in the last four years. With South Africa being docked a point, Ireland can also catch up with them on 98 if they win all three matches in Bangladesh. In that case, net run rate will come into play.
If the South Africa-Netherlands series ends 1-1, South Africa will finish level with West Indies, while Sri Lanka can move past them with two wins (or one win and two washouts).
Played: 21, Points: 77, NRR: -0.094, Remaining matches: 3 vs NZ (A)
Sri Lanka will qualify for sure if they beat New Zealand 3-0 (or if they win 2-0 with one washout). However, if they lose a game, then they will depend on other results going their way: both South Africa and Ireland can go past them if they finish on 97.
Played: 21, Points: 68, NRR-0.382, Remaining matches: 3 vs Ban (in England)
They have two series three-match ODI series against Bangladesh on their calendar. One in March which doesn’t count towards the Super League and one in May which does. A 3-0 series win in that will take Ireland to 98 points, which will be enough for qualification if Sri Lanka don’t win all three games in New Zealand, and if Ireland finish ahead of South Africa (on points or NRR).
Played: 24, Points: 88, NRR-0.738, Remaining matches: 0
West Indies have completed their eight bilateral series in the Super League, and can only hope that none of the other teams in contention reach 88 points – they will probably lose out on NRR as theirs is currently the lowest among these teams.
For West Indies to make it, South Africa should lose 2-0 to Netherlands, and Sri Lanka and Ireland should win no more than one game in their remaining series.
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