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Exciting Test series awaits fans after hard-fought ODIs  

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Shane Warne took his 500th Test wicket in Galle in 2004. There are efforts by cricket and tourism officials to bring down Warne's family members to Galle for the series.

by Rex Clementine  

After three weeks of eight exciting one-day games, the Australians will now move to the south coast where Galle will host them for two Test matches. On paper, Sri Lanka, a team that had struggled in white-ball cricket for some seven years, had a snowball’s chance in hell. But cricket is such a funny game. One stunning run chance at Pallekele in the third T-20 scripted by Dasun Shanaka gave them confidence that there’s nothing impossible in sports and Sri Lanka looked a different side from thereon.

A lot has been said about the ODI series win being Sri Lanka’s first against Australia in 30 years at home. It is also their first-ever five-match series win against the five-time World Champions. It’s a pity that this series was not part of the ICC World Cup Super League. Had it been they would have carried vital points in a bid to qualify automatically for the World Cup. Now, even if they win their next six games in the Super League – against New Zealand away and Afghanistan home, they will not have enough points to go through.

The performance of several young players was the talking point. While Charith Asalanka and Pathum Nissanka posted their maiden hundreds, Kusal Mendis finally delivered coming up with consistent performances. Wanindu Hasaranga is feared by every opposition while Maheesh Theekshana has improved leaps and bounds. Dunith Wellalage looks a mature man for a 19-year-old and claimed some big wickets in the series. Chamika Karunaratne showed the potential of a true all-rounder who needs a bit more trust from his captain. He is nicknamed ‘suicide’ by his NCC team mates and while the energy is good it could also bring him trouble unless he controls his emotions when things heat up. But, Sri Lanka had played boring white ball cricket in the last half a decade and the least thing we should complain about is energy.

What really pleases you is that the team could have in fact won all five ODIs. The manner in which they chased down stiff targets and the character they showed defending below par totals gives you assurance that this team has turned a huge corner. The Aussies may give you a loan to come out of the economic crisis but they give no corner in sports and the manner in which the likes of David Warner and Glenn Maxwell were tamed was quite impressive. Warner in particular looked a pale shadow of his former self. The Sri Lankan players will be hoping that we have not spoken too early with regards to Warner.

Head Coach Chris Silverwood has certainly made an impact and during a media interaction, he agreed that this team has the potential to do greater things when they fire on all cylinders.  A lot of people feel that Australia will struggle in Galle as spin is their Achilees’ heel. But a look at stats would suggest that they have in fact done better in Galle having won two Tests and lost one. Those Australian sides that won in 2004 and 2011 played spin much better one may say. In the same breath Sri Lankan spinners of yesteryear were far better than the current inexperienced lot. The trio of Ramesh Mendis, Praveen Jayawickrama and Lasith Embuldeniya struggled in the recent Bangladesh Tests as pace won Sri Lanka the games. Hoping pace to win you Test matches against Australia is wishful thinking. But the good news for Sri Lanka is that their batsmen are in form. This will be a keenly contested series like the limited over games.

Australia are ranked number one in the world in Test match cricket. A 2-0 series win will see seventh-placed Sri Lanka climbing up to number five above Pakistan and England. A 1-0 series win will see them securing the number six spot.

With Pathum Nissanka returning to the side the team will have a few selection headaches as to which batsman to leave out. Opener Oshada Fernando who replaced him in Bangladesh when Nissanka was injured could be the casualty.

There will be lot of emotions as well when the Australian train today in Galle for the first time as it was here Shane Warne took his 500th wicket. A match bag of ten wickets by the late leg-spinner helped Australia win the Test 2004 Test match. Later that year, when the tsunami struck, he was the first cricketer to visit the city pledging his support to rebuild. The winners of the series will take away the Warne-Murali Trophy.



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All Seeded players through to semis

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P & S Sri Lanka Junior Open Golf Championship

The P&S Sri Lanka Junior Golf Match-play championship, sponsored by P&S Bakers group, entered the knock-out stage, with the quarter-final matches worked off with the seeded players moving through comfortably bar the thrilling cliff-hanger match between Jacob Norton Seeded 3 in the Silver Division and Varun Fernando (6th Seed) who fought all the way to take the match to the 20th hole, where Jacob prevailed.

Jacob Norton will meet second-seeded H.D. Adithya Weerasinghe (A’pura) who beat T. Deshan 6 & 4 comfortably. The top-seeded Reshan Algama beat Kaiyan Johnpillai convincingly 7 & 6, and will face fifth-seeded Jevahn Sathasivam who defeated fourth Seeded Keshav Algama with an easy 7 & 6 victory.

In the Gold Division, second-seeded Yannik Kumara withdrew after the qualifying round as he was scheduled to play in a tournament overseas and was not included in the match-play draw.

The top seed Haroon Aslam breezed through to the semi-final pulverizing W.G. Isurur  Shimal 9 & 7 and will meet Pranav Muralidharan the fourth seed who handsomely beat an experienced T. Vikash 7 & 6. In the bottom half of the Junior  Championship  Draw, second-seeded K. Danushan smashed Thenuk Sathnidu 8 & 7. He will play third seed Vinuka Weerasinghe who beat Yehan Kenthula 6 & 4.

In the Girls Gold Division number one seed Kaya Daluwatte will meet Yehani Perera who received a walk-over from Dhanushi Wanasinghe. Third seed Dhavinka Kanag-Isvaran beat R.M. Dinumi Sanjana 7 & 6 to set-up the second semi-final against second seed Sherin Balasuriya who also received a walk over from Sanduni Wanasinghe.

The Bronze Division Semi-Final clash between top seed Thejas Rathis Kanth and Keya Abhayarathne will be the feature battle. Keya Abhayarathne defeated Kaitlyn Norton 6 & 5 to set-up the semi-final match versus the top seed Thejas. In the bottom half of the draw second-seed Mohamed Saqeer Zuhar  will meet third-seeded Yehansa Senananayake.

In the Copper Division played over nine holes, Yuvan Rathis Kanth beat L.G. Anuja Methsara 6 & 4 to meet the second seed Jaeden Sathasivam whilst in the top half of the draw top seed Danik Daluwatte faces Taalia Silva.

The five semi-final matches scheduled for Thursday promise to be thrillers with the youngsters soaking in the pressure and performing well, adapting to the exciting Match-play format, that moulds the character of young golfers.

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Arjuna heads new Sports Council  

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Members of the newly appointed Sports Council pose with the Sports Minister

A new Sports Council was appointed by Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe yesterday with World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga taking the reign as the head of the apex body.

The other members of the Sports Council are: Lieutenant General H.L.V.M. Liyanage, Air Marshal S.K. Pathirana, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, Amal Edirisooriya, Maj. Gen. Rajitha Ampemohotti, Dr. Maiya Gunasekara, Shriyani Kulawansa, Ajith Pathirana, Sunil Jayaweera, Chrishantha Mendis, Lasitha Gunaratne, Nalinda Illangakoon, Sudath Chandrasekara, Sujani Bogollagama.

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NH bids adieu to Ladies’ College after 50-year stint as TT coach

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N.H Perera pictured with the Ladies’ College table tennis team players

By a Special Sports Correspondent

Former table tennis National Champion, National Coach and sporting legend N.H Perera probably set a record in the Sri Lankan school sporting arena when he retired from coaching Ladies’ College Colombo in the ping pong ball and racket game after serving this academic institute for 50 years.

NH, as he is fondly known in the table tennis circles, started coaching Ladies College back in 1972 following an invitation made to him by the teacher in charge of sports back then Delita Fernando. When he turns the pages of time the only reason that came to his mind to say yes to this coaching assignment was that he wanted to give something back to the sport. He was quite young then (21 to be exact) and had won the table tennis national singles crown twice (1968/70) by then. He recalled with fondness how the lasses from this school won the National School Games title in 2019.

He produced many outstanding female players from this school and the secret behind his success was him being a strict disciplinarian. At the time he said yes to coaching at Ladies’ College he had laid down a condition for the authorities of the school. That was to arrange practices in the morning. This was because he was gainfully employed in work done outside table tennis. This goes on to show the caliber of players in the golden years of the sport. A good many of them had the capacity to contribute to society using their brains and education unlike today where the players are forced to supplement their income through table tennis coaching. For the record, NH served several companies and institutes in many capacities; proving that engaging in competitive sport and showing commitment to employment are a possibility when the individual has the capacity to manage both. When he finally retired from work he held the post of Marketing Manager at United Arab Shipping Lines.

He had his education at Nalanda College and had the honour of being the first table tennis national captain to be produced by this academic institute.

He rates the 1970s as the golden era of the sport. “I say this because we were invited by the ITTF to contest the Afro Asian Latin American Table Tennis Championship in Peking, China. During his playing days, NH had beaten top players from Russia, China, and also Europe. The picture he sees now in Sri Lankan table tennis is not so rosy. “We even lost to Nepal at the last SA Games. I believe the TTASL must be dissolved and a Board of Control for Table Tennis must be formed instead. Today we see many coaches out there who cannot put the ball over the net,” said Perera.

NH sees more potential in the Sri Lanka female players. According to him, the women’s players from Sri Lanka had finished sixth at the previous Commonwealth Games. “I trust that the way forward would be to bring down a female table tennis coach and male trainer; both from China. This would raise the standard of our playing,” said Perera who many years ago qualified as a coach from the Peking University of China.

He also spoke about the psychological aspects to training players. NH underscored the importance of bringing in psychology to training to help players handle unexpected challenges in the game. “You have to do sessions to develop the minds of the players,” said Perera.

He is at present engaged in coaching the students at S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia. The school by the sea won the All Island Table Tennis Championships in 2019 under his guidance.

NH maintains high standards for his players and himself. He recalls an incident in the past; which occurred during the time he was young and already the national champion. “I was coming out of the YMCA training hall after training and a photographer asked me to pose for a picture. I was in slacks and this picture appeared in the newspaper. I was summoned to the TTASL and a top official asked me why I had disgraced the sport by not being properly attired for a photograph that appeared in a national newspaper. I learned a valuable lesson in life,” concluded Perera.

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