by Rex Clementine
There’s been a lot said and written on fitness levels of Sri Lanka’s cricketers in recent days. A fitness test scheduled for last week was delayed after the players were forced to self quarantine with top order batsman Lahiru Thirimanne and Head Coach Mickey Arthur testing positive for COVID-19. Thirimanne had attended cricketer Sadeera Samarawickrama’s wedding and his close contacts were made to stay indoors.
The players and support staff were made to go through PCR tests before they could resume training and after all tests returned negative, health authorities have given them the green light to go ahead with training.
The players’ skin folds will be tested today along with other fitness measures. Skin folds are an indicator of total amount of body fat.
But the biggest attention will be on the two kilometer run that has been introduced as a new fitness measure. The two kilometer run will take place on Saturday evening and the players will have to complete the distance in eight minutes and 35 seconds.
Several probables for the West Indies tour had failed the fitness test a fortnight ago while one-day opener Avishka Fernando had failed the fitness test twice in the space of ten days.
Sri Lanka Cricket had promised to address the issue of poor fitness levels among players firmly; earlier indicating that anyone who fails the fitness test will be ineligible for selections. The board also has threatened to cut down on players’ salary if anyone failed a fitness test. The board also pulled out No Objection Certificates (NOC) for some contracted players to take part in a franchise tournament in UAE.
The more scientific approach seems to be that if someone failed a fitness test, he would be given a month long period to prove himself. A second failure will result in a player being made unavailable for selections.
With most players having had little time to train during their self quarantine period at home, they will be hoping for more leniency from the coaching staff.
SLC said that the squad will resume training on the 16th of February with the hope of taking part in the tour of West Indies. The details of the tour are being discussed with Cricket West Indies. The teams are set to play two Tests, three ODIs and three T-20s in the Caribbean.
New Zealand Tour of West Indies
Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph set up West Indies five-wicket win
On a surface aiding the bowlers, Akeal Hosein made merry with a devastating spell of 3 for 28 in 10 overs while Alzarri Joseph too picked three wickets, bundling out the visitors for just 190 in the 46th over. The chase was not straightforward by any stretch of imagination, but Shamarh Brooks’s calm 79 off 91 balls ensured West Indies tasted rare ODI success in the series opener in Barbados.
Given the tricky conditions, Martin Guptill and Finn Allen made a circumspect start, until the seventh over when the latter took on Jason Holder to clobber one four and two sixes. New Zealand got to 40/0 in 8 overs when the passing showers halted play briefly. Though the break was hardly for 10 minutes, it allowed West Indies to regroup and make quick inroads right after play resumed. First to go was Allen, as he danced down to take on the left-arm spinner Hosein, only for Nicholas Pooran to run back from extra cover and take an excellent, diving catch.
Hosein took out Guptill in his following over to dent NZ further. New Zealand struggled for partnerships from there on as they fell from 53 for 2 to 116 for 5, even as Kane Williamson fought on from one end. That endeavour too was brought to a premature end, as Alzarri Joseph dismissed him for a 50-ball 34 – that ended up being the best batting effort for New Zealand in the game. A 40-run stand for the seventh wicket between Michael Bracewell and Mitchell Santner, followed by a 20-run alliance between Santner and Tim Southee pushed New Zealand past the 150-run mark and close to 200. But Southee and Boult fell in successive overs, leaving New Zealand with 190 in 45.2 overs.
Four balls into the chase, rain arrived again. But this time too it was passing showers that kept the players off the field for 15-odd minutes. When they returned, the senior duo of Boult and Southee saw the back of the West Indies openers by the sixth over, pushing West Indies on the backfoot early in chase. Up stepped Brooks to forge solid partnerships to defy the New Zealand bowlers as he and Keacy Carty added 37 for the third wicket off 48 deliveries. But Santner trapped him leg before to keep the pressure on the chasing side as they were down to 74 for 3. What ensued was the match-winning partnership between Brooks and his captain Nicholas Pooran, as they batted out the next 14.3 overs to add 75 runs.
Southee then came back with some success, as he induced an inside edge off Pooran’s bat that wicketkeeper Tom Latham pouched low. Brooks, who’d got his half-century during his partnership with Pooran, was set to see his team through to the finish line, before Boult too returned to clean him up. But at 149 for 4, New Zealand’s strikes were too little too late. Jason Holder and Jermaine Blackwood – who was playing in his first ODI since 2015 – saw the team through with five wickets and 11 overs to spare.
Rabada five for floors England
Rex Clementine at Lord’s
There aren’t too many lethal bowling attacks in the world than South Africa’s. Well spearheaded by Kagiso Rabada, captain Dean Elgar can turn to Anrich Nortje if he wants extra pace or rely on the versatile Lungi Ngidi for control. If variety is what the South African captain is after, he can bring on Marco Jansen, the left-arm quick. Given such a pace attack, the spin option of Keshav Maharaj becomes indispensable and he wasn’t required to bowl as England were shot out for 165 in their first innings.
The Rainbow Nation is well represented with blacks, whites and coloured players forming the nucleus of the attack. Rabada finished with a five wicket haul, becoming the fourth South African since readmission to get his name in the Honours Board; others being Allan Donald (2), Makaya Ntini (2) and Vernon Philander. How Shaun Pollock and Dale Steyn missed out is indeed a good question.
Rabada had overnight batsman Ollie Pope dropped in the first over of the morning but eventually he cleaned him up for 73. The fifth wicket came when James Anderson was trapped leg before wicket, a decision the batsman unsuccessfully reviewed.
Nortje, probably the quickest bowler in the world at the moment, claimed three wickets while Jansen had two scalps. The 22-year-old from Potchefstroom is considered the next big thing in South African cricket. It’s said he could go onto fill the boots of Jacques Kallis but if he could achieve half the things the great all-rounder finished with, South African cricket will benefit immensely.
South Africa had moved to 27 for no loss at lunch. The first day had been interrupted by bad weather with just 32 overs possible.
Sri Lanka have been well represented at Lord’s Test with former captain Ranjan Madugalle functioning as Match Referee while Kumar Sangakkara is a commentator with Sky. The ex-skipper has signed a three years deal with the host broadcaster replacing Michael Holding.
Emma Raducanu routes Victoria Azarenka in Cincinnati
British number one Emma Raducanu produced another eye-catching display as she routed former world number one Victoria Azarenka less than 24 hours after beating Serena Williams.Raducanu continued her preparations for the forthcoming defense of her US Open title with a 6-0 6-2 win in Cincinnati.
The 19-year-old played Belarusian veteran Azarenka just 18 hours after beating Williams, who will retire after the US Open, 6-4 6-0 on Tuesday.Raducanu faces Jessica Pegula next.The Briton, ranked 13th in the world, will meet the American seventh seed in the last 16 of the Western and Southern Open on Thursday.
“I was playing a great match for sure and to play Vika I had to stay focused throughout,” said Raducanu, who beat 22nd-ranked Azarenka to earn her first top-30 win since last year’s US Open.
Raducanu stunned the sporting world with her unexpected triumph in New York last year, when she became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title in what was only her fourth senior tournament.
The victory propelled the previously little-known teenager into global superstardom, but she has since faced the difficulties often encountered by young players in their first full season on the WTA Tour.Regularly hampered by fitness issues this year as she adjusts to the rigours of the senior tour, Raducanu arrived in Cincinnati with a record of 11 wins and 14 losses this season.But with her fearless and accurate ground strokes, she has so far shown a similar level in the WTA 1000 event to the one which led to her success at Flushing Meadows.
Pegula, however, is likely to provide a sterner test – and a more accurate appraisal of Raducanu’s current level – than Williams or Azarenka.In what was her first career meeting with 23-time major champion Williams and likely to be the last, the teenager clinically took advantage of the 40-year-old’s lack of sharpness by hitting 14 winners and making just one unforced error in a ruthless victory.After that night session, Raducanu returned to Cincinnati’s centre court against 33-year-old Azarenka and produced another dominant display.
The forehand continued to be a potent weapon, while she was also helped by wayward returning from the two-time Grand Slam champion.After cruising through a 26-minute opener to record a second straight bagel, Raducanu raced into a 4-0 lead in the next set, before Azarenka finally got on the scoreboard with back-to-back holds.She offered a little more belated resistance when Raducanu served for the match, earning two break points and saving a match point before the Briton wrapped up victory.
“In the second set I could feel the important moments and a couple of turning points that could have made the second set really difficult,” added Raducanu.
“I am really pleased with how I dug in, and serving it out in that last game was really difficult.”
American teenager Coco Gauff has played down the seriousness of the ankle injury which forced her to retire from a first round match against Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova on Tuesday.With her home Grand Slam looming, the 18-year-old said it was a minor sprain that “should be healed very soon”.
Romania’s Simona Halep pulled out of the Cincinnati event with a thigh injury before Wednesday’s match against Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova, while Polish world number one Iga Swiatek, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and Tunisia’s world number five Ons Jabeur reached the last 16.
New Zealand Tour of West Indies
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