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History that wasn’t made in the Windies 



A look back at Sri Lanka’s first Test tour of West Indies

by Aravinthan Arunthavanathan  

March 26th marked the 13th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s first Test victory in the Caribbean. Ever since, Sri Lanka has gone on to record only one more victory during the last tour in 2018. Despite these two special wins, the most intriguing Sri Lanka- West Indies Test match overseas remains to be the second Test of Sri Lanka’s maiden tour in 1997. It’s a Test which often goes unnoticed but was special in many ways. 

When Sri Lanka set foot in the West Indies in 1997, they were the reigning ODI champs. But the eagerness to prove their mark in white flannels, resulted in an odd schedule consisting of two Tests and a solitary ODI. The late Tony Cozier would call that the equivalent of bringing down Michael Jackson to perform for an opera. 

During the first Test In Antigua Sri Lanka were in with a great chance to bat the West Indians out. With a thirty plus lead and the best of batting conditions in hand, Sri Lanka succumbed to the famous West Indies line up for a paltry 152 leaving the Windies with an easy chase. The loss by six wickets on paper did not reveal the closeness of the game. With a golden opportunity lost Sri Lanka moved to the scenic Arnos Vale in St. Vincent’s, one of the most picturesque venues in the world hosting its first Test match. 

Ravindra Pushpakumara who had been drafted in as replacement for Chaminda Vass who was injured wreaked havoc by giving the Winides their own medicine bowling fast and straight. The often erratic and colourful Pushpakumara had a great outing claiming five West Indian wickets.

Pushpakumara dealt early blows by blowing away the top-order with short pitched and full-length deliveries ably supported by Sajeeva de Silva who had the big fish Brian Lara caught and bowled leaving the opposition at five  for three. Carl Hooper’s back to the wall half-century propelled West Indies to a paltry 147 leaving Sri Lanka in the driver’s seat. 

Sri Lanka got off to a solid start propelled by Sanath Jayasuriya’s fireworks getting them to a lead of ten runs with only three wickets down at the end of the day. However tight bowling by the West Indies did not let Sanath go on his merry way and pegged back the Lankan juggernaut the following morning. This resulted in a flurry of wickets and another golden opportunity missed to seal the deal as Sri Lanka were bundled out for 222 with a lead of 75, which was inadequate given the solid start Sri Lanka had. Sri Lanka in fact had lost seven wickets for 44 runs with Hooper claiming a five wicket haul. 

Sri Lanka’s grip started to loosen as the opposing openers put on 62 almost wiping out the deficit before Pushpakumara cleaned up Sherwin Campbell to provide an opening. However, the Sri Lankan comeback was short lived as Lara recovered from a slump of form and dominated the bowling in a sign of what was in store for the future by scoring a century. With Lara back in the hut holding out to Jayasuriya at square leg off Dharmasena the lead was 197 with five wickets left. The Sri lanka resurgence was again thwarted by the West Indian pair of Ambrose and Holder who put up a fifty plus stand for the eighth wicket. Murali came to Sri Lanka’s rescue picking up five wickets and keeping the lead to a manageable 268 leaving an achievable target. Nevertheless, it was an era where even chasing 200 in the last innings was a challenge as India realized only weeks prior being bowled out for 81 chasing a mere hundred in Barbados.

The fortunes had fluctuated with the upper hand being rather handed on a platter to the opposition by both teams as opposed to being wrestled back. Nevertheless, with Sanath, Aravinda and Arjuna in good nick there was a good chance Sri Lanka were on the verge of making history posting their fourth overseas win. It would be a remarkable moment given the momentum Sri Lanka had built during the period. 

The Sri Lankan chase was dealt a severe blow as Walsh cleaned up Sanath attempting a flick which had fetched tons of runs in white ball formats. This was followed by the dismissal of Atapattu bringing Aravinda to the crease. The maestro showcased his absolute brilliance by smacking eighteen runs off Ian Bishop’s penultimate over of the day. 

With less than 200 to chase on the final day with Aravinda at the crease in prime form, Sri Lankan hopes were high. Despite the loss of Mahanama in the morning session Aravinda and Arjuna formed a solid partnership smacking the Windies attack to all parts of the ground prior to lunch deflating the morale of the West Indians. With rain intervening and killing Sri Lanka’s momentum the resumption saw them needing a mere 80 runs with seven wickets in hand. Finally, the game seemed to have been sealed by the Lankans. 

True to the pattern of events that had preceded, Walsh nailed a perfect yorker to clean up Aravinda immediately after resumption of play. He made a classy 78. Calamity struck the Sri Lankan camp as a cluster of wickets followed as had been the case with both teams during the series which saw Sri Lanka succumb to 231 for eight from a commanding 189 for three. From a position of dominance Sri Lankans were pushed against the wall hoping for divine intervention to win or at least escape unscathed. The rain gods came to Sri Lanka’s rescue immediately after Murali lobbed a short, pitched delivery to short leg and conceded Sri Lanka’s eighth wicket to the West Indies attack, who were going all out for the kill. 

In hindsight, it was an opportunity which Sri Lanka would regret missing. Still with Arjuna at the other end remaining on 72 not out there was the remotest of possibilities of pulling of a miracle, but it was a situation Sri Lanka should never have got into given the commanding positions they were in during the game. Despite the most favorable result being obtained it remains by fast the most intriguing duel between both sides which the nation did not witness due to a coverage black out. 

Sri Lanka may not have created history, but they gave the West Indians who were still a force to reckon especially at home a good fight which showed the world that Sri Lanka were not merely a white ball oriented team but had what required to fight it out at the Test level too.

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Ibrahim 98 trumps Asalanka 91 as Afghanistan go 1-0 up




Powered by a run a ball 98 by Ibrahim Zadran and 55 off 80 balls by Rahmat Shah, Afghanistan registered a six wicket win with 19 balls to spare in the first of the three match ODI series against Sri Lanka played at Sooriyawewa today (02).

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 268 in 50 overs (Pathum Nissanka 38, Charith Asalanka 91, Dhananjaya de Silva 1, Dushan hemantha 22; Fazalhaq Faarooqi 2-58, Fareed Ahmad 2-43) lost to Afghanistan 269/4 in 46.5 overs (Ibrahim Zadran 98, Rahmat Shah 55, Hashmatullah Shahidi 38, Mohammad Nabi 27* ; Kasun Rajitha 2-49) by six wickets

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Charith Asalanka 91, Dhananjaya de Silva fifty set Afghanistan 269 in first ODI




Charith Asalanka and Dhananjaya de Silva added 99 for the fifth wicket (Cricinfo)
Afghanistan’s seamers struck with the new ball, and closed out the innings efficiently with the old one, but Charith Asalanka’s  91 and Dhananjaya de Silva’s 51 pushed Sri Lanka to a competitive total. Their 268 all out left one ball unused, as four wickets fell in the last two overs of the innings.
Fazalhaq Farooqi made the first incisions, dismissing opener Dimuth Karunaratne and No. 3 Kusal Mendis inside the first nine overs, though he would go on to bowl some expensive spells later, finishing with an economy rate of 6.44. Fareed Ahmad also took two wickets – that of Angelo Mathews in the 15th over, and of debutant Dushan Hemantha at the death.
Everyone else – Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Noor Ahmad, Mohammad Nabi, and Azmatullah Omarzai – took one wicket apiece. While Noor went for runs, Mujeeb and Nabi kept a lid on the scoring through Sri Lanka’s middle overs. Omarzai bowled the last over, in which Sri Lanka mustered only four runs but lost three wickets – two of them to run-outs.
Having come to the crease at 61 for 3, Asalanka had a jittery start. He survived a caught-behind review off the sixth ball he faced, before getting into his work, hitting three fours off successive overs. Asalanka was proactive – though not quite aggressive – by picking up singles as he awaited Afghanistan’s errors.
When Dhananjaya joined him at the other end, he too batted at a similar tempo. The early fall of wickets – Sri Lanka had been 84 for 4 when these two came together – did not allow either batter to free his arms. They progressed without any fuss through the middle overs – Asalanka prospered through midwicket and cover, while Dhananjaya found boundaries behind square on the off side, though he also played the legside flick effectively.
Asalanka got to his fifty with consecutive fours off Mujeeb in the 36th over, reaching the milestone off the 57th ball he faced. Dhananjaya got there next over, off his 56th ball. But he was soon bowled by the canny Nabi, who slid one quickly underneath the batter’s attempted sweep shot.
The pair’s 99-run stand had delivered Sri Lanka to the doorstep of the death overs, but Asalanka had only stinting support once Dhananjaya fell at the start of the 38th over. Dasun Shanaka managed only 17, before Noor – his Gujarat Titans team-mate at the IPL – sneaked one into his off stump. Hemantha then struck the only six of the innings – that came as late as the penultimate over – high over cow corner, but was out for 22 off 20 balls.
Two overs out, Sri Lanka were 256 for 6, with a total of 280 not out of reach. But they fell meekly after that, Asalanka getting himself run-out attempting to take a bye to start the final over, after Hemantha had holed out to mid-off three balls earlier.
Brief scores (Innings break) :
Sri Lanka 268 (Asalanka 91, Dhananjaya 51, Fareed 2-43) vs Afghanistan
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Angelo and Dimuth will be crucial moving forward – Dasun 



Star batsman Angelo Mathews in conversation with consultant coach Mahela Jayawardena yesterday at Suriyawewa.

Rex Clementine
at Suriyawewa  

Sri Lanka white ball captain Dasun Shanaka has welcomed the return of seniors Angelo Mathews and Dimuth Karunaratne to the ODI team after they were sidelined with the selectors launching their youth policy two years ago. While Mathews returned to the fea in New Zealand, Karunaratne will feature in the three match ODI series against Afghanistan starting at Suriyawewa today (Friday).

“It’s good to have Angelo and Dimuth back in the squad. Their experience is vital. We already had Angelo in New Zealand and now we have Dimuth adding depth. We looked at a lot of youngsters in the last couple of years and that’s why they missed out. Their presence makes our side stronger now,” Shanaka told journalists.

“This series we are targeting mostly for qualifiers. So, we will use a few combinations to get things right. We are looking to use three quicks for the game,” Shanaka added.

Leg-spinner Dushan Hemantha and quick Matheesha Pathirana are set to make their debuts today. While Pathirana has featured in a T-20I, Hemantha is uncapped. He will come in for Wanindu Hasaranga, who is nursing a foot injury.

Afghanistan themselves have injury concerns with star leg-spinner Rashid Khan ruled out with a lower back injury. He will miss the first two ODIs.

“Rashid has a back issue. So, hoping he recovers quickly. Looks like he will miss the first two games. He is our main bowler. He is our superstar, but it’s important that we keep him fresh for the Asia Cup and World Cup,” Hashmatullah Shahidi, the Afghanistan captain said.

Afghanistan have already qualified for the World Cup and will be using this series as preparation for the game’s showpiece event. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, will try and get their combination right for the World Cup qualifiers.

“This series will be a sort of preparation for us. Conditions in India and Sri Lanka are the same, so we are looking forward for it,” Hashmatullah added.

Sri Lanka Squad:

Dasun Shanaka (Captain), Kusal Mendis (Vice-Captain) (WK), Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama (WK), Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Charith Asalanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Dushan Hemantha, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha 

Afghanistan Squad:

Hashmatullah Shahidi (Captain), Rahmat Shah (Vice-Captain), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (WK), Ibrahim Zadran, Riaz Hassan, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Ikram Alikhail (WK), Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Mujib ur Rahman, Noor Ahmad, Abdul Rahman, Fazal Haq Farooqi, Farid Ahmad Malik.  

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