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How cricket looked after an orphan and made him a star  



by Rex Clementine

At the age of 28, Pulina Tharanga is on the verge of representing Sri Lanka. A leg-spinner, who is handy with the bat and excellent on the field, will soon make the headlines all over the world. His Steve Waugh like guts, the never say die attitude, is what that has impressed the coaches most. Like most southerners, he has inherited it by birth. Or perhaps he has developed the toughness more than the other southerners. Life threw challenges one after the other at him. Here’s his story. 

Pulina Tharanga hails from Seenigama. He took up cricket at a young age representing Devananda Vidyalaya. His father was a fisherman. Life threw the first punch at him when he lost his mother to the 2004 tsunami. Less than a year later, his father went out to sea for fishing and never returned home.

Having lost both parents at the age of 11, young Pulina was abandoned; nowhere to go, no food and shelter. Cricket came to his aid. Ours is not just a gentleman’s game, it’s a generous game too.

Former Ananda College cricketer and Board Secretary Kushil Gunasekara hails from Seenigama and has taken a lot of initiatives to help the underprivileged people of his area. Quite a few  prominent cricketers are trustees of the charity he runs and several legends of the game have visited his place be it Sir Ian Botham, Kapil Dev or Shane Warne.

As Kushil took young Pulina under his wings, having spotted his potential, he appealed to a few friends. The philanthropist has some influential friends around the world. Cricket’s most famous club, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) came forward to sponsor Pulina providing him with a monthly allowance. There have been other big-hearted deeds like from David Cruse, a Sri Lankan living in Melbourne.

Thanks to cricket’s goodwill gestures, Pulina was able to chase his dreams. Tamil Union gave him the first big break in cricket. Then, he represented Sri Lanka Under-19 with flying colours and now he is set to take a giant step forward.

MCC will put up a grand show when Pulina plays a game at Lord’s as their efforts ensured he did not fall on the way side but continued his passion for the great game. Is there a better way to nurture the sport?

Pulina is not the traditional kind of leg-spinner. He is no Wanindu Hasaranga. He doesn’t loop the ball much but a wicket to wicket type of bowler. Bit like Anil Kumble. He doesn’t get much turn but he is pretty solid with his line and length that makes him an ideal prospect for T-20 cricket. Which is why he has  been called up for the World Cup?

This year there have been some brilliant cricket stories of how players made it to the top despite many hardships. There is Pathum Nissanka and then Praveen Jayawickrama, both Kalutara boys. Pulina soon will be in the limelight as well and there are many such young kids who need help and guidance.

Kudos to Foundation of Goodness for looking after players like Pulina at a time when they most needed support. He is not the charity’s first cricketer though. There have been quite a few players who have been supported by them. The generosity is not limited to cricket but extends beyond; they show unconditional compassion.


Mandhana century, Asha four-for give India a winning start




Smriti Mandhana hit her sixth ODI century and her first at home [BCCI]

Smriti Mandhana’s outstanding century and a clinical bowling performance led by Asha Sobhana headlined India’s massive win as they went 1-0 up against South Africa in the first of the three ODIs in Bengaluru, on Sunday.

Mandhana’s 117, her first century at home and sixth in ODIs, rescued the hosts after they opted to bat first but suffered an early collapse. India added 166 runs after the fall of the fifth wicket, the most they have done in a women’s ODI,  to push their total from 99 for 5 to 265 for 8, which proved too much for South Africa, who had an underwhelming outing with the bat on a surface that offered variable bounce and turn.

The chase got off to a shaky start as South Africa lost Laura Wolvaardt, the returning Tazmin Brits and Anneke Bosch for 33 runs. Marizanne Kapp and Sune Luus chipped in briefly but none of the batters could negate the spin threat under lights at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. Asha, showing no nerves on her debut, starred with four wickets to skittle the visitors for 122, handing India a 143-run victory.

A month after making her International debut at 33 in the T20Is against Bangladesh, Asha was handed the ODI cap, becoming India’s oldest debutant in this format as well. She was slotted in ahead of the offspinner Shreyanka Patil. That Asha has the knack of picking up big wickets in pressure situations was well-known after the WPL. On Sunday too, she showcased that control and maturity to tilt the momentum in India’s favour.

After India’s pacers and Deepti Sharma strangled South Africa’s top order, South Africa slowly found a way to get back into the contest, thanks to Kapp and Luus’ partnership. The duo had batted for more than ten overs after the fall of the third wicket and India knew a well-set Kapp could be a game-changer.

Having bowled two overs for eight runs, Asha came back for her second spell, in the 19th over. The legspinner started by conceding just two runs, getting enough drift and turn to slow down the scoring. After largely sticking to length deliveries in her first few overs, she floated one outside off this time, slow through the air, to deceive Kapp and force her to hit in the air towards cover where Harmanpreet was stationed. An easy catch for one of India’s best fielders gave Asha joy, and her maiden ODI wicket.

In her next over, Jemimah Rodrigues dropped Annerie Dercksen at point but a mix-up between her and Luus ended Dercksen’s innings as she was run out at the striker’s end.

At 75 for 5, South Africa were all but out of the game.

D Hemalatha and Rodrigues were back in the XI. Rodrigues was returning from a back niggle after missing out on the Bangladesh T20I series while Hemalatha, on the back of good performances against Bangladesh, made her way to the ODI setup.

In India’s last ODI series against Australia in December, head coach Amol Muzumdar had mentioned that Richa Ghosh would be suited for No. 3, with Harmanpreet and Rodrigues coming in after her. This was a deviation from her previous role where she was used as a finisher.

However, on Sunday, with Shafali Verma departing early for 7, Hemalatha slotted in at No. 3. She perished after a 16-ball 12. Rodrigues and Harmanpreet were India’s Nos. 4 and 5 and Ghosh back to the lower-middle order at No. 6. She survived four balls but was then caught behind for 3.

Ninety-two for three became 99 for 5 in the 22nd over and India were desperate for a big partnership. An ODI after a gap of six months, players are bound to be rusty. But not Mandhana. She put on a brisk 81-run stand for the sixth wicket with Deepti Sharma to lift the team past 250. Switching to the long format, the India vice-captain curbed her aggressive instinct to play along the ground to play long.

South Africa denied easy runs for India’s batters, with the likes of Dercksen and Ayobhanga Khaka targeting a stump-to-stump line. But Mandhana countered well, using the crease whenever the opportunity arose to play her pull and cut shots to manufacture runs. Though she and Deepti kept the scorecard ticking, there were also chances to convert the ones to twos.

Mandhana hit 12 fours – seven of them on the leg side – and a six. She was all clarity and calmness. After 32 overs, she batted cramps on her way to hundred. But it also forced her to find a few quick boundaries and forgo the singles.

Once Deepti departed for 37, Pooja Vastrakar joined Mandhana and this pair stitched a 58-run stand off 54 deliveries to give India the late push they wanted. South Africa let their guard down in the last ten overs, conceding 74 runs, with the humidity also playing a major factor in their sloppy fielding.

Mandhana played for 193 minutes and 42.3 overs overall to make 117. In the end, South Africa could post only five more than her score.

Brief scores:
India Women 265 for 8 in 50 overs  (Smriti Mandhana 117, Deepti Sharma 37, Pooja Vasttrakar 31*, ; Ayabonga Khaka 3-47, Masabata Klass 2-51) beat  South Africa Women 122 in 37.4 overs  (Marizanne Kapp 24,  Sunee Luus 33, Sinalo Jafta 27*; Deepti Sharma 2-10, Asha Sobhana 4-21) by 143 runs


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Sri Lanka sign off with win




Charith Asalanka hit five sixes to power Sri Lanka [Cricinfo]

Sri Lanka ended their 2024 T20 World Cup campaign in a resounding fashion with a dominant 83-run win over Netherlands in Gros Islet. It meant they ended on three points and third place in Group D behind South Africa and Bangladesh, who had confirmed their place in the Super Eight after beating Nepal in Kingstown.

Sri Lanka’s victory set up by their batters and finished off clinically by the bowlers. Nuwan Thushara was the pick of the bunch with figures of 3 for 24, but each of Maheesh Theekshana, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dasun Shanaka and Matheesha Pathirana also got in on the act as Netherlands were knocked out and bowled out 118 in chase of 202.

Charith Asalanka had led the way for Sri Lanka with a blistering 46 off 21, which itself followed solid efforts from Kusal Mendis (46 off 29) and Dhananjaya de Silva (34 off 26). Jet fuel was then poured on proceedings by Angelo Mathews (30 off 15) and Hasaranga (20 off six), as Sri Lanka became just the second team to breach 200 this tournament.

Netherlands briefly flirted with an improbable chase when Michael Levitt was going strong in the powerplay, but once the first wicket fell the rest offered up little resistance as Sri Lanka’s varied attack proved too tough to handle.

Losing Pathum Nissanka second ball put paid to any notion that Sri Lanka might come out all guns blazing, but a steady rotation of strike in the powerplay mitigated the lack of early boundary striking – the powerplay saw four fours and a solitary six, but they managed to score 45 runs despite losing two wickets.

By the end of the tenth over Sri Lanka’s boundary count remained in single digits, but the continued consistent running between the wickets ensured that they maintained a healthy run rate. Between overs seven and ten only two boundaries were struck, but Sri Lanka nevertheless found themselves at a healthy 74 for 2 at the halfway stage of their innings.

A shift in gears was however necessary on a ground in which 181 was chased down just a day prior, and this occurred swiftly and suddenly in the 13th over, as Dhananjaya pounded Paul van Meekeren for three consecutive boundaries – using the strong cross breeze to great effect.

Sri Lanka’s batting had been under heavy scrutiny coming into this game, particularly their middle order, which had been guilty of not showing enough intent and purpose. Here though they fired on all cylinders.

From the 13th to the 20th over only one of those went without a six being scored, as Sri Lanka plundered 77 runs off the final five overs. Asalanka, Mathews and Hasaranga all had impressive showings, feasting on the Dutch bowlers’ inability to nail their lengths with most deliveries proving either too full or too short.

The result was a score that was always likely to be a stretch too far against this Sri Lanka bowling attack.

He might have had only 12 T20Is to his name, but 20-year-old Michael Levitt had already made quite the impression, having made his debut earlier this year. Leading up to this game, in just 12 T20Is he had already racked up 368 runs at an average of 33.45 and strike rate of 150.20, including two fifties and a century.

Regardless of opposition those are impressive numbers, and here against a challenging Sri Lankan attack, he (briefly) lived up to the hype. He took on both Thushara and Theekshana in his 23-ball 31, the highlight of which was a sumptuous back-foot lofted-cover drive off the latter for six.

His inexperience showed when he charged and was stumped off Theekshana, but the future certainly does seem to be bright for the youngster.

Levitt ‘s wicket towards the end of the powerplay followed Max O’Dowd’s an over prior. It meant two new batters were at the crease, but the required run-rate remained as steep as ever. What followed was a crash course in intent without execution.

Vikramjit Singh fell pulling as Kamindu Mendis completed a very unique bobbling, juggling catch, while Sybrand Engelbrecht – having managed a sweet straight six off Hasaranga – would fall a short while later trying the same off Matheesha Pathirana Pathirana.

A double-strike an over later from Hasaranga then suddenly left Netherlands reeling on 71 for 6. Scott Edwards hung around for a stubborn 31 off 24, but wickets kept falling around him as Netherlands were eventually bundled out in the 17th over.

Brief scores:
Sri Lanka 201 for 6 in 20 overs (Kusal Mendis 46, Dhanajaya de Silva 34, Charith Asalanka 46, Angelo Mathews 30*, Wanidu Hasaranga 20*; Vivian Kingma 1-23, Aryan Dutt 1-23, Logan van Beek 2-45, Paul van Meekeren 1-37, Tim Pringle 1-41) beat Netherlands 118 in 16.4 overs (Scott Edwards 31, Michael Levitt 31; Nuwan  Thushara 3-24, Maheesh Theekshana 1-25, Matheesha Pathirana 2-12, Wanidu Hasaranga 2-25, Dasun Shanaka 1-10) by 83 runs


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Tanzim’s four, Mustafizur’s three take Bangladesh into Super Eight




Tanzim Hasan Sakib bowled a fiery opening spell [ICC]

A fiery opening spell from Tanzim Hasan Sakib powered Bangladesh to a slightly tense win over Nepal, sealing their progress to the Super Eight stage. For the second game in a row Nepal had a Full Member side on the ropes with their bowling performance in Kingstown, but their batting order was blown away by Bangladesh’s fast bowlers.

A win, let alone a comfortable one, looked like a tricky prospect for Bangladesh after they were bundled for 106. Having come within two runs of chasing down a slightly bigger target against South Africa, Nepal would have fancied their chances of bagging their first win against a Full Member team, but Tanzim scythed through their top order with stunning figures of 4-2-7-4 that reduced Nepal to 26 for 5.

While the low asking rate meant Nepal could still keep their chances alive, Mustafizur Rahman put on a death bowling masterclass when Nepal needed 30 off 24 to help Bangladesh pull off the lowest successful defence in a men’s T20 World Cup.

Nepal found themselves in big trouble early when Tanzim struck twice in his second over – the third of the innings. Kushal Bhurtel missed a low full toss that swung away late to clip the off stump before Anil Sah toe-ended his effort to mid-off.

Taskin Ahmed created a couple of chances in the next over, and Tanzim reaped the rewards of the pressure built, with Rohit Paudel slapping a short and wide delivery straight to backward point. Tanzim nearly struck again in the over, but a leading edge from Sundeep Jora fell short of the bowler.

Mustafizur then had Aasif Sheikh caught at cover to complete an excellent powerplay for Bangladesh.

Tanzim bowled out in the seventh over, and picked up his fourth wicket when he had Jora caught at gully. He bowled a double-wicket maiden and a wicket maiden, and his 21 dot balls were the most by a bowler in a men’s T20 World Cup match.

From the start of the eighth over, there was a 23-ball boundary drought, with legspinner Rishad Hossain especially getting sharp turn. Dipendra Singh Airee finally swept Rishad for four off the last ball of the 11th over that helped Nepal reach 50 in the next over.

Malla and Airee consolidated for Nepal, shifting gears in the 16th over when Malla slog-swept Mahmudullah for Nepal’s first six of the innings. One ball later, he nudged him fine on the leg side for a four to bring up the fifty partnership. They were left with 30 to win off the last four.

Two of those four overs were to be bowled by Mustafizur, and he broke the burgeoning stand with a back-of-length cutter that was skied over mid-off. Najmul Hossain Shanto did well to settle under it running back and holding on to a tricky chance. Just the one run came off the over.

Nepal attacked Taskin when Airee slapped a six over point but the bowler gave away only one more run in the next five balls and also sent Gulsan Jha back. Mustafizur then bowled five dots on the trot as Airee kept swinging and failing to make contact. Airee looked to knock the last ball of the over for a single, but ended up edging behind to make the penultimate over a wicket maiden.

Shakib Al Hasan, wicketless in the tournament before the game, picked the last two wickets to complete a team hat-trick. This also made it the first time Bangladesh won three games in a T20 World Cup.

Sompal Kami struck first ball for Nepal, who opted to bowl, as Tanzid Hasan top-edged a short ball for a return catch to the fast bowler. Shanto was next to go, as Airee went through the Bangladesh captain’s defence in the next over.

Given a third over on the trot, Kami then got Litton top-edging a pull off a short ball that wicketkeeper Aasif Sheikh settled under. It meant a poor run of form for Bangladesh’s top order, who have only contributed 122 runs in their four group stage matches.

Towhid Hridoy, Bangladesh’s best batter in the competition, hit two fours but top-edged an attempted slog sweep off Paudel to leave Bangladesh stuttering at 31 for 4 at the end of the powerplay.

Mahmudullah looked to regroup for Bangladesh along with Shakib, hitting two crisp boundaries off Sandeep Lamichhane, but was called for a run that was never there and ended up being run out at the non-striker’s end in the ninth over.

Shakib and Jaker Ali tried to consolidate, but Paudel got another breakthrough by dismissing Shakib, before Lamichhane bowled Tanzim and Jake with wrong’uns to put Bangladesh under threat of being bowled out under 100.

But Rishad Hossain and Taskin helped Bangladesh add 31 runs for the last two wickets that took them to 106.

Brief scores:
Bangladesh 106 in 19.3 overs (Shakib Al Hasan  17; Sompal Kami 2-10, Sandeep Lamichhane 2-17, Rohit Paudel 2-20, Dipendra Singh Airee 2-22) beat  Nepal 85 in 19.2 overs (Kushal Malla 27, Dipendra Singh Airee 25; Tanzim Hasan Sakib  4-07, Taskin Ahmed 1-29,  Mustafizur Rahman 3-07, Shakib Al Hasan 2-09) by 21 runs


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