by Rex Clementine
The Board of Control for Cricket in India announced their home fixtures for next year and Sri Lanka have been slotted in for a Test series. However, unlike three Tests that has been customary between the countries, this time around, India has reduced the series for just two Test matches.
Accordingly, Sri Lanka will play in Bangalore and Mohali early next year, the first time they will play in a southern state since 2005.
Interestingly, it seems that the big three – India, Australia and England – are now content in hosting Sri Lanka for two Tests only although all three nations have hosted the team for three Tests overs the years.
England and Australia, the founder members of the ICC, restricting Sri Lanka for two Tests is understandable but India’s stance will be a bitter pill to swallow for traditionally they have been Sri Lanka’s strongest ally.
It can be easily pinned down to Big Three wanting to engage in more games between them. This year alone, England and India have played eight Test matches (four in India and four in England) and a ninth Test in Manchester was cancelled due to fears of outbreak of COVID.
However, the fact that Sri Lanka have own problems to sort out cannot be ignored as the standard of our cricket has downgraded rapidly
The last time Sri Lanka beat one of the Big Three was back in 2016, against Australia. Since then, they have lost five Tests to England, four Tests to India and two to the Aussies. Into the bargain, both India and England have handed Sri Lanka 3-0 whitewashes in our own backyard.
There are few ways for Sri Lanka to win back the recognition and their dues. One of that is by improving their rankings. Currently, Sri Lanka are ranked eighth in Test match cricket while none of their players; batsmen, bowlers or all-rounders are ranked among the top ten. Basically, that sums up the story and status of our cricket.
India has been a huge pillar of strength over the years, bailing out Sri Lanka Cricket umpteen times. Whenever there has been a financial crunch at Maitland Place, it is not Dubai, Lord’s or Jolimont Street that our cricket bosses dial up but Bombay.
India have never said no and their tours have brought in millions in foreign exchange that help SLC to invest on the game.
In recent times however, instead of sending their full strength sides, India have sent their back up players; like when they won the Nidahas Trophy in 2018, a tournament in which Sri Lanka didn’t even reach the finals. Then, again early this year when Rahul Dravid magnanimously continued the series scratching the barrel when the Indian bubble was compromised and several players were down with COVID. Incidentally, India was fielding two teams at the same time. While Virat Kohli was leading their Test side in UK, Shikhar Dhawan was in Colombo skippering the white ball team.
India’s second string teams beating full strength Sri Lankan sides is no good sign and we have only ourselves to blame.
Runs for de Kock, but New Zealand clinch rain-hit warm-up in Thiruvananthapuram
Rain denied a persistent Quniton de Kock from taking South Africa over the line against New Zealand in Thiruvananthapuram.
Batting first, New Zealand had made 321 for 6 on the back of half-centuries from Devon Conway and Tom Latham. In reply, South Africa made their way to 211 for 4, with de Kock and David Miller both looking in good touch, before the rain put a premature end to the game, with South Africa seven runs short according to DLS.
Apart from the win, New Zealand will be happy with Kane Williamson, who continued his road back to full sharpness, taking the field after scoring a 51-ball 37. However, he will not play in the tournament opener against England.
Both teams tried out 17 bowlers in total. Even keeper-batter Heinrich Klaasen got a chance to roll his arm but it was the strike bowlers who made breakthroughs for both teams.
Trent Boult blew Reeza Hendricks’ pads in the first over and had him lbw. Matt Henry joined Boult to trouble de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen, his new partner, but the batters saw off the spell and took on the bowlers who followed.
Seven of the eight boundaries between the seventh and the 14th overs were scored by van der Dussen, en route to a half-century. His aggression allowed de Kock to settle in despite a slow start. But the 72-run stand was cut off when van der Dussen had a swipe across the line, off Mitchell Santner’s bowling, and was caught at cover.
De Kock smacked five fours and a six off Santner and Ish Sodhi in successive overs to get going. Aidan Markram then smacked Glenn Phillips for two fours but Sodhi had Markram miscue an inside-out shot to deep cover to end the 37-run stand.
Klaasen and de Kock regularly hit boundaries off Sodhi and Rachin Ravindra, and also kept taking singles to move along at a brisk pace. De Kock soon brought up his fifty as well, but Boult returned and immediately struck, going around the wicket to dismiss Klaasen.
Miller and de Kock kept South Africa afloat. De Kock was drained by the heat and suffered some body blows; a bouncer from Mitchell hit him on the head but he carried on. He and Miller both looked comfortable against the spinners, regularly clearing the boundaries. The game seemed to be heading towards a tight finish before the rain interruption.
Earlier in the day, Conway stood tall after New Zealand chose to bat. He settled in with Williamson and Glenn Phillips offering support as the duo added 218 runs. New Zealand did not lose a wicket between the fifth and 40th over, when Phillips chopped on a yorker outside off from Marco Jansen.
Conway drove, pulled and cut his way through to a fifty. Williamson was also fluent with his boundary-scoring shots during his stay. Williamson retired hurt at the end of the 20th over and Conway after the 26th.
As Latham and Phillips rebuilt, rain came in with New Zealand on 171 off 29 overs. The pair settled back after the break with Phillips taking on anything too short or too full. Latham reached his fifty in the 37th over.
The acceleration was cut off by Jansen, who removed both batters in the 40th over. In total, 10 of New Zealand’s batters managed to get a hit. Mitchell’s 16-ball 25, with support from Santner, earned New Zealand 78 runs in the last 10 and took them to 321.
New Zealand 321 for 6 (Conway 78, Latham 52, Ngidi 3-33) beat South Africa 211 for 4 (De Kock 84*, van der Dussen 51, Boult 2-20) by seven runs via DLS
Moeen Ali turns on the power as England overwhelm Bangladesh
England enjoyed a useful, if hyper-extended, workout under the Guwahati floodlights, as a three-hour rain delay and even a nearby earthquake couldn’t prevent the world champions from finalising their tournament plans in a high-octane run-chase against Bangladesh. The result, while immaterial, was secured with a blizzard of sixes from Moeen Ali whose 56 from 39 balls secured a four-wicket win with a hefty 77 balls remaining of their rain-reduced 37-over chase.
Bangladesh had their moments, particularly while Tanzid Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman were showing their ability with bat and ball in the powerplay, but ultimately they were overwhelmed by England’s unrelenting aggression. The tone of England’s attacking display was set by a bristling Jonny Bairstow who stretched his legs for 34 from 21 balls, in the manner that had been denied him during the “utter chaos” of England’s 38-hour trek to India’s eastern extremities.
Jos Buttler kept up the belligerent tempo to make 30 from 15 in his short and on-point visit to the crease, and though Liam Livingstone came and went tamely, by the time Moeen holed out with four runs to win, he’d launched six sixes into the Assam night to confirm his side will be striding confidently into this week’s tournament opener against New Zealand.
Of far more relevance than the result was the time in the middle for a host of cooped-up players, most particularly the 2019 veterans, Mark Wood and Adil Rashid, who have both been wrapped in cotton wool for the past few weeks, and Joe Root, who remains short of form and confidence, but who survived a painful blow to the groin, as well as a grim error from Taskin Ahmed at deep backward square, to anchor the chase with an unbeaten 26 from 40 balls.
The contest duly finished some eight-and-a-half hours after the first ball had been bowled, but for a time, it had seemed that England’s preparations – across both this game and Saturday’s wash-out against India – would be limited to a 30-over work-out in the afternoon’s truncated action.
At least in that time, England were able to give a clean bill of health to nine members of their bowling attack, including all six of their frontline fast bowlers … although they are now about to be folded back up and stowed away once more in economy class for Tuesday’s flight to Ahmedabad.
Most crucial among those was Wood, England’s fastest and most ferocious point of difference, who had not been unleashed in a competitive environment since the end of July, ostensibly due to a bruised heel sustained during the Ashes. Not for the first time, he showed his explosive pace from the outset of his three-over burst, and should have claimed the wicket of both of Bangladesh’s most effective batters.
Mehidy Hasan Miraz anchored Bangladesh’s innings with a hard-earned 74 from 89 balls, but he should have fallen for 7, to the sixth ball of Wood’s return, when, after a tentative start to his knock, he fenced a lifter outside off but neither Buttler nor Root at first slip reacted in time to cling onto the edge.
However, Wood got his reward two overs later instead. Tanzid’s 45 from 44 balls at the top of the order had gone some way to confirming his readiness to fill the sizeable boots of Tamim Iqbal, but having picked off seven fours and a flamboyant six over deep midwicket off Reece Topley, he was caught in two minds as Wood fired a lifter across his bows, and inside-edged a tentative push onto his own stumps.
The first 20 overs of Bangladesh’s innings was an exclusive diet of seam, as England’s quicks each lined up for a short gallop, and showed their readiness for the main event through a combination of economy and incision, with only Chris Woakes and Gus Atkinson going un-rewarded in their five-over contributions.
However, the other major plus for England was the return of Rashid, who missed the bulk of their recent series against New Zealand with a calf niggle. He showed no ill-effects after entering the attack in the 21st over of Bangladesh’s innings and struck twice in five overs to remove the veteran pairing of Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah – the latter to a full-toss but the former to a brilliantly disguised googly that skidded into his stumps under an attempted cut.
When the rain arrived, it seemed that Bangladesh’s 153 for 5 in 30 overs would be the end of that. Instead, they returned – after one aborted restart – for seven further overs, in which the quicks got back into the action. Sam Curran struck with the first ball of his second spell, before both Topley and David Willey found themselves on hat-tricks, the former some five hours after luring Bangladesh’s stand-in captain, Najmul Hossain Shanto, into a sketchy slice to deep third.
Topley’s display epitomised the combination of rustiness and raw threat that England are carrying into this tournament. His somewhat ropey first over went for 13, including a wide and two no-balls, but he swiftly hit back with the first ball of his second as Litton Das gloved a lifter down the leg-side to depart for 5 (although there were some doubts as to whether his hand was off the bat at the point of contact).
England’s reply was raucous from the outset. Dawid Malan, their in-form opener, caressed a poetic cut for a first-ball four, only to scuff his second from Mustafizur straight to slip. But Bairstow smashed four fours and a six in seven balls to turbo-charge the powerplay, with England’s 50 coming up inside four overs before Mustafizur powered a yorker past his toes to end the fun.
It took an even better ball from Hasan Mahmud to dislodge an ominously free-flowing Harry Brook. His four fours in a 15-ball 17 had all been stamps of raw class until he was bowled through the gate by a savage nipbacker on a tight off-stump line. Buttler then edged his second ball off Shoriful Islam low past the keeper before smoking his third high over extra cover for six – and as if to prove he was in no mood to stand on ceremony, he then top-edged his fifth over the head of Taskin, who could have had an easy catch had he been sitting back on the rope.
England’s only real concern remains the form of Root, who at least endured to the end of the chase, but rarely looked capable of raising his tempo in the manner that was coming so effortlessly at the other end. He should have holed out to Tanzim Hasan Sakib for 7 from 19, but that man Taskin once again over-ran his attempted catch at fine leg, then let the ball dribble over the rope too. Tellingly, that would be Root’s only boundary of his innings. Fortunately for England, Moeen and Co. had no such power failures to report.
England 197 for 6 in 24.1 overs (Moeen 56, Mustafizur 2-23) beat Bangladesh 188 for 9 in 37 overs (Mehidy 74, Tanzid 45, Topley 3-23) by four wickets (DLS)
Hasaranga’s World Cup hopes dimming by the day
by Rex Clementine
Star leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga is waiting to get visa clearance from the British High Commission in Colombo to travel to London to consult a surgeon having suffered a grade three hamstring tear lead up to the ICC Cricket World Cup. The surgeon will assess the spinner and decide whether he requires surgery. Going under the knife invariably means that he will be out of the World Cup.
Hasaranga suffered a grade two hamstring tare during the Lanka Premier League and was ruled out of the Asia Cup. However, he was expected to be fit for the World Cup but during rehabilitation aggravated the injury.
Although the selectors had initially named him in the squad, they pulled him out in the 11th hour. But, they were hopeful that the player will recover and would be able to play some part in the ten nation tournament, at least during the tail end of the competition.
However, medical experts in Colombo from the initial stages had suggested that him recovering before the World Cup wad not a possibility.
The rehabilitation of Maheesh Theekshana, who too injured his hamstring, during Asia Cup has gone well and the bowler is expected to travel to New Delhi on Wednesday ahead of Sri Lanka’s opening game of the tournament on Saturday against South Africa.
The bowler’s condition will be assessed in India and he should get the green light to play against the Proteas, who are vulnerable against spin.
Sri Lanka will take on Afghanistan in the second warm-up game in Guwahati today.
After suffering a seven wicket defat at the hands of Bangladesh in the first warm-up game last week, the Sri Lankans will be trying to tie up a few loose ends before the business end of the competition begins later this week.
One of the key areas the former champions will be looking at is batting out the 50 overs. They failed to utilize the full quota of overs against Bangladesh.
During the warm-up games, teams batting first tend to score in excess of 300 runs and unless Sri Lanka get those runs it will be a struggle for them to defend totals less than 300 on good batting tracks no matter how disciplined their bowling is.
The bowlers in recent months have done fabulous jobs despite missing key players, but batting has been bit of a worry.
The dodgy shoulder of Kusal Janith Perera and the form of captain Dasun Shanaka will be some of the things back in the mind of the team management lead up to the game.
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