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India win thriller, eliminate England in race to WTC final



After a day in which wickets fell in a flurry, India emerged victorious to boost their chances of cementing a place in the ICC World Test Championship final, even as they eliminated England from the race.

Axar Patel claimed 11 wickets in the match and R Ashwin became only the fourth Indian to reach 400 Test wickets as India bundled England out for 81 in their second innings, giving themselves a target of 49. Rohit Sharma brought up the winning runs with a six as the hosts wrapped up victory within two days.

India now need to avoid defeat in the final Test at the same venue in Ahmedabad to ensure they progress to the WTC final. Australia, meanwhile, will hope England can still get something out of the series and win the final Test, which would result in a Trans-Tasman event in the inaugural WTC final.

The day began with India resuming their first innings on 99/3, trailing England by 13 runs. However, the scale of the task awaiting both teams on a turning track became evident when, within six overs of the morning, Ajinkya Rahane was trapped in front by Leach, attempting a cut but misjudging the degree of the turn. 

The wicket opened the floodgates. Rohit Sharma, who had scored an authoritative 66 till that point, became Leach’s second wicket four overs later, attempting a sweep that didn’t account for the lack of turn. The dangerous Rishabh Pant, who could have taken the pitch out of the equation with his adventurous strokeplay, fell in the very next over, when England captain Joe Root brought himself on.

Root built on that wicket to return his best ever bowling figures. He ran through the tail, dismissing Washington Sundar (0), Axar Patel (0), Jasprit Bumrah (1) and eventually Ashwin (17) to claim a phenomenal 5/8. All the while, Ashwin and Ishant Sharma, who was unbeaten on 10*, had boosted India’s lead to 33.

England had fought their way back into contention in the match, but unfortunately, their batsmen couldn’t capitalise. India’s bowlers, primarily Axar and Ashwin, were superb with the ball, displaying immense control to run through the England line-up. 

Axar opened the bowling, and had England reduced to 0/2 in an eventful first three balls. He cleaned up Zak Crawley with the first ball, and dished out the same treatment to Jonny Bairstow with his third ball, after the batsman overturned his lbw dismissal on the second ball. 

Dom Sibley looked to grind his way through, but missed a sweep and was caught behind, his dismissal upheld despite a review. Root and Ben Stokes then briefly resisted India, putting on a 31-run stand for the fourth wicket, with Root having a dismissal overturned on review en route. 

Their partnership helped England take the lead, but Ashwin came in to break the stand with the one that straightened and rammed into Stokes’ pads. The visitors lost six wickets for 31 runs, with Root’s dismissal by Axar in the next over being a blow they never recovered from. Ashwin proved too good for England’s lower order as he brought up his 400th Test wicket in just his 77th Test – he became the quickest bowler after Muttiah Muralitharan to reach the mark.

England’s collapse left India a target of 49. Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill, the India openers, knocked off 11 runs in what remained in the second session, and it didn’t take them long to finish things off in the final session, batting freely and assuredly. 

The final Test will begin at the same venue on 4 March.



Sri Lanka level series with big win in second ODI 



Dushmantha Chameera wheels away in celebration

Rex Clementine
at Suriyawewa  

Sri Lanka bounced back to beat Afghanistan by 132 runs on Sunday to square the three-match one-day series in Suriyawewa yesterday. It was Sri Lanka’s biggest win over Afghanistan in ODIs and makes amends for its disappointing performance in the first ODI on Friday, which they lost by six wickets,

Having set Afghanistan a stiff 324-run target, fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera dismissed the dangerous Rahmanulah Gurbaz cheaply for two runs to give his side an early advantage. Although Afghanistan put together two strong partnerships after that, the required run rate kept climbing and the Afghans lost their way trying to keep pace.

 Opening batsman Ibrahim Zardan continued his good form, posting 54 runs while captain Hashmatullah Shahidi top scored with 57 runs, but once Sri Lanka dismissed the top order there was not much resistance from the rest of the batters.From 146 for two, Afghanistan collapsed to be bowled out for 191 runs in 42.1 overs, losing their last eight wickets for just 45 runs.

Spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Dhananjaya de Silva shared six wickets between them to seal a comprehensive win for the home side.   Sri Lanka’s batting put on a show giving the team confidence ahead of the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe this month.

Afghanistan have already qualified for the World Cup and despite the heavy defeat on Sunday, will feel positive with star Rashid Khan expected to feature in the final game on Wednesday. The leg-spinner was ruled out of the first two games with a back injury.

Half-centuries by Kusal Mendis and Dimuth Karunaratne helped Sri Lanka post their commanding total. While Mendis top scored with 78 runs off 75 balls with seven fours and one six, Karunaratne, who was recalled for this series to stabilize the batting, made 52 off 62 balls with seven fours. Opener Pathum Nissanka contributed 43 runs while Sadeera Samarawickrama, featuring in an ODI for the first time since 2019, made 44 off 46 balls.

There was some big hitting by the lower middle order with captain Dasun Shanaka chipping in with 23 runs while Wanindu Hasaranga finished things off in style with an unbeaten 29 off 12 balls with four fours and a six. Dhananjaya de Silva was named Man of the Match for his unbeaten 29 and three wickets.

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Tharushi wins silver, Uththara clinches bronze at Asian Junior Athletics Championships  



By Reemus Fernando  

Ratnayake Central, Walala runner Tharushi Karunaratne and Holy Cross College, Gampaha sprinter Jayeshi Uththara shared the silver and bronze medals respectively of the women’s 400 metres to give a winning start to Sri Lanka’s Asian Junior Athletics Championship campaign on day one of the event in South Korea on Sunday.

Karunaratne and Uththara reached the final as the second and third fastest from the heats held in the morning and those positions remained unchanged as they finished second and third respectively in the final.

Karunaratne clocked 53.70 seconds to finish second behind India’s Rezoana Mallick Heena who returned a time of 53.31 seconds for the gold. Uththara clocked 55.51 seconds for her bronze.

Commenting on their achievements Sri Lanka Athletics in a statement said that it was the first time in almost three decades that two Sri Lankan female athletes had won medals in a single event at the Asian Junior Championships.

The track and field governing body was referring to the gold and silver doubles of legendary Susanthika Jayasinghe and Damayanthi Dharsha who shared the gold and silver medals in the 100 metres and 200 metres with championship records at the 1994 edition held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

At the last edition held in Gifu, Japan Sri Lanka’s men’s pair of Aruna Dharshana and Pasindu Kodikara won the gold and silver medals in the men’s 400 metres.  Karunaratne who is trained by veteran coach Susantha Fernando is set to compete in the women’s 800 metres final today where she will be the favourite for gold.

She returned an Asian leading time of 2:01.39 seconds at the selection trail held in March though her preparation for the event was plagued by a sickness forcing her to skip the recently held Junior National Championships. Tharushi will enter today’s race as the third fastest 800 metres runner in the world this year.

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Dominant Sri Lanka claw back to level series




Sri Lanka came up with a dominant show with both bat and ball to stage a strong comeback and level the three-match series against Afghanistan on Sunday (June 4). Having lost the first ODI, the hosts staged a commendable comeback with their top four laying the platform for a 300-plus total which was then defended with ease as Afghanistan fell short by 132 runs.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 323/6 in 50 overs (Kusal Mendis 78, Dimuth Karunaratne 52; Mohammad Nabi 2/52) beat Afghanistan 191 in 42.1 overs (Hashmatullah Shahidi 57, Ibrahim Zadran 54; Dhananjaya de Silva 3/39) by 132 runs

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