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Jaffna stumble in last hurdle but top group

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Noor Ahmad is a 16-year-old Afghan wrist spinner and he played a pivotal role picking up the key wickets of Thisara Perera and Shoaib Malik as Galle Gladiators beat in form Jaffna Kings in an LPL fixture at RPS yesterday. Picture courtesy: SLC.

Jaffna Kings have been the most organized franchise in the LPL and they have been brilliant in the group stage. The defending champions won six of their eight games while losing two and on both those occasions it was Galle Gladiators who found a chink in Jaffna Kings’ armour. Friday’s first game saw Jaffna stumbling chasing a modest target of 130 with spin proving to be their Achilles’ heel.

Left-arm duo of Samit Patel and Noor Ahmad had Jaffna Kings in a spin as they shared four wickets between them polishing the top order. More importantly, the pair’s eight overs cost Galle Gladiators only 27 runs.

Galle Gladiators never found momentum in their innings with just three batsmen getting into double figures. Chasing 130, the Jaffna Kings were shot out for 109 runs inside 19 overs.

Incidentally, the two teams will meet in the playoffs. They will play the Qualifier 1 on Sunday at Hambantota with the winner going through to the final and the loser meeting the team that wins the Eliminator, also on Sunday at Hambantota.

In the low scoring thriller on Friday, the highest individual score was 23 and that gave an indication as to how much the ball dominated the bat.

Left-arm orthodox spinner Praveen Jayawickrama and right-arm leg-spinner Vijayakanth Viyaskanth did the job for Jaffna Kings claiming two wickets apiece.

A similar combination ensured Jaffna Kings downfall during the run chase. Nottingham’s Samit Patel is an experienced campaigner and he has had a good LPL and proved to be a match winner again. Left-arm wrist spinner Noor Ahmed from Afghanistan whose official age is 16 was quite a handful putting the pressure after Patel had done the early damage.

Ahmad accounted for the big wickets of Shoaib Malik and Thisara Perera.

The knockout clash should be an interesting one. Jaffna Kings are a formidable outfit but they have been caught off guard twice now by Galle Gladiators and the former champions will be under pressure going into the qualifier.

Brief Scores:

Galle Gladiators 129 for eight

(20)

(Danushka Gunathilaka 19, Bhanuka Rajapaksa 23, Praveen Jayawickrama 2/13, Vijaykanth Viyaskanth 2/21)

Jaffna Kings 109 all out

(18.3)

(Rahmanullah Gurbaz 21, Shoaib Malik 23, Samit Patel 2/15, Noor Ahmad 2/12)



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Delicate issue of franchise cricket and NOCs  

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by Rex Clementine

Time was when franchise cricket was frowned upon. That was a decade or so ago. The reason for this is that unscrupulous player agents used underarm tactics to get their players released from national commitments. There was very little Sri Lanka Cricket could do as franchise owners like N. Srinivasan, at one point cricket’s most powerful man as Secretary of Board of Control for Cricket in India, dictated terms and one could only feel sorry for the plight of SLC.

In 2009, SLC even had to cancel a tour of England as players were up in arms. With key figures like Srinivasan on their side, players had their wish. Those players have now moved on and at present hold key positions in administration.  Now they say things differently.

Ten years ago, we just had the IPL but at present franchise cricket tournaments have mushroomed and there’s something that’s happening somewhere monthly. The IPL remains the big draw and although not many Sri Lankans are getting drafted in like they used to, there’s demand from other franchise league competitions.

Wanindu Hasaranga is the biggest draw as he’s world’s number one ranked bowler in T-20 cricket and the board has given him No Objection Certificates whenever there’s been no international commitments.

That should be the case with other players too. Many of us do not endorse everything that Bhanuka Rajapaksa does but his premature retirement could have been the result of him not being able to get frequent NOCs from the board.

Bhanuka is a contracted player and he requires SLC’s clearance to take part in franchise tournaments. Last year he missed out on a couple of T-20 leagues and he may have incurred losses around US$ 60,000 or more.

SLC’s plight is twofold; one is that they need all their contracted players fresh for national commitments and the other is that they can only pick players for national duty depending on their performance in domestic cricket and not on overseas competition. So they have got to strike a balance between the two.

One way to address the issue is to give players decent contracts. The fringe players who have not got elite contracts like Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Angelo Perera are on annual contracts with SLC that offers them US$ 6000. That’s Rs. 1.2 million and virtually it would come to Rs. 100,000 a month. That sum is not sufficient for someone like Bhanuka to feed his eight dogs leave alone looking after a family.

Another way of dealing with the problem is to allow players a minimum of say two overseas league tournaments when there are no international commitments. Surely, a T-20 specialist will be better off playing overseas league tournaments than let’s say, making himself available for First Class cricket.

We have the classic example of Isuru Udana, a T-20 specialist, who retired prematurely from international cricket so that he could be a freelancer playing franchise cricket in different countries.

Having said all that, Rajapaksa has been in public attention for reasons other than fans would remember him for. He is no doubt a player with immense potential but how many matches has he won Sri Lanka? Is it more than a handful? A player is doing little favours for himself by burning bridges. We have seen too many of them and let’s hope that we start talking of Bhanuka more and more for his cricketing excellence. Not two kilometer run, skin folds tests or NOCs.

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Sri Lanka clinch series after bowling out Zimbabwe for lowest total at Pallekele

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Sri Lanka wrapped up the three match ODI series against Zimbabwe with a huge 184 run win in the third ODI at Pallekele yesterday. Chasing a target of 255, Zimbabwe were bowled for 70 inside 25 overs. 

Rex Clementine at Pallekele

The deciding third ODI between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe turned out to be an anti-climax after the hosts shot out the tourists for 70 runs in just 24.4 overs to complete a massive 184 run win and wrap up the three match series 2-1 at Pallekele International Stadium yesterday. It’s the lowest total at Pallekele with the previous lowest being Sri Lanka’s 167 all out against South Africa in 2013.

It was an outstanding show by the bowlers after a below par effort by the batsmen as Sri Lanka were able to drive away the ghosts of 2017 where Zimbabwe came from behind to hand Angelo Mathews side a shock series defeat. It was their first and only series win over Sri Lanka in three decades.

There was a scare once again with Zimbabwe squaring the series on Tuesday with a 22 run win and in the final ODI Sri Lanka’s batsmen did not cover themselves in glory. The bowling, however, was terrific, putting early pressure and picking up wickets at regular intervals and it was a one-sided contest at the end.

If a current bowler resembles Michael Holding, ‘Rolls Royce of fast bowlers’, Dushmantha Chameera has got to be that. The world’s highest wicket taker in 2021, skipped the first ODI as he had not been medically cleared to play after testing positive for COVID. He was not all that effective on his comeback on Tuesday but yesterday he was on the money bowling with fire and Zimbabwe were not well equipped to take him on.

In his second over, he had Regis Chakabva caught at first slip and in the very next ball captain Craig Ervine edged one to the keeper as Zimbabwe were reduced to three for two wickets. They never recovered.

The spinners came on and tightened the grip with Jeffrey Vandersay being the pick of the bowlers claiming four wickets. Ramesh Mendis chipped in with two wickets. Only two batsmen crossed double figures and none managed a score of 20.

Pathum Nissanka batted superbly for his half-century and added 80 runs for the first wicket with Kusal Mendis. It was his second half-century in the series and he was named Player of the Series.

After a good start, Sri Lanka lost a few quick wickets and were 149 for four in the 31st over. Charith Asalanka then held the innings together stitching a few valuable partnerships with the lower middle order. He made 52. A 48 run stand for the seventh wicket between Ramesh Mendis (26) and Chamika Karunaratne (30) helped Sri Lanka to their eventual total of 254.

Apart from the series win, Sri Lanka will gladly pick up 20 points in the ICC Cricket World Cup Super League. Sri Lanka moved up to the fourth position in the table and need to remain in top seven to automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup.

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Athapaththu, Sri Lanka too strong for Kenya 

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ICC Commonwealth Games Qualifier 2022

Sri Lanka’s spinners restricted Kenya to 87 for six before captain Chamari Athapaththu struck 57 off 29 balls to power Sri Lanka to a nine-wicket win on the third day of the ICC Commonwealth Games Qualifier 2022 at the Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur.

Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bowl in a match they dominated virtually throughout even though their bowlers got off to a shaky start, conceding seven wides in the first three overs.

Sri Lanka’s infielders were just as sharp as in the first game against Scotland that they won by 109 runs. Kavisha Dilhari’s direct hit sent opener Mary Mwangi back to the dugout before Kenya captain Margaret Ngoche was trapped in front by Inoka Ranaweera.

Kavisha Dilhari was introduced into the attack in the eighth over, bowling a maiden, which included the run out of Sharon Juma. This brought Sarah Bhakita to the crease. The powerful right-hander wasted no time, pulling a delivery into deep mid-wicket for four before she launched Ranaweera over her head for six.

Not to be left behind, opener Queentor Abel drove Dilhari against the spin and through the covers for two boundaries in the 14th over. Athapaththu broke the 45-run partnership between Abel and Bhakita, trapping the former in front with the score on 71 after 16 overs. Bhakita departed soon after, miscuing a Dilhari delivery into the hands of Ama Kanchana at mid-wicket.

Sri Lanka only conceded nine runs in the final three overs to restrict the East Africans to 87 for six.

In reply, Sri Lanka were in an aggressive mood right from the first over. Vishmi Gunaratne lofted Lavendah Idambo over mid-on for her first boundary of a run-a-ball knock of 26. Mercyline Ochieng came in for some treatment in the second over as Athapaththu cleared the off side circle twice for a pair of boundaries to get her innings going.

Things would go from bad to worse for Kenya who were helpless in the face of the assault from Athapaththu, who had struck 86 off 45 in Sri Lanka’s earlier win over Scotland. The left-hander flicked Mwangi off her pads for her first of three maximums, taking 16 off the final over of a Powerplay, which yielded 57 runs.

Two overs later, Sarah Bhakita was carted over her head for six by the Sri Lankan skipper before she was swept over the deep mid-wicket boundary off the very next delivery.

With five runs required for victory, Athapaththu was stumped off the bowling of a jubilant Esther Wachira. Sri Lanka, however, had no issues hunting down what remained of the target, winning with 63 balls to spare.

Kenya skipper Margaret Ngoche remained optimistic in spite of the loss.

“We bowled too many extras, but the girls did well. We put up a fight,” she said.

Athapaththu was asked about Dilhari’s development, and she responded by heaping praise on the off spinner.

“Kavisha is one of our main bowlers who we rely on to keep the opposition in check. Today, she flighted the ball and drew the batters to make mistakes. We hope she keeps doing this in the remaining games,” she said.

Athapaththu also took home the Player of the Match award, yet she expects even more from herself going forward in the tournament.

“This is how I always play. By my standards, I’m still not fully satisfied, and I feel I can still tighten up my game. I look forward to the next few games,” she said.

Brief Scores:

Kenya

87/6 in 20 Overs 

Mary Mwangi 33, Sarah Wetoto 29 ; Chamari Athapaththu 1/10

Sri Lanka

89/1 in 9.3 Overs.

Vishmi Gunaratne 26 not out, Chamari Athapaththu 57; Esther Wachira 1/04

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