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Mahela leaves Sri Lanka team with a heavy heart  



Rex Clementine in Sharjah

Former skipper Mahela Jayawardene’s role with the Sri Lankan team as a consultant has worked wonders and everyone from captain, coach to players have praised him immensely. Unfortunately, his stay with the Sri Lankan team will be over today as he had opted to stay only during the qualifiers. In an interview with a few Sri Lankan journalists in UAE, Jayawardene explained that he was leaving due to personal reasons.

“It’s tough. I just counted that I have been 135 days in quarantine and bubbles since June and I am in last legs. But I totally understand and I told them I will be with the group with the technology that we have. I hope that anyone can understand that being a father that I haven’t seen my daughter for that many days. I definitely need to get back home,” Jayawardene explained.

Jayawardene was happy with the way things have gone for Sri Lanka in the qualifying phase. Sri Lanka went through with a game to spare and almost certainly will top the group which means they will avoid the Asian bloc in the second round.

“Things have gone fairly well but there are things that need to be improved going forward. The main thing was role clarity for players and what needs to be done in T-20 cricket. The biggest thing I realized when I spoke to the coaches was fear of failure and playing T20 cricket at this level you need to play without that. Otherwise it’s difficult to get hold of certain situations and put pressure back on the opposition,” he explained.

“We have spoken about this individually. The batting area is something we still need to work quite a bit and continue to do so. The bowling group has a lot of skill sets and creating situation awareness and match-ups to improve the skill set we had. I think so far we have been very good in executing that and hopefully they will be able to do that even though it’s going to be tougher.”

“With the batting group, we still have to work with the guys to help them continue to bat with that freedom and start taking control of certain situations. Those situations we can’t predict. Those will arise like in the last game where we were three down or like the previous game where we had some hiccups and in those situations what needs to be done and have that tempo throughout the innings. Those are situations that we discussed so that the players are aware of those situations so that it won’t be a surprise if they are in that situation.”

The decision to bring Avishka Fernando down to number four took many by surprise and when asked on this, Jayawardene was not willing to spill the beans.  “To elaborate that on a media forum means we are putting out things that are detrimental to the player going forward. With Danushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis out of this T20 group, we needed to create bit more power in the middle which we lacked and having top heavy power wouldn’t have pitted like when you are going into a competition. You need to have that spread of different players coming and doing those things and continuing the tempo. So to break that we need to do something with Avishka.”

“Yes there were certain issues with Avishka as well where at the top he was finding it difficult with certain bowling match-ups.  So we wanted to take away that element and give him a different role to play.  I also felt that he had the game to do it and obviously when you look at his stats against certain bowler types, we could see his strength.  That’s something we’ve analyzed to see whether he can play that role. So when I spoke to him he was very much keen to take that challenge and now we see him expressing himself well in that role. He understands his role but I do not want to go into too many details which means I am giving out certain information which the opposition might be able to utilize as well.”

Another masterstroke during the Ireland game was to send Wanindu Hasaranga at number five after Sri Lanka were three wickets down for just eight runs in the second over.

“In T20 cricket, its small phases that takes the game away from anyone. It can be four balls or five balls. Ireland game is an example. Those six balls that Wanindu played in the Power Play, sixth over against the off-spinner was the one that got us the tempo and put pressure back on Ireland. And we knew that match up was there and Wanindu has that option. They obviously made a mistake by bowling a spinner in the Power Play against him and he took advantage. So it’s that crucial in a T20 game for you to be able to control those situations and be ready for that match-up.”

Fast bowler Lahiru Kumara has been sensational with his extra pace and he was a last minute inclusion. Jayawardene’s request would have made the selectors to include him in the side. “I have always believed that bowlers win tournaments not the batsmen so having a bowling group that is capable of creating those opportunities is important. Sometimes bowlers will go for runs and a having that attacking option is required. I know it’s against qualifying nations still but even with main teams, especially against good batting line-ups the only way to control those batting line-ups is by being able to pickup wickets and having that attacking option so you need to have that fire power.”

“Lahiru has been bowling really well. Having spoken to Vaasy even before the tournament he was quite happy the way Lahiru had progressed. He has to work hard on his skill, especially the yorker. That was something that he was working quite a while with Vaasy. He was very confident in executing that.  Chameera has come a long way in the last 12 months. He is probably one of the top bowlers in world cricket at the moment with T20 and been able to adapt to different condition.

Today’s game in Sharjah against Netherlands is a dead rubber but with Sri Lanka set to play a few games in the second round in Sharjah, the game will be a good opportunity to adapt to conditions.

“We’ll change the template and the way we want to play in Sharjah. In the Super 12 group, we have three games in Sharjah, one in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi so our template and strategy will change according to the surface and how we want to go about. Before I leave, I’ll put all structures in place and give them a better idea because I was involved in a few games in Sharjah two weeks back in the IPL and we saw how in the playoffs the surfaces were playing.”


Iyer, Gill, Suryakumar and Ashwin stud India’s series-clinching win




Shreyas Iyer's century was another tick in the box for India. (pic BCCI)

India’s box-ticking ahead of the World Cup continued, with Shreyas Iyer and R Ashwin coming up with impressive performances, as the hosts secured a 99-run victory (DLS) in the second ODI in Indore on Sunday (September 24) to seal the three-match series. Iyer’s third ODI ton and Shubman Gill’s sixth hundred, along with half-centuries from Suryakumar Yadav and KL Rahul, powered India to a commanding 399/5. After a rain break in the second innings, Australia’s target was revised to 317 in 33 overs but they ended up well short as Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bagged three apiece to bowl the visitors out for 217.

Matthew Short started positively in the chase as he managed two fours off Mohammed Shami in the opening over. But Prasidh Krishna, who replaced Jasprit Bumrah for this game, had Short caught at third man and also got Steve Smith, the stand-in captain, to edge to slip. The bowler, though, was taken for a few boundaries by David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne as they took Australia past 50 before it started to rain again in Indore, forcing the players off the field. Upon resumption, Australia faced a steep challenge as they needed 261 in 24 overs at close to 11 an over as per the DLS revised target.

Warner and Labuschagne, who extended their stand past 50, had to play their shots from the get-go and they were up for it as they targeted Shardul Thakur. Ashwin, on the other hand, wasn’t as easy to score off and Warner even batted right-handed against him, executing a sweep shot for a four. Labuschagne, though, fell to the offspinner as he was bowled off a back flipper. Warner, who registered his second fifty-plus score of the series, persisted with his right-hand tactics against Ashwin, and ended up being out lbw attempting a reverse sweep, although replays revealed he had edged the ball onto his pad.

Ashwin also removed Josh Inglis soon after and Jadeja, after an expensive start, accounted for Alex Carey. A direct hit from Ishan Kishan, who was ‘keeping in this game, caught Cameron Green short of the crease. Jadeja picked up his second by having Adam Zampa bowled, as Australia slipped to 140/8. Josh Hazlewood and Sean Abbott struck a few big hits while a couple of dropped catches came as blemishes in an otherwise dominating show by India. Australia got some ticking done too as Abbott showcased his hitting skills to bring up a 29-ball fifty, his first in ODIs. A 77-run ninth wicket stand came to an end when Hazlewood, who had hit two fours off Shami, was eventually bowled by the experienced pacer for 23. Abbott was the last to fall, bowled by Jadeja, as Australia’s innings ended in the 29th over. It meant they had now lost five ODIs on the bounce.

Earlier, having been asked to bat, India got off to a good start as Ruturaj Gaikwad struck two fours off debutant Spencer Johnson. Hazlewood, back in the side, bowled in the right channels, and reaped the reward as he got Gaikwad to edge to Carey. Iyer hit the straps straightaway as he dealt in regular boundaries. Be it driving through covers or going over it, he exuded confidence as he helped India pick up pace. Gill was a bit subdued until he went straight over Abbott’s head for his first boundary-shot, which was a maximum, and then came down the track to hit one past cover for a four. Gill also took on Green in his first over, striking a four and a six. After a brief rain interruption, Gill and Iyer continued to tee off, with the former bringing up a 37-ball fifty and the latter getting to a 41-ball half-century with a six off Johnson.

Australia weren’t able to keep a lid on India’s scoring rate, with Iyer targeting the spinners for a couple of sixes and Gill finding the boundaries regularly. India’s 200 came up in just the 29th over and an 86-ball ton for Iyer came next, and the joy and relief of getting to hundred was palpable in his celebrations. Iyer was reprieved when the third umpire ruled that Abbott didn’t take a return catch cleanly. But the batter fell in the same over, soon after hitting a boundary to raise the 200 partnership, when he failed in his attempt to clear the fence. Rahul started with a six off Zampa, after which Gill reached three figures, becoming only the fifth player to get five ODI hundreds in a calendar year before turning 25. Rahul also hit a Green delivery out of the ground before Gill’s innings came to an end in the same over when he was undone by a slower ball.

Rahul and Kishan kept the big hits coming as they raised a 59-run stand to help India past 300 in the 41st over. But Kishan fell soon after, getting out to Zampa for an 18-ball 31 looking to go for another big one. After two quiet overs, Suryakumar unleashed his array of strokes in the 44th over off Green, hitting four successive sixes. Rahul got to a 35-ball fifty but it was Suryakumar who scored the bulk of the runs in a half-century stand before Green ended the Indian skipper’s stay. But there was no stopping Suryakumar, who smashed a six and two fours in a 17-run over from Abbott as he got to a 24-ball fifty. Jadeja and Suryakumar scored a four apiece off Hazlewood in the 48th. It was a forgettable outing with the ball for Green, who conceded 103 runs despite giving away only five runs in the 49th over. Abbott was hit for a six by Suryakumar in the final over but he kept it tight otherwise, preventing India from reaching 400.

Brief scores:
India 399/5 in 50 overs (Shreyas Iyer 105, Shubman Gill 104, Suryakumar Yadav 72*, KL Rahul 52; Cameron Green 2-103) beat Australia 217 (Sean Abbott 54, David Warner 53; R Ashwin 3-41, Ravindra Jadeja 3-42) by 99 runs (DLS method).

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Hasaranga ruled out of World Cup



Wanindu Hasaranga has been ruled out of the ICC Cricket World Cup.

by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka suffered a major blow before leaving for the ICC Cricket World Cup in India later this week when star leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga was ruled out of the tournament with a hamstring injury. The 26-year-old was sidelined from the Asia Cup after suffering a hamstring injury during the Lanka Premier League but was expected to be fit for the World Cup.

However, he aggravated the injury during rehabilitation and now medical experts will determine whether the former Richmond College cricketer needs surgery. Hasaranga has a grade III hamstring tear.Hasaranga had been named in the World Cup squad but now he’s most likely to be replaced by Dushan Hemantha, the leg-spinning all-rounder.

There was no place for fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera either in the World Cup squad, however, sources said that he will be back up if any injury happens to a fast bowler during the World Cup.Dilshan Madushanka and Lahiru Kumara, who did not feature in the Asia Cup due to injuries have recovered and have been drafted into the World Cup squad.

Maheesh Theekshana, who suffered a hamstring injury during the Super Four game against Pakistan in the Asia Cup has recovered and has also been named in the World Cup squad.

Sri Lanka did well to reach the Asia Cup finals despite the bowling attack being depleted with injuries. All bowlers who broke down lead up to the Asia Cup were expected to be available for selection and Hasaranga had in fact resumed bowling and had been picked in the World Cup squad before the same injury again flared up.

Later this week, Sri Lanka will fly off to the eastern Indian city of Guwahati on the Nepalese boarder for World Cup warm-up games against Asian rivals Afghanistan and Bangladesh before flying to Indian capital of New Delhi to prepare for their first game of the tournament against South Africa.The finalists of the epic 2019 World Cup – England and New Zealand will face off in the curtain-raiser of the tournament on the 5th October at Ahmedabad. Sri Lanka’s first game is two days later.Sri Lanka have two games each in Delhi, Bangalore and Lucknow while they play one game each at Pune and Hyderabad. The epic clash against hosts India is in Bombay on the 2nd of November, a replay of the 2011 World Cup final.

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Sri Lanka women’s cricket team to fight for Asian Games gold



Udeshika Prabodhani picked up three wickets against Pakistan

Sri Lanka outplayed Pakistan on a slow and sticky surface in Hangzhou to advance to the final of the Asian Games. Chasing a small target of 76, Sri Lanka reached the target in the 17 over to set up the gold-medal contest against India – who beat Bangladesh in a low-scoring, one-sided contest earlier in the day. Final will be played on Monday.

Opting to field first in the second semi-final, Sri Lanka’s bowlers were all over Pakistan’s batters from the beginning. They were restricted to 75 for 9 in 20 overs with right-arm medium pacer Udeshika Prabodhani starring with three wickets and young off-spinner Kavisha Dilhari picking up two wickets. Inoshi Priyadharshani, Achini Kulasuriya and Inoka Ranaweera took a wicket apiece to blunt Pakistan. That only three batters crossed double digits showed how Nida Dar’s side struggled to score.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka got off to a decent start with Chamari Athapaththu using sweep shots to negate the spinners’ turn. After scoring two boundaries, she mistimed a slog sweep to hole out on 14 off 19 balls. Opener Anushka Sanjeewani also fell inside the powerplay for a 13-ball 15 but Harshitha Samarawickrama at one-drop stitched a 35-run stand in 51 deliveries with Nilakshi de Silva for the third wicket to ensure Sri Lanka didn’t lose wickets in a flurry. Samarawickrama, despite consuming 41 balls, played a crucial knock of 23 while de Silva’s unbeaten 18 saw Sri Lanka chasing down the target with 21 balls to spare and six wickets in hand. Sadia Iqbal, Daina Baig and Umm-e-Hani were among the wickets for Pakistan, but it wasn’t enough to stop Sri Lanka from advancing to the final. They will face Bangladesh for a third-place play-off on Monday.

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