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Matheesha; cricket’s latest sensation



by Rex Clementine

We’ve heard it from cricket’s supremo M.S. Dhoni that young fast bowling sensation Matheesha Pathirana should get nowhere near red ball cricket. There would have been quite a furore had Kumar Sangakkara or Mahela Jayawardene said it. Remember the reaction when they echoed similar sentiments in the case of Lasith Malinga all those years ago. But with talents like Matheesha and Malinga it seems a sensible move. Afterall, Sanga and MJ rarely get their facts wrong.

As with Matheesha, already he has had his share of injuries and missed quite a few campaigns for Sri Lanka. He has featured in just one T-20 International so far in Sri Lankan colours which was against Afghanistan last year during the Asia Cup.

Matheesha was set to play the T-20 series in New Zealand in March, but he tested positive for COVID and had to be isolated. Matheesha was sold for the base price of US$ 25,000 in the IPL. He will fetch the same amount next season. But here’s the trick. The season after, when there’s an auction, he could fetch a princely sum. If Chennai Super Kings opt to retain him, which they will most probably do, he will get as much as US$ 1 million. But if he is third in the list of retained players then that amount goes up to US$ 1.2 million. Not bad for a 20-year-old.

The story from Madras is that CSK are quite thrilled with their young fast bowling sensation. The franchise is owned by India Cements boss N. Srinivasan, one time President of the International Cricket Council.

Isn’t that a strange world we live in. Not so long ago, Sri Lankans were persona non grata in Madras. Sri Lankan players couldn’t feature for their IPL teams if the games were in Madras. Since 2005, the Sri Lankan team hasn’t played a game in Madras. Time was when a game in Madras for Sri Lanka was a must.

But that’s the beauty of sports. No matter how hard politicians try, when young sensations like Matheesha come, fans embrace them and politicians are watchful to go against the public opinion. Matheesha has become a household name from Madras to Madurai.

Matheesha hails from Harispattuwa. His family is heavily into music. While the father plays the piano, his mother and two sisters are accomplished guitarists. Matheesha too can play the piano.

There was a generation of youngsters who emulated Wasim Akram as their hero. Even right-arm seamers used to carry the ball in their left-hand and change it to right-hand as they leaped up to deliver. The only problem was most of us never had the pace or the accuracy of Sultan of Swing. Cricketing gods have been extra kind to Pakistan gifting them with so many fast bowling talents.

The modern generation tried to copy Malinga. It is one thing copying Malinga but quite a tough one to generate that pace. Matheesha was able to do it. He was at the little heard Ranabima Royal when Trinity College in Kandy sent word to district coaches to recommend them a good fast bowler. They were feeling the pinch since Lahiru Kumara had left school.

Trinity coach Kavinda Jayasuriya was quite excited by what he saw and former Trinity captain Bilal Fassy facilitated the move. By then, Chaminda Vaas, that excellent spotter of fast bowling talent, had invited Matheesha to Colombo, but his parents were reluctant to part ways with their child. Trinity in their hometown sounded like a sensible move.

In his first game for Trinity, Matheesha picked up five for 11 against St. Servatius, Matara. Someone recorded Matheesha’s action and the video went viral. It went so viral that it ended up in M.S. Dhoni’s phone.

Impressed by what he saw, Dhoni wanted Matheesha at the CSK camp as a net bowler. There was a problem in getting him to UAE where the IPL was played that season as the COVID vaccine that UAE was accepting wasn’t available in Sri Lanka at that time. But Professor Arjuna de Silva’s expertise came in handy and soon the vaccine was administered to Matheesha. But there was another hurdle.

Trinity was unwilling to send Matheesha to CSK ranks as he was still a school kid. However, after much convincing he was given permission. Afterall, you don’t turn down Dhoni.

Harsha Bhogle, the popular Indian commentator is trying to give Dhoni all the credit for grooming Matheesha. Yes, no doubt that the fast bowler is in safe hands but the grooming of this talent happened in Sri Lanka and not in Madras.

Vaas, Fassy, Chris Silverwood, the coaches at Trinity and SLC’s District and Provincial coaches need to be given much credit for unearthing and developing another rare talent.

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Kipyegon breaks world 1500m record with 3:49.11 in Florence




(pic World Athletics)

Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon captured the world record she had been hunting, winning the women’s 1500m in a stunning 3:49.11* at the Golden Gala, the third Wanda Diamond League meeting of the season, in Florence on Friday (2).

The two-time Olympic and two-time world champion was already the second-fastest women’s 1500m runner of all time thanks to the 3:50.37 she clocked in Monaco in August, when she missed the world record of 3:50.07 set by Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba in 2015 by just 0.3.

This time, Kipyegon blew the mark apart, becoming the first woman to break 3:50 in the discipline and taking almost a second off the previous record.

Kipyegon had been open about her world record ambition in 2023. “The record is in my heart and on my mind and I hope this will be a perfect year for me,” she said on the eve of the Golden Gala.

She has started it in sensational style.

On Friday evening Kipyegon followed the pacemakers Brooke Feldmeier and Sage Hurta-Klecker through 400m in 1:02.37 and Hurta-Klecker was right on schedule through 800m in 2:04.00, with Kipyegon on her shoulder.

As Hurta-Klecker moved to the side, Kipyegon forged on and reached 1200m in 3:05.28. In a race of her own, she pushed again and was roared over the finish line, past a clock showing 3:49.11. She raised her hands to her face and then dropped to the track in delight.

Behind her, Britain’s Laura Muir finished second in 3:57.09, while Australia’s Jessica Hull was third in an area record of 3:57.29, and the field came together after the race to celebrate with Kipyegon.

(World Athletics)

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Ollie Pope, Ben Duckett conspire to crush Ireland




Ben Duckett and Ollie Pope cashed in on the second day (pic Cricinfo)
It had to be six. In England’s new Test era, his double-century just one run away it was only fitting that Ollie Pope passed the milestone with a skip and a heave to dispatch Andy McBrine all the way down the ground. This was Bazball, only it wasn’t – because it didn’t need to be.
So as Pope and Ben Duckett etched their names among records and onto the Lord’s honours board, the only takeaways from England’s mismatch with Ireland were ruminations over what will happen against Australia in exactly a fortnight’s time – and a bit of gold leaf.
In fairness, there were also a maiden Test wicket – plus two more – for debutant seamerJosh Tongue, forced to wait until Ireland’s second innings after 13 impressive but fruitless overs in the first, as well as a trip to the medical room for opener James McCollum who twisted his right ankle horribly swivelling on an abandoned pull shot in Tongue’s second over of the day to deepen Ireland’s considerable woes.
Tongue replaced Stuart Broad – as he did in Ireland’s first innings where Broad claimed a five-wicket haul – in the seventh over and struck with his first and sixth deliveries, trapping PJ Moor lbw with one that kept low and drew an outside edge as Andy Balbirnie played away from his body only to find Jonny Bairstow’s gloves. An England review secured his third when Ultra-Edge revealed the ball had brushed Paul Stirling’s glove as he attempted a pull and Bairstow collected behind the stumps again so that at the close Ireland still trailed by 255 runs.
Ben Stokes declared with a lead of 352 when Pope fell, immediately after bringing up his 200 off 207 balls, again shimmying out of his crease as McBrine tossed the ball up outside off stump and Lorcan Tucker whipped off the bails. Having reached his half-century – and 11,000 Test runs – just before tea,Joe Root fell just three balls into the evening session, bowled by McBrine as he came down the pitch to one that turned between bat and pad and into the stumps.
It was Duckett who set the tone though, sharing a 252-run stand for the second wicket with Pope after the pair resumed on 60 and 29 respectively and with England 20 runs in arrears overnight. Duckett scored 101 in the morning session as he and Pope added 173 runs from 29 overs. But this wasn’t the muscular, chest-thumping, roaring aggression we have become accustomed to in the year since Stokes assumed the captaincy and Brendon McCullum became head coach. Only occasionally did Duckett and Pope look like they were trying to make things happen. Mostly they cashed in on some loose Ireland bowling as the gulf between the sides was laid bare.
Pope saw Duckett’s 182 and raised it. He survived an Ireland review for lbw on 76 when debutante Fionn Hand struck him just above the knee roll with one that came back sharply as ball-tracking showed it was going just over the top of middle stump. Having lunched on 97 not out, Pope comfortably navigated the six balls he faced across two overs after the interval to bring up his ton by advancing and whipping McBrine past mid-on for a single.
Duckett helped himself to 14 off three deliveries in McBrine’s next over, including a slog-sweep for six, and it took the replacement of a misshapen ball for Ireland to remove him, trying to cut Graham Hume’s delivery which pitched on a length and angled in to find a thick outside edge and ricochet onto off stump.
The replacement ball kept Pope and Joe Root on their toes for a time as the Ireland bowlers found more movement. But the England duo settled into a 50-run stand off 49 balls with Root, who faced 15 balls for his first five runs, contributing 16 off 23. From there they found their stride with Pope and Root each peeling a six off McBrine, Pope down the ground and Root wide over mid-on.
The first of back-to-back fours off Curtis Campher took Pope past the 150-mark in 166 balls, equaling the previous record for the fastest 150 in Tests at Lord’s held by Sir Donald Bradman and which Duckett had smashed by reaching the milestone at a-run-a-ball in the morning session.
Pope also equalled Duckett’s earlier feat of adding 100 runs in a session shortly before tea, but there was still time for Root to bring up his half-century and take England past the 500-mark with a pulled four off Campher. Next ball, a leg-side single left Root unbeaten on 52 at tea.
By the time Root fell, he had added 146 runs with Pope and, as England maintained a staggering run-rate of 6.34, it was done with an air that was more clinical than brutal. There is no doubt whatsoever that the hosts will be preparing to unleash the beast once more when the Ashes begin.
Brief scores:
Ireland 172 (James McCollum 36, Paul Stirling 30, Curtis Campher 33; Stuart Broad 5-51, Jack Leach 3-35) and 97 for 3 (Harry Tector 33*, Lorcan Tucker 21*; Josh Tongue 3-27) trail England 524 for 4 declared (Ollie Pope 205, Ben Duckett 182, Zak Crawley 56, Joe Root 56; Andy McBrine 2-99) by 255 runs
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Afghanistan cruise to comfortable win after Zadran 98  



Rahmat Shah and Ibrahim Zadran added 146 runs

Opening batsman Ibrahim Zadran scored a fine 98 to help Afghanistan to a comfortable six wicket win with 19 balls to spare in the first ODI against Sri Lanka at Suriyawewa on Friday.  Chasing a target of 269, the tourists reached home in 46.5 overs with Zadran sharing a second wicket partnership worth 146 runs with Rahmat Shah.  Zadran one of the brightest young batting talents to come through from Afghanistan has already scored three hundreds in nine games and he nearly had a fourth one on Friday before being dismissed two runs short of the milestone.

The 21-year-old was expected to play the anchor role but he wasn’t afraid to punish the loose balls as he raced to his half-century in just 35 balls. He whipped Matheesha Pathirana for two sixes in an over as the debutant fresh from his IPL heroics failed to live up to the expectations conceding 66 runs in his 8.5 overs.

A bouncer by Kasun Rajitha helped Sri Lanka claim the key wicket of Zadran as the batsman attempted a pull shot but couldn’t keep it down and was caught in the deep.  Zadran made a run a ball 98 and hit 11 fours and two sixes.

Rahmat Shah went onto post 55 that came off 80 deliveries with three fours.

Nothing much went right for Sri Lanka who are using the series as preparation for the World Cup qualifiers later this month in Zimbabwe. Fast bowler Lahiru Kumara had to pull out after sending down just 4.3 overs with a hamstring strain.

Sri Lanka got off to a poor start losing four wickets for 84 runs inside 20 overs before Charith Asalanka rescued them top scoring with 91 runs. Asalanka added 99 runs for the fifth wicket with Dhananjaya de Silva, who chipped in with a half-century.

When captain Dasun Shanaka was dismissed with the total on 215 for six with seven overs remaining, Sri Lanka were in danger of getting bowled out without utilizing their 50 overs.  But Asalanka found a solid partner in debutant Dushan Hemantha as they added 48 runs for the seventh wicket.

Asalanka was run out in the last over with his 91 coming off 95 deliveries with 12 boundaries.  Left-arm quicks Fazalhaq Farooqi and Fareed Ahmad picked up two wickets apiece.  The second ODI will be played on 4th June followed by the final game on June 7th. All games will be at Suriyawewa.

 Brief scores:  

Sri Lanka 268 all out in 50 overs   (Charith Asalanka 91, Dhananjaya de Silva 51, Pathum Nissanka 38, Dushan Hemantha 22, Fazalhaq Farooqi 2-58, Fareed Ahmad 2-43.

Afghanistan 269 for four (Ibrahim Zadran 98, Rahmat Shah 55, Hashmatullah Shahidi 38, Kasun Rajitha 2-49) 

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