by Rex Clementine
There have been some sensational stories coming out of Australia during cricket contests. A recollection of some of them is not a bad idea at a time when the national cricket team is down under.
It is a tradition in Australia after a game for the losing team to visit the winning team and have a beer or just have a chat. This has been a practice that has been in place for decades and once at the SCG when the Sri Lankans were in the Australian dressing room, a message had come through that the Prime Minister of Australia John Howard was coming over to meet them.
As Howard entered the dressing room, straight away the Sri Lankans were on their feet to greet the PM, who was a cricket buff. From a corner someone raised his voice, ‘Hey John, come mate, come. Grab a beer mate!’ It was Matthew Hayden. And he was in his underpants. The Sri Lankans couldn’t believe it. One of them whispered to the team manager, ‘Imagine this happening in our country.’ John Howard did share a beer with the players.
Howard had a 11 year stint as the Australian PM and when he stepped down, there was move to make him the President of International Cricket Council. He had agreed to come on board provided member countries elected him unanimously. Sadly, SLC objected to him becoming the ICC chief on flimsy grounds. What most fans aren’t aware is that India was using SLC as a cat’s paw.
Several years later, in 2010 Julia Gillard had become the first female Prime Minister of Australia. This was half a century after Sri Lanka had elected a female Prime Minister. Gillard had been born in Wales in the UK before migrating to Australia and she loved her cricket too. She was not in the habit of walking into the dressing room like Howard but invited teams to her residence in Canberra for tea. The Sri Lankan team were her guests in 2012. Team Manager Charith Senanayake was introducing his players. The PM came up to a famous cricketer who recently retired. She shook his hands and asked, ‘How are you keeping.’ Our champion replied, ‘I am not keeper, I am an all-rounder.’ Poor Charith, a good man who loves a laugh, didn’t know where to hide.
The closest Sri Lanka came to winning a Test match in Australia was in 2012 in the final Test in Sydney. A rash shot from Tilan Samaraweera triggered a sensational collapse after several young players had fought bravely. It was a remarkable effort given the fact the team’s best batsman Kumar Sangakkara was out injured. It was an absorbing Test match but some of us remember it for the wrong reasons.
After second day’s play, late in the night, a social media post had suggested that spinner Rangana Herath and fast bowling coach Chaminda Vaas had met with a road accident and Herath had died on the spot. It was midnight in Australia but newspapers in Colombo had several hours to go to print. There were calls from editors asking reporters covering the series in Australia what’s going on and in the middle of the night the team manger had to be woken up. He eventually woke up Herath and confirmed that this was a false alarm. It turned out to be that both Herath and Vaas had not stepped out of the hotel that night. Poor Herath was being bombarded with phone calls and he had to keep up the whole night to tell family, friends and everyone who called him not to take what’s in social media seriously.
Marvan Atapattu was one of the finest gents to play the game and as Sri Lanka captain he set new standards. It was obvious that towards the tail end of his career he was getting a raw deal. After being overlooked for several home series, he was called up for the toughest assignment in cricket – tour of Australia in 2007.
At the Gabba after the first Test ended he vented his anger attending the press conference calling the selectors a bunch of puppets headed by a joker. This became headline news not just in Australia but all over the world. It was a rare indiscretion by someone who always played the sport in the right spirit.
The next Test match in Hobart was Marvan’s swansong. In his last innings in Test cricket, he produced a masterclass 80 with Sri Lanka chasing a huge target of 507. Marvan’s father was there too to see his son going out on a high. However, his knock was overshadowed by Kumar Sangakkara’s classy 192. Sanga had been wrongly given out by umpire Rudi Koertzen. Adam Gilchrist did not cover himself in glory as he was the first to appeal and the Aussies were in no mood to withdraw the appeal with the game at stake.
During the same game, Percy Abesysekara, the cheerleader was arrested by the police for ‘intruding’ the pitch. Now Tasmania is a tiny island and people are often laid-back including the cops. While Percy would have got away in any major Australian city or for that matter anywhere in the world, in Hobart they considered him an intruder.
Percy being Percy wasn’t grumbling. He reminded the cops that his friends included Bob Hawke to John Howard, two Australian PMs who frequented cricket. He also added that since his high profile political friends are unable to come down to Hobart in a hurry to bail him out, he would get two famous Tasmanians in David Boon and Ricky Ponting to get him out of trouble. Sanity prevailed and uncle Percy was let off. Percy continued to be cheeky. ‘When I applied for the Australian visa, they asked me whether I have a criminal record. Now, gentlemen, do you still require to have a criminal record to enter Australia?
Several Sri Lankan batsmen have come up with some memorable batting feats in Australia and some outstanding bowling efforts. The first century in Australia by a Sri Lankan stands out of them all. Aravinda de Silva scored a spectacular 167 in the Gabba Test of 1989 and his superb counterattack with the team in trouble made the world take note of his exceptional talent.
Aravinda has many friends and fans in Brisbane. When someone had asked for match tickets, he had kindly obliged. The friends had brought to his notice that there were tickets for only the first four days. Upon inquiring, Aravinda had got to know that the Australian board didn’t expect the Test match to go beyond day four. He needed little motivation after that. The Aussie bowlers were at the receiving end.
Mushfiqur, batters and late Taijul show give Bangladesh tiny advantage
If day three of the first Test in Chattogram belonged to Tamim Iqbal, the fourth day was all about Mushfiqur Rahim. Not only did he become the first Bangladesh batter to reach 5000 runs in Test cricket, his eighth century in the format also made sure Bangladesh stayed ahead in Chattogram at the end of day four.
Mushfiqur’s 105, to go with Tamim Iqbal’s 133, and half-centuries from Litton Das and Mahmudul Hasan Joy helped Bangladesh end their first innings on 465 , and secure a lead of 68 runs in reply to Sri Lanka’s first innings score of 397.
Dimuth Karunaratne and Oshada Fernando then started their second innings steadily before the latter was run out needlessly for 19. Lasith Embuldeniya, the nightwatchman, had a few nervy moments but did his job before being bowled off the final ball of the day by Taijul Islam. At stumps, Sri Lanka had reached 39 for 2, still trailing Bangladesh by 29 runs. Karunaratne was unbeaten on 18, and will be joined by Kusal Mendis, in all likelihood, tomorrow morning.
The start of the day’s play was delayed by 30 minutes because of rain but once play resumed, it did not take long for Mushfiqur to reach the 5000-run mark. He began the day just 15 runs away from the landmark and breached the milestone with a deflection off his gloves down to fine leg shortly after the first drinks break. Adopting a cautious approach, Mushfiqur surged ahead and soon reached his century after lunch, his first in Test cricket in more than a year.
Bangladesh resumed their day on 318 for 3, with Litton and Mushfiqur picking up from where they had left on the third evening. Both batters were cautious but made sure no wickets were lost as Bangladesh reached 385 for 3 at lunch. The Sri Lankan bowlers, much like the third evening, lacked the bite and could not get much out of the surface.
However, the visitors came back well in the second session. Rajitha struck straight after lunch, first removing Litton before uprooting Tamim’s middle stump the very next ball. Litton, in particular, would be kicking himself for missing a third Test hundred after edging an innocuous short and wide first ball after lunch to the wicketkeeper. The ball to Tamim, though, was a good one. Coming back to bat after retiring hurt at tea on the third day, Tamim went for the expansive drive to a fuller delivery. However, Rajitha, bowling from around the wicket, got the ball to angle in and it crept between Tamim’s bat and pad to hit the middle stump.
Shakib, having survived a close chance at short leg, was rattled by a bouncer barrage from Asitha Fernando. He was hit by the pacer on the helmet, and soon after was dismissed going for the pull shot for 26.
Mushfiqur, meanwhile, held his own at the other end even as things started heating up in the middle. There were a few glares and words exchanged with Asitha, but the batter remained firm. He reached his century with a faint tickle off Asitha down the leg side and celebrated wildly.
Mushfiqur’s 282-ball vigil finally ended after tea, when looking to play the sweep against Embuldeniya, he missed the line and found his stumps in a mess. Taijul Islam and Shoriful frustrated the Sri Lankans with a 26-run stand before Asitha sent Taijul back. Bangladesh innings ended on 465 after Shoriful, struck on the hand by a bouncer, retired out.
Sri Lanka toiled away and bowled well in patches, particularly in the middle session on both the third and fourth days. However, a couple of wicketless sessions cost them. Rajitha, who was not even part of the playing XI and came in as a concussion sub for Vishwa Fernando, was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with 4 for 60.
Sri Lanka started their second innings well with both Karunratne and Oshada looking comfortable. However, a direct hit at the bowler’s end from Taijul sent Oshada packing. Karunaratne also had an escape when he mistimed a drive back to Nayeem Hasan, but replays showed the ball had just fallen short of the bowler.
Embuldeniya gave Karunaratne good support, but the surface started to show tricks late in the day with the odd-ball staying low. How Sri Lanka survive the final day remains to be seen.
Tamim century puts Bangladesh in control over Sri Lanka
Opener Tamim Iqbal hit his tenth Test century to help Bangladesh take control on day three of the first Test against Sri Lanka, reaching 318-3 on Tuesday.
Tamim made 133 off 217 balls before being retired hurt due to a muscle cramp. Then, Mushfiqur Rahim and Liton Das put on a 98-run unbroken stand to keep Bangladesh in a commanding position.
Liton was batting on 54 with Mushfiqur on 53 at stumps as Bangladesh cut the first innings deficit to 79 runs.
Sri Lanka were bowled out for 397 in the first innings, with Angelo Mathews scoring 199.
Tamim, who recorded 15 fours, aggressively went after the Sri Lankan bowlers after Bangladesh resumed on 76-0, hitting Vishwa Fernando for consecutive boundaries in the first two balls he faced.
Fernando, who was hit on the helmet during Sri Lanka’s innings, went for a medical checkup after bowling four overs in the morning.
He was later ruled out of the match and Kasun Rajitha replaced him as a concussion sub.
Tamim raised his 32nd Test half-century off just 73 balls, cutting off-spinner Ramesh Mendis for a boundary past point.
Mahmudul was restrained but never hesitated to punish the loose deliveries.
He reached his half-century from 112 deliveries, flicking paceman Asitha Fernando through mid-wicket. Mahmudul was on 51 when he got a reprieve in Asitha Fernando’s next over, with Lasith Embuldeniya dropping a catch at fine-leg.
But Mahmudul (58) couldn’t survive long, hitting a delivery of Asitha that went down the leg-side to give the visitors their first breakthrough.
Tamim, however, continued in attack mode and brought up a century off 162 balls, flicking Asitha for a single through mid-wicket.
Rajitha then troubled Bangladesh for a brief period and got the reward, dismissing Najmul Hossain (1) and captain Mominul Haque (2), leaving Bangladesh at 184 for three.
Mominul has produced five straight single-digit figures and 10 in the last 13 innings.
Tamim and Mushfiqur Rahim helped Bangladesh regain control despite losing three wickets for 22 runs.
But Sri Lanka could have removed Tamim for 114 had Dhananajaya de Silva not dropped him at slip after Tamim went for an expensive drive.
Tamim retired hurt on 133 after suffering from a muscle cramp but Liton and Mushfiqur kept the side going, frustrating the Sri Lanka bowlers further.
Liton in fact played the role of Tamim, going after the visiting bowlers in an aggressive fashion while Mushfiqur was largely watchful.
The contrasting batting approach served the team well and put Bangladesh in a strong position.
Wasim remembered at Galle Face protest site
Yesterday marked the tenth death anniversary of former S. Thomas’ College, Havelock and Sri Lanka rugby star Wasim Thajudeen. Wasim was 28-years-old when his body was found burnt in his vehicle in Narahenpita in 2012. Although his death was initially called an accident, investigations conducted later in 2015 found that he had been in fact murdered. Police claimed that earlier investigations were shelved due to political pressure.
A vigil service was conducted in memory of Wasim at the protest site at the Galle Face Green by the rugby fraternity yesterday.
Wasim’s friends at S. Thomas’ College addressed a large gathering at the presence of his parents and other family members.
Wasim, a former vice-captain of S. Thomas’ College went onto captain Havelock Sports Club and in 2009 become the nation’s Most Popular Rugby player.
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