by Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka skipper Dasun Shanaka confirmed that Kusal Mendis will open batting in the three match series against Zimbabwe that gets underway at Pallekele on Sunday. Mendis was not part of the initial squad but was a late addition after several COVID positive cases within the Sri Lanka bubble.
The 26-year-old Mendis last played international cricket more than six months ago and missed several series after he was suspended by Sri Lanka Cricket along with Niroshan Dickwell and Danushka Gunathilaka for breaching the bio-secure bubble during the team’s tour of England. The one year suspension was reduced to six months on appeal and Mendis now finds huge responsibility on his shoulders with the team missing Avishka Fernando and Dhananjaya de Silva.
Mendis is the brightest Sri Lankan talent to emerge in the last ten years and there have been some terrific match winning knocks like in Port Elizabeth three years ago when he helped the team to seal a series win in South Africa against an attack comprising Steyn, Rabada and Olivier. However, lack of consistency has been an issue. Given his talent and now with responsibility on his shoulders, fans will be hoping that he will have a telling impact in this series and moves forward emerging as one of world’s best batsmen.
Mendis will partner Pathum Nissanka who was in good nick in the Test series against West Indies last month.
Charith Asalanka was terrific during the T-20 World Cup last year and he has got an opportunity to cement his place in the ODI side as well having made his Test debut in December.
Injury to Minod Bhanuka has forced the selectors to rethink their strategy and it is likely that Niroshan Dickwella who was added to the bubble in Kandy will be drafted into the squad.
Meanwhile Dushmantha Chameera, who had tested positive for COVID two weeks ago has been medically cleared to resume training but whether he will be available for the series opener remains to be seen. The Island learns that the fast bowler will be given ample time to be match fit before making a return.
Three players who were named in the squad; Avishka Fernando, Janith Liyanage and Kamil Mishara were pulled out from the squad after testing positive for COVID. Dhananjaya de Silva, deputy to Dasun Shanaka, has been left out due to personal reasons and Sri Lanka’s batting looks thin on experience.
All three ODIs will be played at Pallekele.
Sri Lanka clinch series after bowling out Zimbabwe for lowest total at Pallekele
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.
Sri Lanka Under 19s looking to keep unbeaten status intact against hosts
by Reemus Fernando
Sri Lanka Under 19s will enter today’s final group ‘D’ encounter almost assured of their quarter-final place and fates of Australia and hosts West Indies in the ICC Under 19 World Cup in their hands. Despite leading the points table in their group the team will look forward to registering a win against the hosts.
“The team will try to enter the quarter-finals unbeaten and will field a team that can counter West Indies’ strengths,” a team official told The Island from St. Kitts yesterday.
Mahinda Halangoda, the manager of Sri Lanka Under 19 team was speaking to The Island after fellow Group ‘D’ team, Australia beat Scotland to remain in contention for a place in the quarter-finals.
“You need to win to avoid looking at net run rates to earn your quarter-final place. The team will not take chances,” Halangoda said.
Sri Lanka will meet hosts as the only unbeaten team in Group ‘D’. While Scotland are out of contention, West Indies will be looking to register a victory to secure a place in the quarter-final in the tournament proper.
Despite Australia’s big win against Scotland on Wednesday giving them a net run-rate boost, they are not assured of qualification. If West Indies beat Sri Lanka in a very close finish, then Australia could be eliminated to the Plate round. If Sri Lanka beat West Indies, Australia will qualify.
Sri Lanka registered a four-wicket win against Australia in their second tournament match on Monday to lead the points table. “No one expected us to beat Australia as they were a strong team, one of the favourites. Dunith Wellalage did really well to guide the team. A victory on Friday will be the ideal way to conclude the group stage,” said Halangoda.
Wellalage picked up his second five-wicket haul of the tournament on Monday before scoring a crucial half-century to lead the side to victory.
The tournament’s decisive phase has seen one of the team’s leading batsmen failing to deliver while a batsman replaced him producing results. Pawan Pathiraja who was the team’s most consistent batsman until the team reached West Indies was dropped after he failed to impress. It would be interesting to see if the team would recall him for the final group match.
Sakuna Liyanage who replaced wicketkeeper-batsman Anjala Bandara did a rescue job in the first match he played scoring a match-defining half-century. Liyanage also kept wickets for Sri Lanka as both wicketkeepers were not fit to play during the initial stages. Liyanage’s form has seen him retain his place despite Bandara returning to the match against Australia.
Sri Lanka banked on spinners to earn results in this World Cup and it would be interesting to note how the team from the land of legendary fast bowlers would take the final group encounter.
Athapaththu, Sri Lanka too strong for Kenya
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.
87/6 in 20 Overs
Mary Mwangi 33, Sarah Wetoto 29 ; Chamari Athapaththu 1/10
89/1 in 9.3 Overs.
Vishmi Gunaratne 26 not out, Chamari Athapaththu 57; Esther Wachira 1/04
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