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Namal’s faux pas



by Rex Clementine

In an interview with a Sunday newspaper, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa had conceded that every time that an Interim Committee was in place that our cricket had slumped!

Now, there are few things that the Sports Minister is good at like for example playing rugby, driving fast cars and practicing law. In racing, Namal has so many tricks up his sleeve that at times he makes Ayrton Senna look ordinary. In rugby, Namal’s beloved Navy SC made the invincible Kandy SC eat humble pie. In the legal practice, Namal passed Law college exam with flying colours obtaining more marks than the great Lalith Athulathmudali. That all this he achieved while his father was the President of course is a different story.

Anyone who has followed Sri Lankan cricket knows why Interim Committees were put in place and what happened afterwards.  The first Interim Committee headed by Rienzie Wijetilleke was appointed in 1999 when the sport had hit new lows.  Sri Lanka as defending champions of the World Cup made a first round exit in England and there were many who had to pay the price – captain, selectors and the board.

The new selection panel headed by Sidath Wettimuny did sweeping changes and blooded in youth. The very first series after the changes were made Sri Lanka  not only beat Australia in a Test match for the first time but won a tri-nation series beating Steve Waugh’s side in the grand final. This was less than two months after they had become World Champions.

Many young players were blooded in at that time, including one Kumar Sangakkara who sits on the Technical Advisory panel that the Minister of Sports has appointed. Maybe Namal will be better off learning from Sanga what Interim Committees have done for the sport.

There was a second Interim Committee headed by Vijaya Malalasekara in 2001. At that time, the national cricket team went onto win ten matches in a row, still a record.

The head of third Interim Committee was leading businessman Hemaka Amarasuriya, who was appointed in 2002. His crowning moment was successfully conducting the inaugural ICC Champions Trophy in Colombo 2002, the biggest sporting spectacle Sri Lanka had conducted at that point. Sri Lanka ended the competition in flying colours finishing as joint-champions along with India after the final was rained off.

Namal’s illustrious father himself appointed several Interim Committees. So when Namal says that the performances of the team suffered when Interim Committees were in place, he is in fact pointing figures at Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The truth is far from that. Someone seems to be taking the Minister on a ride and the sooner he realizes that the better it is.

Sri Lanka Cricket seems to be not having too many supporters these days given the blunders they have committed in recent weeks. But Namal seems to be their biggest fan. The other day, he misled the Parliament by taking Chaminda Vaas to task for not going on the tour of West Indies conveniently forgetting several lapses on the part of the men who are running cricket.

Some stakeholders of the game have pointed it out that the term of the office bearers of SLC who were elected on the 21st February 2019 had ended on the 20th of February 2021 and are not legally entitled to hold office as they have been appointed for a period of two years.

The stakeholders have demanded that either an Interim Committee is appointed or run the affairs of SLC through a Competent Authority like the Secretary of the Ministry as it has been done on previous occasions.

However, the Minister of Sports seems to be passing the buck on claims what are actually false; like Sri Lanka performing poorly when Interim Committees are in place.

The current administration cut a pathetic figure unable to answer questions at the COPE. More sickening details are expected to be exposed when COPE summons officials again. One question that everyone seems to be wondering is how a sum of US$ 180,000 disappeared to an offshore account in Mexico and who swindled that money!

The Minister of Sports needs to get his act together and information right before he tilts at windmills.

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Jaiswal lights up Hangzhou with 49-ball 100 as India seal semis spot




Jaiswal became the youngest Indian to score a T20I century (Cricinfo)

Yashavi Jaiswal has had a memorable 2023 already. In May, he smashed the fastest half century in the LPL off just 13 balls. In July, his old-school 171 in Dominica, which lasted 501 minutes and 387 balls, was the longest by an Indian Test debutant. Two months on, in Hangzhou, at a ground that may have reminded him of the Mumbai maidans in terms of dimensions, he became the youngest Indian to smash a T20I century as India entered the semi-finals of the men’s competition at the Asian Games by getting the better of Nepal by 23 runs.

Jaiswal’s onslaught was an exhibition of skilled hitting, not mindless slogging, as he made exactly 100 in 49 balls. The knock that contained eight fours and seven sixes was a key driver to India’s 202 for 4. They looked like getting a lot more, but suffered a middle-overs collapse before Rinku Singh’s  sixes gave the finishing kick.

Nepal proved they were no pushovers with a late cameo from Sundeep Jora bringing the equation down to 56 off 24. At this point, they’d hit more sixes (12) than fours (nine), but in looking to keep going, they kept losing wickets.

A little more support from one of the top order batters may have helped them pull off a massive upset. That they were stymied was largely down to Ravi Bishoni’s bag of variations that includes a skiddy googly as a stock ball and a flipper that fizzes through the deck. His 3 for 24 through those middle overs made the task steep for Nepal. The importance of Bishnoi’s spell was amplified even more after the fast bowlers took a beating; their combined figures read 11-0-112-5.

Nepal eventually ended with 179 for 9, bowing out with a creditable performance to culminate a dream run that took them to the World Cup Qualifiers, Asia Cup and now the Asian Games

Brief scores:
India 202 for 4 in 20 overs (Yashavi Jaiswal 100, Rinku Singh 37*, Dipendra Singh Airee 2-31) beat Nepal 179 for 9 in 20 overs  (Dipendra Singh Airee 32, Sundeep Jora 29, Avesh Khan 3-32, Ravi Bishnoi 3-24) by 23 runs

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Runs for de Kock, but New Zealand clinch rain-hit warm-up in Thiruvananthapuram




Quinton de Kock made an unbeaten 84 (pic Cricinfo)

Rain denied a persistent Quniton de Kock from taking South Africa over the line against New Zealand in Thiruvananthapuram.

Batting first, New Zealand had made 321 for 6 on the back of half-centuries from Devon Conway and Tom Latham. In reply, South Africa made their way to 211 for 4, with de Kock and David Miller both looking in good touch, before the rain put a premature end to the game, with South Africa seven runs short according to DLS.

Apart from the win, New Zealand will be happy with Kane Williamson, who continued his road back to full sharpness, taking the field after scoring a 51-ball 37. However, he will not play in the tournament opener against England.

Both teams tried out 17 bowlers in total. Even keeper-batter Heinrich Klaasen got a chance to roll his arm but it was the strike bowlers who made breakthroughs for both teams.

Trent Boult blew Reeza Hendricks’ pads in the first over and had him lbw. Matt Henry joined Boult to trouble de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen, his new partner, but the batters saw off the spell and took on the bowlers who followed.

Seven of the eight boundaries between the seventh and the 14th overs were scored by van der Dussen, en route to a half-century. His aggression allowed de Kock to settle in despite a slow start. But the 72-run stand was cut off when van der Dussen had a swipe across the line, off Mitchell Santner’s bowling, and was caught at cover.

De Kock smacked five fours and a six off Santner and Ish Sodhi in successive overs to get going. Aidan Markram then smacked Glenn Phillips for two fours but Sodhi had Markram miscue an inside-out shot to deep cover to end the 37-run stand.

Klaasen and de Kock regularly hit boundaries off Sodhi and Rachin Ravindra, and also kept taking singles to move along at a brisk pace. De Kock soon brought up his fifty as well, but Boult returned and immediately struck, going around the wicket to dismiss Klaasen.

Miller and de Kock kept South Africa afloat. De Kock was drained by the heat and suffered some body blows; a bouncer from Mitchell hit him on the head but he carried on. He and Miller both looked comfortable against the spinners, regularly clearing the boundaries. The game seemed to be heading towards a tight finish before the rain interruption.

Earlier in the day, Conway stood tall after New Zealand chose to bat. He settled in with Williamson and Glenn Phillips offering support as the duo added 218 runs. New Zealand did not lose a wicket between the fifth and 40th over, when Phillips chopped on a yorker outside off from Marco Jansen.

Conway drove, pulled and cut his way through to a fifty. Williamson was also fluent with his boundary-scoring shots during his stay. Williamson retired hurt at the end of the 20th over and Conway after the 26th.

As Latham and Phillips rebuilt, rain came in with New Zealand on 171 off 29 overs. The pair settled back after the break with Phillips taking on anything too short or too full. Latham reached his fifty in the 37th over.

The acceleration was cut off by Jansen, who removed both batters in the 40th over. In total, 10 of New Zealand’s batters managed to get a hit. Mitchell’s 16-ball 25, with support from Santner, earned New Zealand 78 runs in the last 10 and took them to 321.

Brief scores:
New Zealand 321 for 6 (Conway 78, Latham 52, Ngidi 3-33) beat South Africa 211 for 4 (De Kock 84*, van der Dussen 51, Boult 2-20) by seven runs via DLS


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Moeen Ali turns on the power as England overwhelm Bangladesh




Moeen Ali smashed six sixes in his 56 off 39 balls (ICC)

England enjoyed a useful, if hyper-extended, workout under the Guwahati floodlights, as a three-hour rain delay and even a nearby earthquake couldn’t prevent the world champions from finalising their tournament plans in a high-octane run-chase against Bangladesh. The result, while immaterial, was secured with a blizzard of sixes from Moeen Ali whose 56 from 39 balls secured a four-wicket win with a hefty 77 balls remaining of their rain-reduced 37-over chase.

Bangladesh had their moments, particularly while Tanzid Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman were showing their ability with bat and ball in the powerplay, but ultimately they were overwhelmed by England’s unrelenting aggression. The tone of England’s attacking display was set by a bristling Jonny Bairstow who stretched his legs for 34 from 21 balls, in the manner that had been denied him during the “utter chaos” of England’s 38-hour trek to India’s eastern extremities.

Jos Buttler kept up the belligerent tempo to make 30 from 15 in his short and on-point visit to the crease, and though Liam Livingstone came and went tamely, by the time Moeen holed out with four runs to win, he’d launched six sixes into the Assam night to confirm his side will be striding confidently into this week’s tournament opener against New Zealand.

Of far more relevance than the result was the time in the middle for a host of cooped-up players, most particularly the 2019 veterans, Mark Wood and Adil Rashid, who have both been wrapped in cotton wool for the past few weeks, and Joe Root, who remains short of form and confidence, but who survived a painful blow to the groin, as well as a grim error from Taskin Ahmed at deep backward square, to anchor the chase with an unbeaten 26 from 40 balls.

The contest duly finished some eight-and-a-half hours after the first ball had been bowled, but for a time, it had seemed that England’s preparations – across both this game and Saturday’s wash-out against India – would be limited to a 30-over work-out in the afternoon’s truncated action.

At least in that time, England were able to give a clean bill of health to nine members of their bowling attack, including all six of their frontline fast bowlers … although they are now about to be folded back up and stowed away once more in economy class for Tuesday’s flight to Ahmedabad.

Most crucial among those was Wood, England’s fastest and most ferocious point of difference, who had not been unleashed in a competitive environment since the end of July, ostensibly due to a bruised heel sustained during the Ashes. Not for the first time, he showed his explosive pace from the outset of his three-over burst, and should have claimed the wicket of both of Bangladesh’s most effective batters.

Mehidy Hasan Miraz anchored Bangladesh’s innings with a hard-earned 74 from 89 balls, but he should have fallen for 7, to the sixth ball of Wood’s return, when, after a tentative start to his knock, he fenced a lifter outside off but neither Buttler nor Root at first slip reacted in time to cling onto the edge.

However, Wood got his reward two overs later instead. Tanzid’s 45 from 44 balls at the top of the order had gone some way to confirming his readiness to fill the sizeable boots of Tamim Iqbal, but having picked off seven fours and a flamboyant six over deep midwicket off Reece Topley, he was caught in two minds as Wood fired a lifter across his bows, and inside-edged a tentative push onto his own stumps.

The first 20 overs of Bangladesh’s innings was an exclusive diet of seam, as England’s quicks each lined up for a short gallop, and showed their readiness for the main event through a combination of economy and incision, with only Chris Woakes and Gus Atkinson going un-rewarded in their five-over contributions.

However, the other major plus for England was the return of Rashid, who missed the bulk of their recent series against New Zealand with a calf niggle. He showed no ill-effects after entering the attack in the 21st over of Bangladesh’s innings and struck twice in five overs to remove the veteran pairing of Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah – the latter to a full-toss but the former to a brilliantly disguised googly that skidded into his stumps under an attempted cut.

When the rain arrived, it seemed that Bangladesh’s 153 for 5 in 30 overs would be the end of that. Instead, they returned – after one aborted restart – for seven further overs, in which the quicks got back into the action. Sam Curran struck with the first ball of his second spell, before both Topley and David Willey found themselves on hat-tricks, the former some five hours after luring Bangladesh’s stand-in captain, Najmul Hossain Shanto, into a sketchy slice to deep third.

Topley’s display epitomised the combination of rustiness and raw threat that England are carrying into this tournament. His somewhat ropey first over went for 13, including a wide and two no-balls, but he swiftly hit back with the first ball of his second as Litton Das gloved a lifter down the leg-side to depart for 5 (although there were some doubts as to whether his hand was off the bat at the point of contact).

England’s reply was raucous from the outset. Dawid Malan, their in-form opener, caressed a poetic cut for a first-ball four, only to scuff his second from Mustafizur straight to slip. But Bairstow smashed four fours and a six in seven balls to turbo-charge the powerplay, with England’s 50 coming up inside four overs before Mustafizur powered a yorker past his toes to end the fun.

It took an even better ball from Hasan Mahmud to dislodge an ominously free-flowing Harry Brook. His four fours in a 15-ball 17 had all been stamps of raw class until he was bowled through the gate by a savage nipbacker on a tight off-stump line. Buttler then edged his second ball off Shoriful Islam low past the keeper before smoking his third high over extra cover for six – and as if to prove he was in no mood to stand on ceremony, he then top-edged his fifth over the head of Taskin, who could have had an easy catch had he been sitting back on the rope.

England’s only real concern remains the form of Root, who at least endured to the end of the chase, but rarely looked capable of raising his tempo in the manner that was coming so effortlessly at the other end. He should have holed out to Tanzim Hasan Sakib for 7 from 19, but that man Taskin once again over-ran his attempted catch at fine leg, then let the ball dribble over the rope too. Tellingly, that would be Root’s only boundary of his innings. Fortunately for England, Moeen and Co. had no such power failures to report.

Brief scores:
England 197 for 6 in 24.1 overs (Moeen 56, Mustafizur 2-23) beat Bangladesh 188 for 9 in 37 overs (Mehidy 74, Tanzid 45, Topley 3-23) by four wickets (DLS)


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