Pallekele wicket a nightmare for bowlers
Rex Clementine at Pallekele
The first Test at Pallekele saw just 17 wickets fall over five days and it looks like the second Test could be heading for a tame draw too after just one wicket fell on the opening day of the second Test here yesterday. This wicket is so batsmen friendly that even Sanath Jayasuriya, a decade into his retirement, will manage to play his favourite cut shot over point, Wasim Akram even in his prime would have struggled to get a wicket and Ian Chappell, one of the finest cricket brains, would have run out of ideas.
Bat has dominated this series so much that some of the nation’s ardent cricket fans were turning off their television, even though this has been a complete contrast of the national cricket team’s recent sloppy batting performances.
The Pallekele track has already received a warning and there is the danger of the venue being blacklisted. ICC Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle rated the pitch below average and the venue received one demerit point. A similar conclusion could result in another adverse rating. A venue once it collects five demerit points will be banned from hosting international games for one year. Demerit points will remain active for five years.
Sri Lanka’s openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne made most of the docile pitch posting hundreds and their 209 run stand is a record for the first wicket at this ground improving on the 188 run partnership between India’s Shikhar Dhawan and K.L. Rahul in 2017.
Karunaratne, fresh from a maiden double hundred, went onto post his 12th century while Lahiru Thirimanne continued his red hot form this year scoring his third century. Thirimanne has scored over 600 runs in seven Tests this year and only Joe Root with 794 runs in six Tests has scored more than him.
Karunaratne was dropped on 28 by Najmul Shanto at first slip to deny Taskin Ahmed a wicket. The Sri Lankan skipper made most of the reprieve finishing on 118.
Thirimanne was unbeaten on 131 having successfully reviewed a decision after being given out in the last over of the day leg before wicket.
Debutant Shoriful Islam claimed the only wicket to fall on day one
Sri Lanka did two changes from the side that drew the first Test strengthening their spin department. They brought in off-spinner Ramesh Mendis while handing left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama a Test debut. It remains to be seen how the two rookie spinners perform. Mendis has played one Test while Jayawickrama has featured in only ten First Class games. Sri Lanka also have Dhananjaya de Silva as a spin option.
Karunaratne made his intentions clear at the post match interview saying that a total of 600 runs is his target, which means, Sri Lanka would look to bat the whole day today. He also added that the wicket might offer more assistance for spinners than in the first Test.
Bangladesh batting coach Jon Lewis echoed similar sentiments.
South Africa ace record run chase to level series
In what was another incredible run fest at Centurion, South Africa brushed aside West Indies by six-wickets with a record-breaking run chase in the second T20I on Sunday (March 26).
Set an unrealistic target of 259 on a perfect batting surface with short boundaries, South Africa’s openers made a mockery of the assignment, racking up a century stand inside the PowerPlay itself. It was the sort of assault that West Indies were least expecting and the the Quinton de Kock-Reeza Hendricks partnership did it with minimum fuss, using the pristine conditions to the fullest.
By the time the stand was broken, the chase seemed to be a formality of sorts, considering the hosts’ firepower in the middle order and despite losing a few wickets in the middle overs, skipper Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen got the job done with seven balls to spare.
The freak batting show from the Proteas overshadowed West Indies’ unreal batting performance earlier in the game, with the visitors posting their highest-ever total in the shortest format of the game. It was an exhibition of brutal power-hitting, led by Johnson Charles who smashed the joint-second fastest century of all time.
He got good support from the others, notably Romario Shepherd and skipper Rovman Powell as the South African bowlers were taken to the cleaners. Only Kagiso Rabada managed to withstand the onslaught to some extent but even he went at over 10 runs-per-over.
At the halfway stage, it seemed like West Indies had closed the door on this series but South Africa led by de Kock broke that open with a historic batting effort. A total of 46 boundaries and 35 sixes were hit in this mind-boggling contest.
The final game of the series will be played at The Wanderers, Johannesburg on Tuesday (March 26).
South Africa 259/4 in 18.5 overs (Qintotn de Kock 100, Reeza Hendricks 68, Aiden Markram 38*) beat West Indies 258/5 in 20 overs (Charles 118, Mayers 51, Shepherd 41*) by six wickets
Spinners, Sciver-Brunt guide Mumbai Indians women to WPL title
Mumbai Indians were crowned the inaugural champions of the Women’s Premier League after a tense, low-scoring final at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai. In a nervy title clash between the two best teams of the competition, it was the experience of Nat Sciver-Brunt that helped Mumbai get across the line, the star all-rounder following up her Eliminator blitz with a more measured knock of 60* off 55 balls. Sciver-Brunt’s half-century and her crucial partnership of 72 with Harmanpreet Kaur (37) came after an excellent bowling performance, particularly from Hayley Matthews and Melie Kerr, that restricted the Delhi Capitals to a modest total of 131.
Delhi Capitals women 131/9 in 20 overs (Meg Lanning 35, Radha Yadav 27*; Hayley Matthews 3-5, Issy Wong 3-42, Melie Kerr 2-18) lost to Mumbai Indians women 134/3 in 19.3 overs (Nat Sciver-Brunt 60*, Harmanpreet Kaur 37; Radha Yadav 1-24) by seven wickets.
Where have all the mystery bowlers gone?
by Rex Clementine
It’s been a while since a mystery Sri Lankan spinner bamboozled the opposition batsmen. Not just batsmen but coaches went on a frenzy decoding these bowlers while Times of India and Daily Telegraph dedicated headlines praising how well Sri Lanka groomed these sensational talents.
Ajantha Mendis was the last global sensation with bit of mystery as his carrom ball humbled India’s fabulous batting line-up comprising Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly. After him T. M. Dilshan opening the batting with field restrictions on came up with a scoop shot over the head of the wicketkeeper that later became popular as Dilscoop.
Not exactly mystery but Sri Lanka promoting unorthodox style of play totally contrary to the coaching manual had been appreciated and encouraged. Not just Dilshan and Mendis but Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya all broke convention and were extremely successful.
Credit to selectors and captains for encouraging these natural talents and more importantly for the coaches, especially at lower levels, for not sidelining them for being different.
Mendis and Malinga weren’t hits at school cricket and they were more or less groomed after they left school. But Jayasuriya and Murali were entirely different. Thankfully their early coaches did not tinker too much with their style.
Coaches nowadays are too engaged in the sport. They roam around the boundary rope providing ball by ball instructions making the captain redundant. Imagine how much impact they’d be having on players at training and there’s little room for creativity.
Cricket Academies are mushrooming as well with little monitoring done and you sense that not many players with unorthodox style are going to be accepted and as a result succeed. There are few rare talents with unorthodox styles. Some bowlers have copied Lasith Malinga and Matheesha Pathirana has earned an IPL deal even before he’s become a permanent fixture in the Sri Lankan side.
Paul Adams earned a nickname ‘frog in the blender’ for his action and anyone who sees Sri Lankan spinner Kevin Koththigoda from down south will remember the South African wrist spinner.
Funnily Richmond College, Galle seem to be nurturing these special talents and Kamindu Mendis is another player who can make a big impact. He’s nowadays mostly in the Test squad and nearly featured in the second Test in Wellington. He’s there in the team for his batting but he’s ambidextrous and bowls both left-arm spin and off-spin with good accuracy. That makes him an ideal candidate for shorter formats of the game and that’s where he should perhaps focus more at succeeding.
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