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Pallekele wicket a nightmare for bowlers

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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.



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Bringing cricket’s glory days back

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Rev. Br. Nimal Gurusinghe FSC

After several setbacks in cricket in recent years, the national cricket team is looking to regain past glories. I must congratulate the national selection panel headed by former fast bowler Pramodaya Wickramasinghe for some of the bold decisions they have taken over the past two months.

In the Caribbean, the selectors handed the first Test cap to Pathum Nissanka, who made a hundred on debut and then last week in the second Test against Bangladesh, the selectors blooded in Praveen Jayawickrama, who took 11 wickets for 178, a Sri Lankan record for a debutant. It is also the tenth best figures by a player on debut in the history of Test cricket.

There is no doubt that we have talent in the country and bold moves such as these throwing the players into the deep end will bring us desired results.

I would like to see continuity in selections and for this to happen the current lot of selectors need to serve for a longer period of time. Our present system where we change selectors every year simply doesn’t help.

One of the things that I would like to see is resource personal like psychologists being brought in to assist our players. The modern day game has changed so much and a psychologist will be able to help players meet modern day demands. I see that teams like Australia, England and South Africa make use of psychologists. Although we too have done so, there is no continuity in this vital aspect.

One of the modern trends that I have seen in Sri Lankan cricket is our tail is too long. We do not have many tail-enders who are able to contribute towards the team’s total. We need to emphasize a lot on the tail getting exposure during training sessions and as a result they will be able to contribute towards the team’s total.

I am also glad to see that the selectors emphasizing a lot on fielding these days. At the same time, I would like to see them giving equal importance to fielding. This vital area has been neglected so long and that is one reason why we do not do well at present in one-day cricket. Sri Lankan teams of the past were on par with teams like Australia and South Africa when it came to fielding. But not anymore.

When we stress the importance on fielding in selections, if players are able to take half chances and create run outs that is going to be so crucial in crunch games.

Another aspect that I would like to see improve is running between the wickets. I can not recall when the last time a Sri Lankan pair completed three runs was. Physical fitness is so vital for this to happen.

Another thing that I would like to see happening is our players doing well not just at home but overseas as well. We are yet to win Test matches in Australia and England although we have been a Test playing nation for 40 years now.

I wish Pramodaya and his team good luck and look forward to see them transforming Sri Lankan cricket. Pramodaya is a member of the World Cup winning team and he knows what is required to become a champion team.

 

 

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National badminton players dominate Summer Season Tournament in the hills

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The hills were alive with the swish of rackets and smashing shuttles as the popular Summer Season Badminton Level I Championships came to a close last week. What was noteworthy was the performances of Sri Lanka’s top shuttlers who left no room for contention by winning all the plums of the scintillating competition. With Olympic prospect Niluka Karunaratne away on the international qualifying circuit and brother Dinuka domiciled in the UK on an advanced training program, the rest of the Elite Squad were equal to the task.

Ranthushka Karunatilake, for long in the shadows of his more renowned exponents came out fighting to get the better of the seasoned Buwaneka Gunetileke. The hunger Ranthushka displayed was plain to see for after giving up the first set, he clawed his way back to surprise the senior partner with a nerve wracking battle that went to the wire with a 21-19 score in the two following sets. Earlier, he partnered Buwaneka to clinch the men’s doubles with an overwhelming victory against evergreen contenders Clarence Homer and Hasitha Chanaka.

In the Women’s Open, Dilmi Dias had no major opposition clinching the women’s singles with ease against the up and coming Ranithma Liyanage before taking the women’s doubles with her partner, Kavindika de Silva. Young Ranithma just 13 years of age, though beaten in the final, is certainly making an emphatic statement in the sport. Badminton fans are sure to hear about her in the not-too-distant future.

Other top ranked players to impress were Rasindu Hendahewa and Viren Nettasinghe in the men’s category, while Panchali Adhikari and Madushika Dilrukshi were notable in the women’s category. Many others in the elite squad were not present due to on-going examinations, the likes of Lochana de Silva and Thulith de Silva and yesteryear champions Thilini Hendahewa and Kavidi Sirimanage. Sachin Dias and Hasini Ambalangoda are nursing injuries following the Nationals and are expected to return to the courts in the Southern Open, late May.

Watching their charges keenly were the National Coaches led by Pradeep Welagedera assisted by Yukthi Perera, Rajitha Dahanayake and Subash Chanaka, while Chairman of the National Pools, Palitha Hettiarachchi had a good look at the National Pool players, especially those in the Elite Squad who have undergone a very high-level training and conditioning over several months.

SLB President Rohan de Silva who is always seen among the Badminton Masters winning several medals both here and abroad was at hand to witness the performance of est players in the country and also give the Summer Season event a big boost by ensuring all arrangements were fully supported to achieve a very high level of organization amidst the stringent Covid 19 protocols.

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Bangladesh-Sri Lanka ODI series to be held in Dhaka

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The upcoming three-match ODI series between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will be held at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka, the BCB has announced.

The matches, part of the ICC’s ODI Super League, will be held on May 23, 25 and 28, within a bio-bubble stretching between the team hotel and the ground.

Sri Lanka will arrive in Dhaka on May 16, shortly after the Eid ul Fitr weekend, and complete a three-day quarantine. Their first practice session will be on May 19 at the National Cricket Academy ground, adjacent to the stadium. The visitors will then play a practice match at the BKSP on May 21. At the conclusion of the ODI series on May 28, the Sri Lankan team will depart on the following day.

This will be Bangladesh’s third ODI series within the ICC’s World Cup qualifying campaign. They are currently in seventh place, having beaten the West Indies 3-0 at home in January, but lost to New Zealand 3-0 in March. Sri Lanka lost to West Indies 3-0 last month, are now in 9th place.

The two teams only last week played out their final World Test Championship series, which Sri Lanka won 1-0 after a 209-run win over Bangladesh in Pallekele.

Sri Lanka will become the second international team to arrive in Bangladesh since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The BCB successfully hosted West Indies in January-February this year, in a three-ODI and two-Test series in Dhaka and Chattogram.

This will however be a different situation, since Bangladesh are in the middle of a strong second wave of Covid-19 cases. The country has been under a lockdown since April 5. The international flight suspension ended on May 1, but the country’s lockdown has been extended till May 16.

Bangladesh will be without their fast-bowling coach Ottis Gibson, with the team opting to use a local coach instead. (ESPN Cricinfo)

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