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Pallekele wicket under spotlight after dull draw



Rex Clementine at Pallekele

By the looks of it, the wicket for the first Test at Pallekele seemed like Newlands in South Africa, but in reality, it was similar to Karachi in Pakistan. Mahela Jayawardene once termed that pitch at National Stadium in Pakistan’s commercial capital one which makes bowlers  ‘endangered species’ and the Pallekele wicket deserves the exact same description. The pitch could be in trouble too with the ICC nowadays giving ratings and the observations of Ranjan Madugalle, the Match Referee will be interesting after  just 17 wickets fell in the match.

Sri Lanka were excited for a brief while when they managed a lead of 107 runs after declaring on 648 for eight at lunch and then Suranga Lakmal produced two quick wickets. Dhananjaya de Silva looked to have secured his team a third when Tamim Iqbal, who posted 90 runs in the first innings, drove one straight to the boot of Oshada Fernando and the ball popped up to Niroshan Dickwella.

Umpire Kumar Dharmasena’s soft signal was out but television replays showed that the ball had bounced before hitting the silly point fielder’s boot.

Tamim was on 29 then and hit some  classy shots to take the game away from the Sri Lankans. He hit back to back boundaries to bring up his half-century in 56 balls. Interestingly, Bangladesh’s  total at that point was 52.

Mominul Haque and Tamim added 73 runs for the third wicket to help Bangladesh reach 100 for two at tea. There was no play possible after the break due to rain.

Dimuth Karunaratne was named Man of the Match after posting his maiden double hundred. The captain finished on 244, the tenth highest individual score by a Sri Lankan in Test cricket.

The 345 run partnership between him and Dhananjaya de Silva is a record for any wicket in Tests between these countries. It is also the highest partnership at Pallekele for any wicket.

In a bid to score some quick runs Sri Lanka lost five wickets in the morning session after a wicket less day four where Dhananjaya de Silva and Karunaratne batted through.

The two batsmen were dismissed  in quick succession with Taskin Ahmed accounting for both. Dhananjaya dragged one onto the stumps while a tired Karunaratne pulled one straight to mid-wicket. His marathon lasted for 688 minutes.

It was an entreating stand coming at a crucial stage of the game with Sri Lanka on 190 for three, still 351 runs behind Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka have brought in left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan and seamer Chamika Karunaratne into  the squad as replacements for the  injured Lahiru Kumara and Dilshan Madushanka.

The second Test gets underway on Thursday at Pallekele. Don’t believe all the talk on a green top; our soil seems to be not suited to produce a WACA, Newlands or a Basin Reserve. P. Sara Oval remains the quickest wicket in the country.


Nobody owning up to Sri Lanka’s World Cup disaster



Dasun Shanaka’s ODI captaincy has become untenable

by Rex Clementine

Following the national cricket team’s shambolic performance in the ODI series in New Zealand there was confirmation that Sri Lanka will not qualify automatically for this year’s World Cup. They will have to play a qualifying tournament in June this year involving West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Netherlands and other teams in the lower ranks and only two teams go through for the World Cup in India this October. Sri Lanka having never missed out on an ICC event in the past will be under tremendous pressure to maintain the status quo.

Nobody is willing to accept responsibility for the debacle. None have stepped down. The coaches are passing the buck onto the selectors while the selectors are blaming poor domestic cricket standards and the finger pointing goes on.

Those holding responsible positions in cricket have overtaken King Kekille, who according to folk stories, always punished the innocent and spared the wrongdoers whenever he heard cases. He once had a goldsmith punished for a structural fault in a newly-built wall around his palace. On being questioned by the king, the bricklayer concerned said he had been distracted by an attractive woman who had been going past the work site several times a day. The woman, summoned to the royal court, said she had been compelled to make many trips to the goldsmith, who had delayed the delivery of her order. So, the king decided to punish the goldworker. Those holding key positions in cricket must be King Kekille’s descendants.

There are seven coaches at SLC drawing an annual salary of more than 100,000 US$ each. You expected better results from such a highly paid unit. As for the selectors, they have been in office for more than two years now and their flawed policies have made Sri Lankan cricket the laughing stock.

This after all is not New Zealand’s best side. The hosts had lost the cream of their players to IPL and Sri Lanka were favourites to win the series. Yet, seamers who were bowling at 120 to 130 kmph were running through the batting line-up. It was a weak bowling attack and the batting unit failed miserably. Thank god the likes of Kusal Mendis never played against the class of Wasim Akram. He picked up consecutive ducks in the two ODIs and he is our vice-captain. The selectors are quite keen that the captaincy will remain at SSC in case they have to axe Dasun.

The least said about the captain the better. He reviews a catch to first slip in one innings and then runs out the man in form – Pathum Nissanka – in the next innings and throws away his wicket when he needs to lead from the front. Dasun Shanaka’s ODI captaincy is untenable. He has failed to lead by example, averages 26 with the bat and doesn’t bowl enough and has no place in the ODI side.

After a humiliating performance in the first ODI, it’s funny how the selectors backed the same batting unit while someone like Sadeera Samarawickrama, who has been a prolific run scorer in domestic cricket, was warming the bench.The selectors approach to ODI cricket has been flawed. One major reason why the team is not occupying 50 overs, something paramount to compete in limited overs cricket, is that there’s no batter who is equipped to play the anchor role.

Successful Sri Lankan teams used to do that with the likes of Asanka Gurusinha and then Marvan Atapattu stepped up to that role. After their departure, Kumar Sangakkara did a splendid job at three but the current team hasn’t got a batter who is capable of batting through the innings. Most batters are happy to get a flashy 20 and then throw away their wicket.

There needs to be a complete overhaul of the way Sri Lanka play ODI cricket. For a nation that set the trends and were innovative in the 50 overs format, we have failed to move on with the times. Sri Lankan cricket has paid a heavy price for selectors’ flawed policies.

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Hazlewood set to miss initial stages of IPL 2023



Josh Hazlewood picked up 20 wickets in 12 matches last IPL

Royal Challengers Bangalore fast bowler Josh Hazlewood is set to miss the initial stages of the IPL beginning in Ahmedabad on Friday.According to, Hazlewood will remain in Sydney having been sent back home after missing Australia’s four-match Test series in India, and will consult with Cricket Australia’s medical staff before joining the IPL. The report also added that he ‘remains hopeful’ of turning out for Royal Challengers later in the tournament.

Hazlewood was sent back from the Test tour of India due to Achilles tendonitis that had plagued him for two months, which came after he damaged his side in the first Test of Australia’s home summer in early December 2022 and missed the next three Test matches. He subsequently missed the ODIs against India as well. He last played for Australia in the third Test against South Africa in January. His fitness will be monitored closely given Australia have the World Test Championship final and the Ashes coming up immediately after the IPL ends on May 28.

Hazlewood, who was picked up by Royal Challengers at the 2022 mega auction for INR 7.75 crore, took 20 wickets in the 12 matches he played last season, finishing as the side’s second-highest wicket-taker.

Royal Challengers have suffered a spate of injuries even before the season has begun. Earlier, England batter Will Jacks has been ruled out of the season, with New Zealand allrounder Michael Bracewell named his replacement. Rajat Patidar, who was the team’s breakout star last season, is set to miss at least the first half of the season with a heel injury.Royal Challengers open their campaign against Mumbai Indians on April 2 at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.


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Argentina bids to host U20 World Cup in place of Indonesia



FIFA President Gianni Infantino looks on during a meeting ahead of the opening of the 76th CONMEBOL Ordinary Congress on Thursday

Argentina has submitted a formal bid to host this year’s Under-20 World Cup in place of Indonesia, which was stripped of its rights to stage the tournament, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Thursday.Argentina was the only country to submit a formal offer. The FIFA Bureau will decide whether to accept the proposal in two or three days with the tournament scheduled to start on May 20.

“We all know Argentine football and surely it can host a competition of this level,” Infantino told a news conference in Paraguay, where he was to take part in the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) Congress on Friday.

“There are other countries that have also announced interest but as a candidacy, with the government’s guarantees and other details, Argentina is the first and we will make the decision in two or three days,” he added.

FIFA stopped Indonesia from hosting the event after the country’s soccer federation (PSSI) said it had cancelled the draw because the governor of the island of Bali refused to host the Israel team.

“Israel is in favour of Argentina hosting, they deserve it as world champions. It is a very nice and big country, with excellent facilities. I hope they can also organize the 2030 World Cup,” Israel’s Ambassador to Argentina, Eyal Sela, said.

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