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Pandya, Jadeja, Thakur hand India consolation win

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Virat Kohli spoke of the “need to improve body language in the field and the bowling” going into the final One-Day International in the three-match series. India had already conceded the series 0-2 to Australia having lost the opening two ODIs. However, the Indian side heeded to their captain’s call as India fought back to finish with an eventual result of 1-2 in the one-dayers with a 13-run win on Wednesday, bowling Australia out for 289.

Chasing 303 for a whitewash at the Manuka Oval in Canberra, extra bounce from Jasprit Bumrah had stand-in opener Marnus Labuschagne on tenterhooks against the new ball as Australia struggled in the first few overs. Debutant T Natarajan put an end to Labuschagne’s edgy stay forcing an inside edge onto the stumps for his maiden ODI scalp. It was the first time in six games that India had picked a wicket in the powerplay.

Finch, meanwhile, was living a charmed life. He took his time to settle in and the game could’ve panned out differently had Shikhar Dhawan held on to a chance at slip that he spilled early on in Finch’s innings. Hardik Pandya missed a run-out chance and Bumrah missed a return catch as Finch made the most with another half-century adding to his scores of 114 and 60 in the series. He attacked in spurts, kept the scoreboard ticking and in turn, Australia in the game. In the absence of Warner, who was ruled out with a groin injury, much of the onus was on him to give Australia the start they’ve been getting in the series. With Labuschagne and Steve Smith falling cheaply, with Shardul Thakur impressive early on, Finch shook off the tentative start and soaked in the pressure to compile a well-made 75 before finally being sent back after Jadeja plucked out a sharp catch in the deep.

Debutant Cameron Green got himself a start but couldn’t capitalise on it, as was the case with Moises Henriques who was promoted to No. 4. The pair got themselves into the 20s before leaving too much for the lower-middle order. Alex Carey and Glenn Maxwell resisted the Indian attack getting the big shots in even, but a suicidal run-out broke the vital stand that added 52 with Carey departing for 38 as India sighted victory with Australia needing 92.

Maxwell brought that equation down to 36 from 34 with a brilliant half-century, his second this series, but India heaved a sigh of relief when Bumrah knocked him over for a 38-ball 59. Maxwell’s stand with Ashton Agar for the seventh wicket was instrumental in keeping them in the game, but if Australia were to pull this win out of the bag, they needed Maxwell. In the end, although Australia bat deep, they fell short.

Bumrah came into his own, getting the yorkers in, varying his pace and keeping the batsmen on their toes. He was the most economical of the lot, returning 2 for 43 while Thakur was impressive with 3-51 with spells of knuckleballs and slower ones that foxed the batsmen.

Earlier, after finally winning a toss this series, Kohli led the way with a masterclass while wickets fell around him. He played sheet anchor to perfection with textbook ODI batting. But it wasn’t until he fell that the game turned on its head with Pandya’s enterprising 92* and Ravindra Jadeja’s dynamic 66*. The pair amidst India’s highest sixth-wicket stand of 150 against Australia gave India a fighting total after a stumble in the middle overs. The pair accelerated in the final five to get as many as 76 with shots across both sides of the wicket, piercing the gaps at will as they helped India finish with 302.

It was their strong finish that handed India the momentum going into the break after Australia had done well to contain them to 192 for 5 after 40 overs. On a belter of a wicket at the Manuka Oval, Australia’s bowlers were right on the money early on despite missing their mainstays in Starc and Cummins. Sean Abbott and Agar got among the wickets to hand Australia the early advantage.

Abbott carried forward his form from the domestic season with a wicket in his first over. He bowled in good areas and got Dhawan advancing early on to end up chipping straight to cover. Kohli and Shubman Gill revived India’s innings with a solid 56-run stand as the youngster flicked, drove and used his wrists well. Once the spinners began operating, they tied him down a tad before he fell leg before to Agar, trying to sweep him, unable to convert his start.

During his knock, Kohli became the fastest batsman in ODIs to get to 12000 runs. Shreyas Iyer’s penchant against spin came to the fore as he got a start, but squandered it after slashing straight to backward point. India lost a wicket just when it seemed like they were building a partnership. KL Rahul fell soon after rewarding Agar for some tight bowling, sticking to his lines, bowling wicket to wicket and the premeditated sweep from the batsman had him trapped leg before – a dismissal eerily similar to that of Gill.

Pace and bounce with slight turn for Zampa and Agar helped tighten the noose in the middle overs, making the Indian batsmen work hard for their runs and forcing them to make mistakes. Kohli, however, was unperturbed, lunging forward to tackle them. It took Hazlewood, who continued to have the wood over Kohli this series, to send him back for 63 for the third time in three games after a stroke of brilliance from Finch. There was no appeal from the bowler, and a half-hearted one from Carey, but Finch reviewed it; although HotSpot showed nothing, there was a spike on snicko.

Hardik and Jadeja thereafter staged a counterattack that Australia didn’t have an answer for. They were the last recognised batting pair for India and they made the most of the opportunity to make it count. They found the gaps, kept the scoreboard ticking, cleared the fence, and put the poor balls away. Abbott, who made a good start, took a pasting in the latter half, conceding 84 in his 10 overs, leaving the question if Finch had underused Henriques and overbowled the former.

Brief scores:

India 302/5 in 50 overs (Virat Kohli 63, Hadrik Pandya 90*, Ravindra Jadeja 66*; Ashton Agar 2-44) beat Australia 289 in 49.3 overs (Aaron Finch 75, Alex Carey 38, Glenn Maxwell 59; Jasprit Bumrah 2-43, Shardul Thakur 3-51) by 13 runs. (Cricbuzz)



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Sri Lanka seek results after hard work  

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by Rex Clementine  

Sri Lanka have competed well in patches in their recent outings in Test match cricket, but they have lacked the killer blow instinct. Too often we have seen, Mickey Arthur’s side doing all the hard work in a game and spoiling that all – often in a session. A dramatic collapse, dropped catches, poor reviews, injuries or lackluster bowling have hurt the team. The main issue they need to address is that lack of application by batsmen who have thrown it away with some brainless cricket.

There’s a selection dilemma with former skipper Angelo Mathews returning to the side after missing the West Indies Tests due to personal reasons. Pathum Nissanka, who came in for his place, grabbed the opportunity from both hands with a hundred on debut. He became the first Sri Lankan to score a Test hundred in his maiden Test away from home.

It remains to be seen whom the selectors will leave out.  It could be Oshada Fernando with Nissanka swapping places for the number three slot. Or it could be Niroshan Dickwella, from whom wicketkeeping gloves could be taken away and given to Dinesh Chandimal.

The move has been something that has been discussed for a while now but since being put under pressure, Dickwella has not only contributed with the bat but shown more responsibility as well. The first Test match against Bangladesh gets underway on Wednesday in a bio secure bubble. Expect a bit of rain during the series, particularly in the evenings as it is always the case in the hill capital. Well, we were actually told when the ground was built that it was located in one of the driest areas in the Central Province. Very little the press realized that we were being taken for a ride. And of course the venue is located in the electorate of the then Sports Minister.

Bangladesh need to raise their game in this series after a disappointing few months at home. That they will not have the services of Shakib Al Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman is a further blow for them.

Pallekele will host both Tests and could be a major hub throughout this year when limited over games take place in ‘bio bubble’ environment.

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Sri Lanka back pace for Bangladesh Tests

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by Rex Clementine

Having conducted the England Test series so well in a ‘bio-secure bubble’ in Galle, Sri Lanka Cricket has decided to move the Bangladesh series to Pallekele. Did any technical reasons prompt SLC to move from the coastal town to the hill capital?  Not really. The move is a tactical one. The Sri Lankans would be thinking that spin is Bangladesh’s strength so the best way to beat them is through pace. Hence, the shift to Kandy where seamers get much more purchase and value for money for their efforts.

The move may look somewhat defensive. Given the England experience where the Somerset duo of Dom Bess and Jack Leach made a mockery of Sri Lanka’s top and middle order, the hosts seem to be not wanting to play into Bangladesh’s hands whose spinners have been quite formidable in recent years.

Hence having shifted base to Kandy, Sri Lanka could go all out with a  pace heavy attack when the Test series gets underway next week. Wanindu Hasaranga could be the only spinner in the side with Dhananjaya de Silva’s part time off-spin as back up.

Lahiru Kumara has returned to the squad having missed the West Indies tour after being tested positive for COVID-19. There was a lot of excitement that Sri Lanka would be able to see two of their quickest bowlers in action in the same match but Dushmantha Chameera, has pulled out from the series due to personal reasons.

Suranga Lakmal, who was named Player of the Series in the Caribbean after his impressive performance, will spearhead the attack. Vishwa Fernando will add variety with his left arm bowling and it remains to be seen how well he does in helpful conditions having fared well in South Africa early this year.

There are a few issues with the spin department after Lasith Embuldeniya was ruled out with injury. Duvindu Tillekeratne is also down with injury while Prabath Jayasuriya, who had shown la ot of promise was almost picked for the series but he became ineligible for selection after failing the skin fold test marginally. That opened up a slot for rookie Praveen Jayawickrama who is thin on experience having played just a handful of First Class matches

Bangaldesh will be handicapped as Shakib Al Hasan their biggest match winner is in India playing the IPL. They will also miss the services of Mustafizur Rahman, the spearhead of the attack.

Still, the tourists have some solid players. Off-spinner Mehidy Hasan recently became the fastest Bangladeshi to claim 100 Test wickets and at the age of 23 a  lot is expected of him.  He is more than a  handy bat having already posted a hundred and three half-centuries in Test match cricket.

Tamim Iqbal, Mominul Haque and Mushfiqur Rahim are the mainstay of their batting. Mushfiqur has been ever present in the Bangladeshi side having made his Test debut 16 years ago at the age of 18.

Former captain Angelo Mathews is back in the side having returned home from the West Indies early. Which of the seven batters will miss out to accommodate Mathews remains to be seen.

Sri Lanka have won 16 of the 20 Tests against Bangladesh and lost just one game. However, most of those wins were in the early days and in recent years Bangladesh have done well competing and drawing games. 

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Sebs’ cricket stalwart Cooray retires after more than three decades of service

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by Reemus Fernando

Franklyn Cooray, the former Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association official, retired as the Master in Charge of Cricket of St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa after completing more than three and half decades of yeoman service recently. Franklyn Cooray who was popular in cricket circles as Frank Cooray, was the longest serving team official at the time of his retirement. During his 37 year association with schools cricket, Cooray witnessed the evolution of First XI cricket from mere Traditional matches to present day tournaments of varying divisions and was involved in St. Sebastian’s cricket as a coach and Master in Charge guiding the destiny of many future national cricketers.

Cooray played First XI cricket for St. Sebastian’s from 1962 to 1966 and was among the very few Sebs cricketers of his era to have tasted Big Match success. He captained all age group teams of St. Sebastian’s. After leaving school he worked at the Irrigation Department as a Senior Technical Officer and played in the Government Services ‘A’ Division Cricket tournament until making a premature retirement in 1983.

He was entrusted with the responsibility of training cricketers of St. Sebastian’s in 1984 by Rev. Bro. Nimal Gurusinghe, when coaching was voluntary. Three years later Cooray was included in the tutorial staff by Rev. Bro. Granville Perera. He was the coach cum Master in Charge of St. Sebastian’s from 1987 to 1994 and held the latter position until his retirement this year.

During his tenure as a coach, Cooray provided guidance at different levels to several Sebs who later became household names. Of them Dulip Mendis, Roger Wijesuriya, Susil Fernando, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Sajeewa de Silva went on to play Test cricket. “Kaluwitharana was coached by Brother Gurusinghe before he came under my supervision at senior level,” Cooray recalled in an interview with The Island.

Cooray was the Master in Charge of Cricket when the likes of Prasanna Jayawardena, Dinusha Fernando, Vishwa Fernando, Amila Aponso, Avishka Fernando and Oshada Fernando learnt their ABC of cricket at St. Sebastian’s.

While being the MIC, Cooray was also entrusted with the responsibility of the curator after a turf wicket was laid at the St. Sebastian’s ground in 1990.

He was selected to SLSCA Executive Committee in 1988 and a year later became the Under-19 tournament secretary, a position he held until 2006. He was among the leading officials of SLSCA who were instrumental in introducing the two-day league tournament and the Under-19 tournament structure with three Divisions. As of late it has undergone many changes.

However he was against introducing the points system that determined winners on first innings points. “That system would promote the culture of playing for trophies. I never encouraged the point system for first innings wins. We gave points only for outright victories. During our time we hardly batted after tea. We would try to score as much as possible in the morning and declared and get the opposition to bat in the afternoon. That way we would try to win outright. That was lost after the points system was introduced,” opined Cooray.

Cooray also lamented the absence of natural stroke play among present day cricketers. “Players going for their natural strokes is something that we are missing greatly these days. You must encourage batsmen to go for their natural strokes,” said Cooray.

He was the Under-19 tournament secretary of the SLSCA at a time when computers were yet be utilized for calculation of points and to make points tables of the league tournaments. Yet as schools cricket reporters would recall he was readily available with a near accurate points table of the tournament at the end of every week during the schools cricket season.

Apart from holding the Under-19 tournament secretary position, Cooray also held the junior national coach position briefly. He was the coach of the Sri Lanka Under-15 side that toured England for the Under-15 Lombard World Challenge.

His contribution to cricket was recognized by the International Cricket Council in 2009 when he was presented with a medal during its Centenary Medals Presentation for Volunteers.

As he steps in to retirement with loads of fond memories from cricket, Cooray thanked former administrators of St. Sebastian’s Rev. Bro. Nimal Gurusinghe and Rev. Bro. Granville Perera, late Rev. Fr. Bonnie Fernandopulle who made it possible for him to take up coaching and cricket administration and coaches including Kanishka Perera who helped during his tenure.

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