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Pressure of expectations bogs South Africa down; freedom gives Sri Lanka wings to fly

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They did not play a match between March 2020 and January 2022. They had only won three of the 13 T20Is they had played against South Africa before Friday. Their World Cup record is poor and the FICA Women’s Employment Report said they had “no professional structures” in place. Despite all of that, Sri Lanka silenced the biggest home crowd South Africa’s women’s team has ever played in front of – 8402 – at Newlands with a stunning, though error-ridden, three-run win.

It was the stuff of dreams for Chamari Athapaththu, who has carried the Sri Lankan team almost single-handedly over her 13-year career. She had scored her first T20I fifty against South Africa in 2016, and on the day, she scored another one to give the tournament a rousing start.

Two days ahead of the match, she had told ESPNcricinfo that she wanted to hit the longest six of the tournament with a lofted off drive. She couldn’t do that, but struck five crisp cover drives, three powerful pulls, and one slog sweep in an innings she owned, but also one in which she passed a baton.

Vishmi Gunaratne, just 17 years old, took 13 balls to score her first five runs but then lap swept Nonkululeko Mlaba and plundered three fours off Shabnim Ismail in a strong supporting role. In her, Athapaththu saw someone who could take cricket forward in a country without an extensive player pool.

“No one expects Sri Lanka will win,” Athapaththu said. “Everyone thinks Sri Lanka has average players and are an average side so if we lose, that’s no problem for us. We don’t have any pressure. I told my players to play fearlessly and trust and back your skill.”\

Vishmi Gunaratne ‘a young superstar’ – Chamari Athapaththu

She said those words especially to Gunaratne, who Athapaththu described as a “young superstar with a bright future” – not many 17-year-olds take Ismail on and come out on top, after all.

“I just told her to focus on the ball and don’t think about who is bowling. She knows Shabnim is the No. 1 bowler so the first boundary she hit, I said, ‘you hit that off the world’s No. 1 bowler and you can hit another boundary in this over’. She hit the second boundary and I said to her, ‘you are really good, better than the No. 1 bowler, so you can hit another boundary’.

“She’s really young and she thinks when Shabnim is bowling, she’s No. 1. but I just want to relieve that pressure from her, that’s why I always talked to her.”

Athapaththu also admitted she needed to improve on the field, though, in the end, it was Athapaththu, at long-on, who saved what could have been a boundary in the final over when Ismail hit the ball down the ground. Asked about it afterwards, she repeated what she had said a few days before: “I love pressure. We have only a few experienced players so I always try to lead from the front. We didn’t have any pressure in these conditions, especially with South Africa playing in their home conditions.”

On the other hand, the expectation on South Africa was enormous. As the hosts that are considered genuine contenders for the semi-finals, they were not supposed to slip up here. Especially not 20 years to the day after West Indies humbled the South African men’s team in the 50-over World Cup at this same venue.

(cricinfo)



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Hasaranga suspended for two T20Is for outburst against umpire

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Wanindu Hasaranga will miss Sri Lanka's next two T20Is in Bangladesh

Sri Lanka’s T20I captain Waniidu Hasaranga has been suspended for two matches by the ICC following his run-in with umpire Lyndon Hannibal in the third T20I against Afghanistan on February 21. Hasaranga was also fined 50% of his match fees and will miss Sri Lanka’s first two T20Is against Bangladesh next month.

The incident had occurred after umpire Hannibal did not rule a high full-toss from Wafadar Momand to Kamindu Mendis as a no-ball. Kamindu had shuffled down the pitch, but the delivery would have likely arrived higher than his waist had he been standing upright at the popping crease. This would constitute a no-ball as per the ICC’s playing conditions.

“That kind of thing shouldn’t happen in an international match,” Hasaranga had said. “If it had been close [to waist height], that’s not a problem. But a ball that’s going so high… it would have hit the batsman’s head if it had gone a little higher. If you can’t see that, that umpire isn’t suited for international cricket. It would be much better if he did another job.”

Sri Lanka needed 11 runs off the last three balls when this occurred and eventually lost the match by three runs to finish the series 2-1.

“Hasaranga was found guilty of breaching article 2.13 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel, which relates to ‘Personal abuse of a Player, Player Support Personnel, Umpire or Match Referee during an International Match’,” the ICC said in a statement. “Hasaranga’s accumulation of five demerit points (he got three for this infraction) results in a conversion to two suspension points. This means he will either get a ban for one Test match or two ODIs or T20Is, whichever comes first, for the player or player support personnel.”

Afghanistan batter Rahamanullah Gurbaz was also fined 15% of his match fee and given one demerit point for “disobeying an umpire’s instruction during an international match.” Gurbaz’s offence was “altering the grip of his bat on the field despite repeated warnings against doing so,” the ICC said. Gurbaz’s demerit-points tally now stands at two.

(Cricinfo)

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Kamindu Mendis needs to be persevered with

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Kamindu Mendis playing his first T-20 International in three years almost put Sri Lanka over the line on Wednesday at Dambulla

by Rex Clementine

A decade or so ago, Richmond College, Galle was winning all the silverware in school cricket. They played by a different set of rules. Often scoring 1000 runs and taking 100 wickets in the season had been seen as hallmark of a good player. But Richmond didn’t care for the personal milestones. They played to win. There were bold declarations, attacking field settings, free scoring batsmen and ambidextrous bowlers. Richmond thought out of the box.

Many of their players graduated to the Sri Lankan side after school cricket. Some of them have gone onto become household names of the game. Kamindu Mendis could go onto become the next big name in cricket from Richmond.

With Sri Lanka having taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three match T-20 series against Afghanistan at Dambulla, Kamindu Mendis was given a break in the dead rubber. He proved his mettle with an unbeaten 65 off 39 balls and nearly pulled off a win. It was his first game for Sri Lanka in three years.

For a 25-year-old on a comeback trial, the pressure didn’t take to Kamindu. He rotated the strike well and waited for the loose balls. His judgements were pretty good something that you can not tell about many young players these days.

One problem facing Sri Lankan cricket is that in white ball cricket among the top seven players there are not many bowling options. If you take successful Sri Lankan teams, among the top seven there were at least three bowling options. These were genuine batsmen who could bowl and that helped the selectors to balance the side.

Kamindu Mendis solves this problem for the current side. He is ambidextrous and can bowl finger spin from both hands and the left-arm spin is quite impressive. It’s a pity that he doesn’t bowl much these days in domestic cricket.

We all marvel that Sanath Jayasuriya took more ODI wickets than Shane Warne. Sanath’s bowling was largely neglected too until a certain Duleep Mendis called him to a side and told him in no uncertain terms that he needed to work on his bowling. Gradually Sanath improved his bowling. Maybe it’s time for Sanath to borrow a leaf out of Duleep’s book and give Kamindu a piece of his mind.

More than skill what impresses you about Kamindu is his temperament. He seem to have got a good head above his shoulders and these kind of players are rare these days in our backyard. Kamindu is a former Sri Lanka under-19 captain and authorities should start grooming him for bigger things.

Kamindu did get a chance in the Test side when the Aussies were in town in 2022. He made a polished 61 in the only innings Sri Lanka batted and never got to play Test cricket again. Let’s hope he doesn’t suffer the same fate in white ball cricket.

A solid batsman, someone who gives you plenty of bowling options and a secure fielder, you can not ask for more than that in white ball cricket. Kamindu has covers all the bases and needs to become a permanent fixture in the T-20 format. With Sri Lanka’s openers in ODI and T-20 cricket being right-handed, a left-handed option at number three isn’t a bad idea.

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Dialog powers historic Royal – Thomian for 19th time

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Lasantha Thevarapperuma – Group Chief Marketing Officer, Dialog Axiata PLC handing over the sponsorship to Rev. Marc Billimoria – Warden, S. Thomas’ College and Thilak Waththuhewa - Principal, Royal College. Also pictured (L) Rehan Gunasekera – CoChairman, Royal Thomian Match Organizing Committee From RC, Arjuna Waidyasekera – Co-Chairman, Royal Thomian Match Organizing Committee from STC

Dialog Axiata PLC, Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, has extended corporate backing for the 19th year as official sponsor of the country’s blue ribbon cricket encounter, the 2024 ‘Battle of the Blues’ between Royal College, Colombo, and S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia—played for the prestigious Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake Memorial Shield on March 7, 8 and 9 at the SSC Grounds, Colombo. The limited-over ‘Mustang’s Trophy’ match will be on March 16, also at the same venue.

The 145th cricket encounter will be aired LIVE on Dialog Television – ThePapare TV HD (Channel Number 126), live-streamed on ThePapare.com and the Dialog ViU App.

Further, Dialog initiated the ‘Play for a Cause’ charity initiative with a mission to uplift school cricket across Sri Lanka. Through a generous pledge of Rs. 1,000 for every run scored and Rs. 10,000 for every wicket taken, last year’s encounter raised a substantial donation of Rs. 1,128,000. The proceedings were distributed in consultation with the Principal of Royal College and the Warden of S. Thomas’ College. This commendable effort helped support and empower four deserving schools in the country.

In this year’s encounter, the boys from Mt. Lavinia will be led by Mahith Perera, while the lads from Reid Avenue will play under the captaincy of Sineth Jayawardena, the U-19 Sri Lanka skipper.

The ‘Royal-Thomian’ series spans an impressive 144 years, making it the second longest uninterrupted cricket series in the world, behind the annual encounter between St. Peters College, Adelaide, and Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, Australia, which began just a year earlier. This esteemed tradition kicked off in 1880 with a match at Galle Face, where the Taj Samudra Hotel is presently located. Both teams are said to have rowed boats over the Beira Lake to compete in the match. This storied rivalry predates even the renowned Ashes Series between Australia and England, underscoring its significance in the world of cricket.

The historic rivalry has been a testament to the enduring spirit of sportsmanship and camaraderie. The annual cricket match has been a symbol of excellence and mutual respect between the two institutions for over a century. The playing fields of the ‘Roy-Tho’ have the distinction of birthing cricketers who later became eminent heads of state, with S. Thomas’ producing the father of the nation, the late Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake MP whom the Shield is named after—and his son, the late Hon. Dudley Senanayake MP). Both were Prime Ministers of post-independent Ceylon. Meanwhile, Royal College produced the late Rt. Hon. (General) Sir John Kotelawala MP, also Prime Minister, and Sri Lanka’s first Executive President, the late J. R. Jayewardene.

The current tally between the two schools has Royal leading with 36 wins to S. Thomas’ 35, with the highly-debated match in 1885— where Royal College was all out for nine runs and refused to play on the second day—considered a win by S. Thomas’ and a draw by Royal (as described in the respective souvenir books of the two schools). In the 144th Battle of the Blues, under Dasis Manchanayake, Royal recorded a comprehensive 181-run win to register their first victory since 2016. The shield is presently displayed like a crown jewel amidst the silverware in the Royal College trophy cabinet.

Played in the highest tradition of excellence, the two schools have formed a bond of mutual respect, camaraderie, sportsmanship, and friendly adversaries on and off the field, which has stood for almost one-and-a-half centuries. As remarked by a yesteryear Principal of Royal College: “There is no Royal without S. Thomas’ and no S. Thomas’ without Royal.”

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