Vinicius Junior and Federico Valverde each scored twice as Real Madrid won the FIFA Club World Cup for a record-extending fifth time after a 5-3 victory over Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal in Saturday’s final in Rabat, Morocco.European Champions League winners Madrid were heavy favourites against their counterparts from Asia and duly raced into a 2-0 lead inside 20 minutes with two goals in five minutes from Vinicius and Valverde.
But Al Hilal, the first team from Saudi Arabia to make the final, made the game a contest when pulling a goal back courtesy of Moussa Marega.Madrid raced clear once again with two more quick-fire goals early in the second half through the fit-again Karim Benzema and a second for Uruguayan midfielder Valverde to seemingly make the result safe with still just over 30 minutes remaining.
Instead, Madrid boss Ancelotti is unlikely to be too impressed by his side allowing Al Hilal a route back into the game once more through a brace from former Atletico Madrid forward Luciano Vietto, either side of a second from Vinicius.
Al Hilal could have ensured real late drama if not for a bad miss from Marega, but Madrid had enough to see out an ultimately deserved win in a game that set the record for the most combined goals in a Club World Cup final.The Spanish giants have now won all five finals they have played in the competition, having previously won three titles in four years between 2014 and 2018. The next most successful team in the FIFA event, which began in 2000 and has been held annually since 2005, are Barcelona with three victories.
European teams have now won the trophy in the past 10 Club World Cups.
“I think we’re improving, there were some mistakes at the back but a lot of quality up front,” Ancelotti said. “The players who were injured are coming back, Karim, [Eder] Militao, [Thibaut] Courtois, and this trophy gives us a boost to prepare this end of the season, and we still have a lot of confidence.
“It’s been a good tournament for us, the improvement we’ve seen in recent games, the rest of the season we’re excited to fight until the end in every minute, every game, every competition.”
– Ancelotti hails Valverde, Vinicius after Club World Cup triumph
Benzema was a mild surprise in Madrid’s starting lineup a day after Carlo Ancelotti said it was touch-and-go if he could play at all. The Ballon d’Or holder missed Madrid’s last two games, including the 4-1 semifinal win against Egyptian club Al Ahly on Wednesday.
The France striker cued the opener after he exchanged passes with Valverde and played Vinicius clear to beat goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, who got a leg to the shot but not enough to keep it from landing in his net.
Valverde smashed a poor clearance between the legs of a defender, who deflected it slightly before it whizzed past Al-Mayouf, to double the advantage in the 18th.
But after struggling in the opening period to even connect three passes, Al Hilal found their stride after Marega caught Madrid’s backline trying to spring an offside trap in the 26th. The former Porto striker streaked away unbothered, sized up Andriy Lunin and fired past Madrid’s backup goalkeeper, who started for the injured Thibaut Courtois.
The goal settled Al Hilal and Madrid were stymied until Vinicius made an exquisite pass to serve up a goal by Benzema.
Vinicius used the outside edge of his right boot to bend a cross around a defender and meet Benzema’s darting move. Benzema did the rest by using one touch to turn it into the top of the net in the 54th.Valverde added his second in the 58th.
Vietto scored on either side of Vinicius’ second goal, netting in the 63rd and 79th as Madrid’s defence failed to track the Argentine in the box.A late miss by Marega denied Al Hilal a chance to go for a last-gasp equalizer. (ESPN)
Hasaranga suspended for two T20Is for outburst against umpire
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.
Kamindu Mendis needs to be persevered with
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.
Dialog powers historic Royal – Thomian for 19th time
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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