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Reliving the magic of Rangana Herath



Rangana Hearth was never the super star to perform supreme stunts. Yet that day was different.

Chittagong Carnage;

by Aravinthan Arunthavanathan

On 31st March 2014, a Sri Lankan dream was disintegrating into pieces at Chittagong. In a do or die battle against the Kiwis the Lankans had put up a paltry 119, not anywhere close to giving them a chance. The Kiwis were off to a solid start adding 18 runs for the loss of just one wicket. Nothing but a miracle could keep Sri Lanka alive in the tournament.

Miracles are not strange in Sri Lankan cricket. But on a world stage, with survival on the line, the probability becomes even more remote. Miracles are enacted by superstars. Angelo Mathews, Sanath Jayasuriya, Lasith Malinga and the list goes on. Super strong, supremely skilled, the adjectives that define those who perform miracles are plenty. But on that day definitions did not matter. A burly tweaker merely a few times taller in centimeters than the score the team posted that day was the last hope Sri Lanka had. Rangana Hearth was never the super star to perform supreme stunts. Yet that day was different. A comeback win is always special. But those which are orchestrated by the bowlers are even more special. Melbourne, Durban, Galle the list of special wins in our history is long. But for some reason nothing could evoke the same excitement and thrill of what was to transpire in Chittagong that day. A knockout game on the world stage with back to the wall with no realistic chance. The stage was set for Herath to weave the magic wand, which nobody knew he possessed in the shortest format of the game.

The Kiwi dynamite Brendon McCullum tried to do what he does best, intimidating the bowlers. Trying to do so McCullum misread the length and turn to end up being stumped in Herath’s first over. A T20 maestro was made to look like an amateur trying his first dancing skit by a spinner who was far from the T20 prototype. With Ross Taylor in the middle Kiwis were in safe hands. But Herath was in no mood to give in easy. A beautifully delivered arm ball skidding of the glistening surface trapped Taylor plumb in front. The glimmer of hope was slowly but surely turning into rays of hope. Not only was he picking wickets, but Hearth was also miserly with the runs too. Neesham was next victim to an off spinner’s perfect scalp. Lured into the drive, beaten by the lack of pace, bowled through the famous gate. Hearth was imparting his Midas touch on proceedings. Suddenly Kiwis were left in a daze not knowing what was transpiring in the middle. It was as if an alien power had engulfed an unsuspecting civilization. At 29-4 the game was not gone by any means for the kiwis but soon it was to be. Luke Ronchi the swashbuckling wicket keeper batsman was squared up by a delivery that was angled in, pitched in line, and straightened. As the finger went up the Sri Lankan hopes too skyrocketed. Herath had caused havoc sending kiwis into an avalanche reducing them to 29-5. Despite Kane Williamson anchoring the innings and providing a fight Hearth’s effort was strong enough to outweigh the kiwis. The wicket of Trent Boult to polish off the Kiwi effort was a fitting finale to a fabulous effort. As the ball landed in the safe palms of ever reliable Mahela Jayawardena at slip, Herath had orchestrated an unimaginable win rekindling flames of million hopes.

For a team to win a world tournament there have to moments which instill self-belief that something special is around the corner. The New Delhi chase in 1996 was one moment that rejuvenated the 1996 campaign, similarly it was Herath’s effort against all odds that made Sri Lanka believe. In 2014 almost all the Lankans had gone unsold in the IPL auction weeks before the campaign began, due to a mix of skill related and administrative factors. But it was an indication that the team was competitive but not top contenders. In that way it was fitting that a team who were at best, outsiders to clinch the title went on to reach the pinnacle powered by an individual who would not have been imagined of as one who can deliver such a stellar effort in the shortest format of the game. While there are many bowling feats that are celebrated in the annals of our cricket, Rangana Herath’s Chittagong carnage will stand the test of time and continue to be celebrated.

Hearath’s superlative 5-3 not only matches the other renowned feats but impact transcends into a different stratosphere.



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Novak Djokovic takes on Carlos Alcaraz in Paris semi-finals today




Djokovic and Alcaraz will meet at a Grand Slam for the first time, having only played each other once at the 2022 Madrid Open (pic BBC)

From the moment the French Open draw was made a fortnight ago, the tennis world licked its lips at the prospect of one blockbuster match. The countdown towards Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, the 22-time Grand Slam champion, against Spanish world number one Carlos Alcaraz was on.

Today (09), the two men – at opposite ends of their careers but in the same stunning form – finally go head-to-head at a Grand Slam when they meet in the Roland Garros semi-finals.

“That’s the match that a lot of people want to see,” said 36-year-old Djokovic, who is bidding for a third French Open title and a men’s record 23rd major.

Alcaraz, 20, won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open in September and is contesting his maiden semi-final on the Paris clay.  “Since the draw came out, everyone was expecting that match. Myself as well. I have really wanted to play this match,” Alcaraz said.

The pair have long been considered the main contenders to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires on Sunday, even before 14-time champion Rafael Nadal withdrew with a hip injury.

Whoever wins in the last four will be favourite to beat the victor of Friday’s other semi-final between Norwegian fourth seed Casper Ruud and Germany’s 22nd seed Alexander Zverev.

(BBC Sports)

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Bowlers extend Australia’s dominance in WTC final




India were 151-5 at stumps on day two in the World Test Championship final on Thursday (pic Agencies)

Australia extended their dominance in the World Test Championship 2021-23 final on Thursday (June 8), with their bowlers taking the centre stage after a massive partnership between Travis Head and Steve Smith.

India did limit the damage from the Australian batters as they picked up the last seven wickets for 108 runs. But Australia, who finished with 469, ensured they did not let any substantial partnership develop in India’s innings as the Rohit Sharma-led side ended Day 2 at 151/5, trailing by 318

The day began with Smith bringing up his 31st Test hundred with two successive fours off Mohammed Siraj in the opening over. A short while later, Head registered his fourth 150-plus score as they extended their partnership to 285. India, though, came back strongly as they picked up three for 26 which started with the dismissal of Head. While there were a few boundaries scored, India persisted with short-ball tactics and the move paid off when Siraj had Head caught down the leg-side to dismiss him for 163. Cameron Green edged a Mohammed Shami delivery to second slip and Smith chopped Shardul Thakur onto the stumps to depart for 121. Australia lost their fourth wicket in the first session as Mitchell Starc was run out.

Alex Carey, who had seen off the opening session along with Pat Cummins, began with a flurry of boundaries at the start of the second, including three in an over off Shami. He also struck a six off Ravindra Jadeja to power Australia past the 450 mark and raise the half-century stand with Cummins. But he missed a reverse-sweep off the left-arm spinner and was out leg-before, with India using the review to reverse the onfield call of not out. Siraj bagged the last two wickets, accounting for Nathan Lyon and Cummins, as he bagged a four wicket haul and reached the 50-wicket milestone in the process.

India made a confident start with the bat, with Rohit and Shubman Gill dealing in regular boundaries. But it didn’t take Australia long to get on top again as the openers departed in quick succession. Cummins trapped Rohit leg-before while Gill was bowled by Scott Boland shouldering arms. Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara faced a couple of probing overs but got through the testing period unscathed before the Tea break.

Pujara began confidently in the final session, clipping a Boland delivery wide of mid-on and then playing a square drive off the backfoot off Green. But much like Gill, a poor judgement ended Pujara’s outing as he was bowled shouldering arms to a Green delivery. A rising delivery off a length from Mitchell Starc clipped Kohli’s thumb en route to the ‘keeper, leaving India in further trouble as they slipped to 71/4. Ajinkya Rahane, meanwhile, had a lucky break as he was trapped in front by Cummins but upon review it was clear that the bowler had overstepped.

Rahane, meanwhile, needed the physio’s attention a couple of times as he was struck on his fingers by a Cummins delivery while he was struck on the helmet after missing a hook off Green. Ravindra Jadeja, on the other hand, batted positively as he dealt in regular boundaries and also flicked a Boland delivery over the fence. Rahane, however, did capitalise on anything in his zone as he executed a cover drive off Boland en route to a half-century partnership. The fifth wicket pair extended their stand to 71 before Jadeja edged a Nathan Lyon delivery to slip to fall two short of a fifty. Rahane and KS Bharat were unbeaten at Stumps, having their work cut out for Day 3.

Brief scores:

Australia 469 (Travis Head 163, Steve Smith 121, Alex Carey 48; Mohammed Siraj 4-108, Shardul Thakur 2-83) lead India 151/5 (Ravindra Jadeja 48, Ajinkya Rahane 29*; Nathan Lyon 1-4, Scott Boland 1-29) by 318 runs

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Mathews left out of World Cup qualifiers



by Rex Clementine  

Sri Lanka’s selectors have left out former captain Angelo Mathews from the World Cup Qualifiers that will begin in Zimbabwe shortly. There was not much change from the squad announced for the bilateral series against Afghanistan with the only omission being that of Mathews.

Mathews had made a comeback to the ODI side when Sri Lanka toured New Zealand a couple of months back and was dropped after the first ODI against Afghanistan. Since making a comeback to the ODI side in more than two years, Mathews had managed scores of 12, 0 and 18.

However, if hard hitting batsman Kusal Perera hadn’t recovered from a hamstring injury, Mathews was expected to be part of the squad for Zimbabwe, despite not having a big knock to his name. It was leg-spinner Dushan Hemantha who was expected to miss out but the selectors have chosen to pick two leg-spinners with Wanindu Hasaranga being the number one pick.

As for Kusal Perera, the hopes of him recovering in time for the qualifiers have faded away. The batsman returned to international cricket after shoulder surgery in New Zealand but featured only in T-20 cricket. Even if he wasn’t picked for the Afghanistan series, he was tipped to make it to the World Cup Qualifiers but his hamstring is continuing to give trouble.

Sri Lanka will be pleased that Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara have recovered from injuries and the team’s hopes of earning one of the two remaining slots for the World Cup are very much high.  Extra pace is going to be vital against associate countries who’ll be featuring in the qualifying round. Even Afghansitan were shaken up by the pace as Chameera and Kumara claimed the top six wickets with the new ball in the deciding third ODI where the tourists were shot out for 116.

The lack of left-arm variety in the attack is cause for some concern but the selectors seem to be adamant that they have got all bases covered.   The return of Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne to the ODI side is the biggest plus point as Sri Lanka had struggled to bat out their 50 overs in recent months. The irony is that the same selectors who axed him have recalled him.

Sri Lanka Squad:

Dasun Shanaka (Captain), Kusal Mendis (Vice-Captain), Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dhananjaya De Silva, Charith Asalanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Dushan Hemantha, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha

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