Sakuna deserves a second chance
by Reemus Fernando
Many are the school cricketers whose hopes of excelling in their beloved sport were dashed due to the Covid 19 pandemic during the last one and half years. Junior cricketers aspiring to play their schools’ Big Matches and do well during the cricket season had to abandon their hopes after the pandemic prevented all school sports. The Under-19 schools cricket season is the steppingstone to the junior national team. Every season new talent is identified by Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association and Sri Lanka Cricket officials and once in two years some of country’s future prospects get the opportunity to compete at the ICC Youth Cricket World Cup. When Sakuna Liyanage was picked in the 75 member Under-19 cricket pool many were optimistic that the left-hander would go on to secure a place in the final team though he was yet to play a major role for his new school Lumbini College. However, the cricketer from Moneragala was not lucky to get a place in the final squad.
Generally, Sri Lanka Cricket nurtures a pool of junior cricketers for more than two years. Some are selected from the Under-17 level. While those who are not committed get dropped, players who excel during the school seasons are selected to maintain a continuous pool until the Youth World Cup. Such a pool was not maintained during the last two years due to the Covid 19 pandemic. There had been times when cricketers who were not even in the pool have been selected for Sri Lanka Under-19 teams on merit of their performances during the schools season.
At a time (due to Covid 19) when junior cricketers hardly get a second chance to prove their potentials in a tournament, it is doubtful whether the cricketers in the caliber of Liyanage had enough opportunity to display talents. The selectors may have assessed their talents during practice matches but Liyanage has credentials from a Sri Lanka Cricket conducted tournament that deserves selection. He was one of the top performers with the bat during Sri Lanka Cricket conducted Under-23 Premier Cricket tournament 2020.
Liyanage took to cricket at Royal College, Moneragala before he was introduced to cricket on a turf wicket in Colombo. Lumbini College coach Dinesh Weerasinghe invited him to join his school and soon got him a place in the Nugegoda SC Under-23 team as well, as Weerasinghe was the coach there. Liyanage paid back with impressive performances and was among the top scorers. He had an aggregate of 243 runs at an average of 60.75 in six matches and was the fifth-highest scorer behind Kamindu Mendis (249). No Under-19 cricketer had scored that many runs in that tournament.
Hailing from a not so well to do family from Moneragala, Liyanage would not have certainly come this far hadn’t he been introduced to cricket on turf wicket. Unfortunately, there is no other tournament in the immediate future for him to prove his worth and even if schools cricket restarts this year it would be too late as the team for the Youth World Cup is selected before the year ends. If selectors stick to their original squad it will be a huge opportunity lost and his exploits would be missed at the Youth World Cup.
Kipyegon breaks world 1500m record with 3:49.11 in Florence
Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon captured the world record she had been hunting, winning the women’s 1500m in a stunning 3:49.11* at the Golden Gala, the third Wanda Diamond League meeting of the season, in Florence on Friday (2).
The two-time Olympic and two-time world champion was already the second-fastest women’s 1500m runner of all time thanks to the 3:50.37 she clocked in Monaco in August, when she missed the world record of 3:50.07 set by Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba in 2015 by just 0.3.
This time, Kipyegon blew the mark apart, becoming the first woman to break 3:50 in the discipline and taking almost a second off the previous record.
Kipyegon had been open about her world record ambition in 2023. “The record is in my heart and on my mind and I hope this will be a perfect year for me,” she said on the eve of the Golden Gala.
She has started it in sensational style.
On Friday evening Kipyegon followed the pacemakers Brooke Feldmeier and Sage Hurta-Klecker through 400m in 1:02.37 and Hurta-Klecker was right on schedule through 800m in 2:04.00, with Kipyegon on her shoulder.
As Hurta-Klecker moved to the side, Kipyegon forged on and reached 1200m in 3:05.28. In a race of her own, she pushed again and was roared over the finish line, past a clock showing 3:49.11. She raised her hands to her face and then dropped to the track in delight.
Behind her, Britain’s Laura Muir finished second in 3:57.09, while Australia’s Jessica Hull was third in an area record of 3:57.29, and the field came together after the race to celebrate with Kipyegon.
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Afghanistan cruise to comfortable win after Zadran 98
Opening batsman Ibrahim Zadran scored a fine 98 to help Afghanistan to a comfortable six wicket win with 19 balls to spare in the first ODI against Sri Lanka at Suriyawewa on Friday. Chasing a target of 269, the tourists reached home in 46.5 overs with Zadran sharing a second wicket partnership worth 146 runs with Rahmat Shah. Zadran one of the brightest young batting talents to come through from Afghanistan has already scored three hundreds in nine games and he nearly had a fourth one on Friday before being dismissed two runs short of the milestone.
The 21-year-old was expected to play the anchor role but he wasn’t afraid to punish the loose balls as he raced to his half-century in just 35 balls. He whipped Matheesha Pathirana for two sixes in an over as the debutant fresh from his IPL heroics failed to live up to the expectations conceding 66 runs in his 8.5 overs.
A bouncer by Kasun Rajitha helped Sri Lanka claim the key wicket of Zadran as the batsman attempted a pull shot but couldn’t keep it down and was caught in the deep. Zadran made a run a ball 98 and hit 11 fours and two sixes.
Rahmat Shah went onto post 55 that came off 80 deliveries with three fours.
Nothing much went right for Sri Lanka who are using the series as preparation for the World Cup qualifiers later this month in Zimbabwe. Fast bowler Lahiru Kumara had to pull out after sending down just 4.3 overs with a hamstring strain.
Sri Lanka got off to a poor start losing four wickets for 84 runs inside 20 overs before Charith Asalanka rescued them top scoring with 91 runs. Asalanka added 99 runs for the fifth wicket with Dhananjaya de Silva, who chipped in with a half-century.
When captain Dasun Shanaka was dismissed with the total on 215 for six with seven overs remaining, Sri Lanka were in danger of getting bowled out without utilizing their 50 overs. But Asalanka found a solid partner in debutant Dushan Hemantha as they added 48 runs for the seventh wicket.
Asalanka was run out in the last over with his 91 coming off 95 deliveries with 12 boundaries. Left-arm quicks Fazalhaq Farooqi and Fareed Ahmad picked up two wickets apiece. The second ODI will be played on 4th June followed by the final game on June 7th. All games will be at Suriyawewa.
Sri Lanka 268 all out in 50 overs (Charith Asalanka 91, Dhananjaya de Silva 51, Pathum Nissanka 38, Dushan Hemantha 22, Fazalhaq Farooqi 2-58, Fareed Ahmad 2-43.
Afghanistan 269 for four (Ibrahim Zadran 98, Rahmat Shah 55, Hashmatullah Shahidi 38, Kasun Rajitha 2-49)
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