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Salwa Eid Naser’s missed drug tests and Sri Lanka’s missed medal

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Nadeesha Ramanayake, Dilshi Kumarasinghe, Upamalika Ratnakumari and Nimali Liyanarachchi joined to establish a national record but that feat was not enough to win a medal as Salwa Eid Naser stunned them in the final lap.

 

by Reemus Fernando

When it comes to gold medal winners at last year’s Asian Athletics Championships, no name rings louder than that of the Bahrain sprinter Salwa Eid Naser for Sri Lanka women’s 4x400metres relay quartet who established a new national record in Doha. Despite breaking the national record held by legendary athlete Damayanthi Dharsha and co, the team, inclusive of Nadeesha Ramanayake, Dilshi Kumarasinghe, Upamalika Ratnakumari and Nimali Liyanarachchi, had to settle for the fourth place. After being in contention for a medal for a better part of the relay, Sri Lanka were stunned in the last lap by the sprinting prowess of Nigerian born Salwa Eid Naser who anchored the Bahrain team to gold. A few months later the Bahrain athlete stunned the Olympic gold medallist Shaunae Miller-Uibo in one of the biggest upsets at the World Championships at the same venue. However later it came to light that she was under investigation for missing drug tests when she competed at the World Championships.

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) last month said that the charges against Naser for missed tests and filing failures were dismissed by an independent tribunal. But the women’s 400-meter world champion faces new legal case that could see her banned before the Tokyo Olympics. In an event of her being slapped with a ban, the athletes who had been beaten by Naser for medals would seek an upgrade to the colours of their medals.

Track and field’s Athletics Integrity Unit said it appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against a decision last month to close the case against Naser. She has been charged with breaking anti-doping rules and could be slapped with a two year ban. Her anti doping rules violation is a whereabouts, which constitutes of any combination of three missed tests or filing failures in a 12-month period, according to the World Athletics anti-doping rules.

The particular 12 month period includes the Asian Athletics Championship 2019.

Naser won three golds at the Asian Athletics Championship including a championship record of 22.74 seconds in winning the 200 metres. She clocked 51.34 seconds to win the 400 metres.

Sri Lanka were shocked in the women’s 4×400 metres final. After a strong start by Nadeesha Ramanayake, Dilshi Kumarasinghe powered Sri Lanka to the second place leaving Ratnakumari and Liyanarachchi to battle it out in the last two laps. By the time Liyanarachchi took the baton Sri Lanka were still in contention for a medal and Bahrain were trailing in the fourth place. Official statistics showed Naser running sub 50 seconds in the final lap to overtake Sri Lanka, Japan and India to win her third gold.

When Naser beat Olympic gold medallist Shaunae Miller-Uibo at the World Championships 2019, she produced 48.14 seconds, the fastest time of the 400 metres since 1985 and the third fastest all time.

 

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Argy – Bargy meets BLACK WALL!

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by Rajitha Ratwatte

The much anticipated ‘payback’ match for New Zealand’s All Blacks against the Argentinian Pumas had finally arrived. In one of the hottest days recorded in decades, in Newcastle Sydney, the Pumas fielded a different team to their last game, with over ten changes. Probably looking for fresh legs as this was their third international in three weeks. Joe Moody the All Black number one, loose head prop was playing his 50th game in the black jersey. Akira Ioane was back in the starting XV in the number six jersey.

The Pumas’ were mourning the death of their football legend Diego Maradona and the All Blacks made a wonderful gesture before they started their Haka, in honour of their opponents. Sam Cane the skipper walked up to the Argentinian team who were facing up to the haka and laid down a black jersey with the name Maradona and the no10 on it. A very impressive move by the All Blacks and very much in keeping with the standards and behaviour that New Zealanders expect from the All Blacks! A very suitable honour for El Pibe de Ora – The Golden Boy.

The first scrum happened in the second minute and it was the All Blacks who dominated. The resulting scrum penalty was around 45 meters out and rather surprisingly, Jodie Barret was given the ball to take a shot at goal. He missed!

In the ninth minute, the All Blacks playing under a penalty advantage, well inside Puma territory saw Beauden Barret chip kick over the defence and center Lennert-Brown knocked on when collecting the ball. Usually referees play a much longer advantage but, on this occasion, and few others as the game progressed, the advantage for All Blacks was forgotten and a defensive scrum awarded to the blue and white team.

In the 12th minute a great long pass by Ritchie Muanga to Dan Coles the hooker, who has a penchant for lurking on the wing, saw him go over and score far right. Muanga converted and the Kiwis were into a 7 – 0 lead.

Aaron Smith who had a pretty average game showed some good clear, incisive thinking on this occasion, as he spotted a gap behind the Argentine line and kicked ahead gaining a lot of territory. A very kickable penalty was awarded to the All Blacks right in front of the posts and the three points were a mere formality. 10 – 0 to the New Zealand All Blacks.

The ABs were starting to dominate both in loose play and in the set pieces, particularly the scrums. However, the Argentine defence seemed impregnable and the Kiwis may even have been accused of trying too hard. Aaron Smith didn’t see a couple of opportunities to run with the ball and possibly score from five meters out and kept passing to heavily marked team members.

There were a few “pedantic” high tackle penalties awarded to the Pumas and some rough play from Argentina duly overlooked by the ref. A penalty advantage for the Blacks was also terminated rather quickly, again, but they kept their cool and refused to succumb to the mental games. There were a few uncharacteristic handling errors by the Pumas, possibly due to the high humidity levels and a greasy ball. In the 38th minute a penalty was awarded to the NZ team after many phases of dominating forward play. It was around 25 meters out and mid right, should have been an easy kick for Muanga but he struck the left upright and missed! So, the All Blacks went into half time with a 10 – 0 lead after having 76% of the possession and 77% of the territory! A tribute to the Argentinian defence. The All Blacks also missed two penalties, was this to prove costly?

The second half started with two All Blacks players crashing into each other when trying to collect the kick off from Argentina. Scott Barret and Caleb Clark both went for the ball and Clark came up with it, from what looked like a nasty clash. However, Scotty Barret sprang to his feet, but it left the spectators wondering what was going on. Akira Ioane who the referee had pinged a few times for largely imaginary offences, (one wonders if the officials earmark certain players who have reputations to watch closely during the game!) ripped the ball away for a turnover, from the Pumas during a possibly dangerous phase of loose play.

This was further emphasis of the dominance that the All Blacks had in loose play and one of the main reasons for their victory.

The Argentinian skipper was caught offside from kickable range, but the All Blacks chose to go for territory. The Argentinian defence was rock solid and it finally took a back peel from a line out, in the 52nd minute of the game, with Aardie Savea who stood at number two even though he was wearing the number eight jersey, charging through the defence to score mid left. Muanga managed the balance two points and 17 – 0 to the New Zealanders.

Sam Cane the skipper and hard-working wing forward of the All Blacks was impeccable in attack and defence. It was a treat to watch and a real lesson for an aspiring young player. He ensured the dominance in loose play and at the breakdown. From the 55th minute onwards both teams started resorting to their bench players. A couple of remarkable changes that made an impact on the score line was Sam Whitelock going off for Patrick Tuapoletu in the second row and Caleb Clark being replaced by Will Jordan in the wing.

In retrospect it was rather obvious that these players, particularly Jordan had been sent on to look for attacking opportunities as it was essential to win this game with a bonus point to have a better chance of securing the silverware at the end of the tournament.

Sure enough Will Jordan picked up a wild pass to nowhere by the Pumas, scythed his way through the defence and scored under the posts in the 68th minute, 24 – 0 to the All Blacks. This in the view of all New Zealanders was more like it.

In the 69th minute Jordan again intercepted an Argentine pass and ran around 35 meters to score far left. The replay showed Jordan out of position for defence as the Pumas were attacking, he was looking for the intercept! Muanga was back in kicking form and slotted it brilliantly, 31 – 0, bonus point under control and a fine clinical and professional performance from the New Zealanders.

In the 80th minute, after the hooter had gone, Ricco Ioane went over the line, but the try was disallowed as Lomax was pinged by the TV referee for a foul and yellow carded. I wonder when he will serve his time in the sin bin? As the rugby season is over. Maybe by eating his Christmas dinner 10 minutes late!!

The Pumas could have ended the match at this stage, but they chose to continue in a desperate attempt to cross their opponents line at least once. There was a penalty awarded when Sam Cane was cleaned out in what could even be deemed as a spear tackle. Cane got up bleeding from a gash on his right eye and this was too much for some of his team mates who went for the Argies. The penalty was promptly reversed in the mindless interpretation of the rules which has begun to characterise and degrade this game we love. However, the All Blacks were having none of this and found enough in the engine room to set replacement number four Patrick Tuapoletu off on a 20-meter run to score mid right. Insult to Injury for the Pumas with the final score 38 – 0 to the All Blacks.

All in all, a very ‘satisfying’ (in the words of Sam Cane) assertion of the quality of All Black rugby. Full kudos for sending Will Jordan on with the brief he had and the ability to ‘pick up the plums’ (in the words of the Coach). Respect your opponents by all means but beat them convincingly by playing professional rugby football. That is what this great game is all about.

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Andre Russell hammers 65 off 19 balls, Colombo Kings make 96 to win five-over shootout

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With this innings, Andre Russell basically crash-landed at the LPL like an alien from a way bigger-hitting planet than earth, clobbering what seemed like nine dozen sixes (apparently four sixes, according to the scorecard) and half-a-million fours (nine fours) in the space of five overs, to send Colombo Kings sky-rocketing to some ludicrous total that – let’s be honest – Galle Gladiators never really had a hope of chasing down.

This was utterly remorseless from Russell, who was like a 12-foot giant running wild in a playpen full of toddlers. He blasted two sixes and three fours in Mohammad Amir’s first over, at the end of which Kings were 26 for no loss, before hitting a six and three fours off the next over, bowled by Asitha Fernando.

It didn’t seem to matter where the bowlers went, or whether they seemed to execute their deliveries or not. Around every corner was Russell, bat raised and a glint in his eye. Of the Gladiators’ four bowlers, only Mohammad Shiraz did not concede a six to Russell.

Laurie Evans was outstanding at the other end too, hitting back-to-back sixes off Amir’s second over (Amir ended up conceding 46 from his two overs), and a four off Shiraz. He was 21 off 10 balls when in the last over, Russell clubbed Shahid Afridi to long-on, before turning down the single so he could keep the strike for the rest of the over.

On the surface, this seems disrespectful to Evans, and it kind of was. But then Russell crashed a four through long-on next ball, and a six over backward square leg the ball after. So, you know, you couldn’t really fault that decision either.

That the match had been shortened to five overs a side was down to the three hours of rain that had fallen this evening. The weather conspired to bring Russell out as an opener, and in some ways, this innings was more entertaining than many regular T20 matches.

(cricinfo)

 

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Exodus of white South African cricket talent  

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by Rex Clementine

Every time Sri Lankan teams go to South Africa, they ask the locals one question. ‘What happened to Marchant de Langa?’ The six foot seven inch tall quick, made his Test debut against the Sri Lankans in Durban in 2011. He took seven wickets in the first innings and his victims included Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews, and Tilan Samaraweera et al. Yet, after that, he was hardly heard of. So what actually happened to de Langa? Well, he turned ‘Kolpak’ preferring County Cricket in England instead of Test cricket for his country.

Isn’t that absurd? One may wonder. The ultimate joy for any player is to represent your country. That too, after you had proven yourself in Test cricket, why do you want to return to First Class cricket? Well, the reason being, white South African cricketers get a raw deal in their country and they are seeking greener pastures in Europe or in places like Australia and New Zealand. Not just cricketers, this includes farmers, businessmen and other professionals. Australia in particular welcomes South African farmers with open arms.

For decades, the black South Africans suffered at the hands of white rulers and those terrible apartheid laws not only segregated them but deprived them of equal opportunities. The world took notice and imposed trade embargos on South Africa. Sports associations followed banning bilateral sporting ties with South Africa and in the end; they were left with Hobson’s choice but to give in for fair play.

Sadly, now white South Africans are at the receiving end due to the ‘quota system’ that is prevalent across all walks of life. When seeking employment, black South Africans get the preference, followed by coloured and those of Indian origin and the whites come last. So opportunities for them are few and rare. In sports too talent alone won’t get you there. The quota system encourages more black South African representation and as a result the whites are moving out.

In the Lanka Premier League, two South Africans share the new ball for Jaffna Stallions – Kyle Abbott and Duanne Olivier. Both were successful international cricketers before they turned Kolpak settling in England to play County Cricket.

Abbott was playing the New Year Test against Sri Lanka in Cape Town in 2017. That he had signed a Kolpak deal was a poorly kept secret and the news was out during the Test match. Cricket South Africa reacted angrily and wanted to separate.  The fast bowler announced his retirement at the conclusion of the Test match. This was the second Test.  So for the third game in Johannesburg, the Proteas were short of a fast bowler. They drafted in Duanne Olivier.

Olivier on debut was on the money and his pace was too much to handle for the Sri Lankans. The game was lost inside three days. Two years later when Sri Lanka returned to South Africa, Olivier along with Kagiso Rabada was South Africa’s premier bowlers. Yet, after the second Test, Olivier too turned Kolpak and South Africa lost yet another fine talent in his prime.

All South Africans who have turned Kolpak are doing a terrific job for their respective counties. Their country meanwhile is struggling to make an impact in the sport. South Africa are ranked sixth in Tests and fifth in ODIs and T-20s. Not the true reflection of their sporting greatness.

What the Kolpak ruling means is that citizens of the country who have trade agreements with the European Union countries are eligible to work as locals. Now South Africa is not part of the EU, but they have a trade agreement with EU and that qualifies their citizens. So when English counties hire South Africans, it’s not considered an overseas signing.

In the last few years with Britain exiting from the European union more South Africans turned Kolpak in order to qualify. Cricket authorities in South Africa must be hoping that now their problems will end as Kolpak deal is no longer valid once Britain exits EU. However, unless they deal with serious issues like equal opportunities to all, they are going to face more problems.

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