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Spin trial awaits England

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England captain Joe Root and coach Chris Silverwood inspect the Galle wicket yesterday. Pic courtesy ECB.

by Rex Clementine

Cricket is a funny game. Two weeks ago, the Sri Lankans hardly needed the services of a spin bowler. That was on the hard and bouncy surfaces of Wanderers and Centurion. But Galle, the paradise of spin bowlers, will see them using as many as three spinners in the opening Test match against England that gets underway on Thursday.

Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera, who did not play any of Sri Lanka’s four Tests last year, is set to make a comeback. The 38-year-old will be the lead spinner and he will be supported by Wanindu Hasaranga and Lasith Embuldeniya – as Sri Lanka have all bases covered with leg-spin and left-arm orthodox spin supporting the veteran offie.

Suranga Lakmal has regained full fitness ahead of the series opener but may not find a slot in the starting eleven as the selectors seem to back Asitha Fernando. The 23-year-old debuted in South Africa and has impressed the coaching staff with his ability to bowl tight spells and get reverse swing from the old ball.

With Dasun Shanaka able to share the new ball, Vishwa Fernando will be unlucky to miss the opening Test match. Vishwa claimed a five wicket haul in the last Test match and not very often a bowler gets axed soon after claiming a five wicket haul.

Former skipper Angelo Mathews returns after missing the tour of South Africa and so does Dinesh Chandimal. They will occupy number four and five slots. The selectors are backing Kusal Mendis and it won’t be a surprise if he gets another go in the first Test despite picking up three ducks in a row in South Africa. Spin will be a key factor in Galle and Mendis being one of Sri Lanka’s best players of spin bowling is set to get an extended run.

Sri Lanka’s preparation has been not so great ahead of the series. They had just two full practice sessions in Galle as inclement weather restricted their movements. England meanwhile have had adequate time training in Sri Lankan conditions having arrived in the island ten days ago.

All-rounder Moeen Ali, who was tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival is still in isolation and the news from England camp is that he will not be available even for the second Test match. Moeen was a key player when England beat Sri Lanka 3-0 two years ago. His off-spin fetched eight wickets. He also has a decent record against Sri Lanka with the bat having averaged 35.

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Enjoy James Anderson’s skills for one last time

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 Rex Clementine at Galle Fort

Spinners dominate in Asia and fast bowlers have their work cut out in unresponsive and flat pitches. There are those of course who are crafty enough to overcome challenges and do their best to the team. James Anderson is one such. He was nicely setting up Sri Lankan batsmen on the opening day of the second Test in Galle that got underway on Friday.

With the new ball, he reduced Sri Lanka to seven for two– accounting for Kusal Perera (6) and Oshada Fernando (0) early in the innings.

Lahiru Thirimanne and Angelo Mathews ensured that there was not a repeat of the first Test – a collapse. Thirimanne was beginning to breathe easy. He added 69 runs for the third wicket with Angelo Mathews and Sri Lanka were 76 for lunch. In the second ball after lunch, Anderson struck again. His line and length were impeccable.

It was hot and humid in Galle. Anderson barely sent down a loose ball. Of his 19 overs on day one, ten were maiden. Such efficiency in Asia is rarely seen by a seamer. The likes of Sir Richard Hadlee, Wasim Akram and Mitchell Starc had done it before. Anderson is doing the job for England and that’s one reason why they have not lost a series in Sri Lanka since 2007.

Fast bowlers last a maximum of a decade and half. Rarely do they go beyond 15 years. Anderson has defied those numbers. Super fit at the age of 38, the Lancastrian is on his 19th year of international cricket and he may stretch it to two decades.

This is Anderson’s fifth tour to Sri Lanka. It is unlikely that he will visit the island again. So we must enjoy his art for one last time. He gets wickets with the new ball with his impeccable line and length and once the ball gets softer, he is deadlier reverse swinging the ball expertly.

Anderson is the world’s fourth highest wicket taker. The top three wicket takers are spinners and he is the leading fast bowler with 606 wickets so far. He has featured in a ‘small number’ of 158 Test matches.  No fast bowler has featured in that many games.

When our fast bowlers are breaking down frequently barely lasting a full series, they have a lot to learn from Anderson who has gone onto achieve some remarkable feats.

Let’s enjoy Anderson’s skills for one last time.

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Majestic Mathews overcomes Anderson threat  

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Angelo Mathews scored an unbeaten hundred to help Sri Lanka consolidate in the second Test against England in Galle yesterday

Rex Clementine at Galle Fort

It was a superb day of Test match cricket in Galle yesterday as Sri Lanka were made to fight tooth and nail to seize the initiative and square the two match series against England. James Anderson, fresh after being rested for the opening Test, returned in place of Stuart Broad and he was on the money, rarely bowling a loose ball.

It was a battle between the two teams’ most experienced players – Anderson and Mathews. The 38-year-old Lancastrian set it up all dismissing Kusal Perera (6) and Oshada Fernando (0) in the space of five deliveries. KJP attempted a wild stroke without moving his feet and was snapped up by a leaping Joe Root at first slip. Oshada dragged one onto the stumps setting the stage for Mathews to walk in with the side in trouble at seven for two

Sri Lanka were under pressure having been shot out for 135 runs in the first Test and the batsmen needed to apply themselves to avoid a repeat. With Anderson his tail up, this was hard work.

Mathews first ensured that he saw off the new ball and then cashed in with spinners getting no assistance whatsoever. Partnerships were crucial for Sri Lanka. The third wicket stand between Mathews and Thirimanne was worth 69 runs.

Sri Lanka appeared to have recovered at lunch having reached 76 for two. But with Anderson you can not afford to relax. Thirimanne did and paid the price – caught behind for 43 in the second ball after lunch.

Mark Wood bowled a couple of lively spells, not seen here since Mitchell Starc ran through the batting in 2016. His hostile bowling saw Dinesh Chandimal being hit on the head and Mathews nearly gloving one but the ball landed where there was no fielder.

Mathews added 117 runs for the fourth wicket with Chandimal, who posted his 20th Test half-century. Wood had his man finally when he trapped Chandimal leg before wicket, a decision the batsman contested unsuccessfully.

Anderson barely bowled a bad ball with 10 of his 19 overs being maidens. He got the ball to reverse swing as well but Sri Lanka did well not to give away any more wickets to him.

England took the new ball immediately after it was available. But Mathews and Niroshan Dickwella added  36 runs for the fifth wicket to ensure Sri Lanka finished on 229 for four at stumps.

 

 

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NSSF provides electronic target facility to national shooters at a provisional range

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The electronic target facility has been setup at a provisional facility owned by the President of NSSF, Shirantha Peries near Kohuwala.

Asian Online Shooting Championship 2021

The National Shooting Sport Federation (NSSF) of Sri Lanka has made arrangements to introduce electronic target facilities to national shooters as it gears up to form a strong team for the upcoming inaugural Asian Online Shooting Championship 2021, which will be held on January 29 and 30.

The electronic target facility has been setup at a provisional facility owned by the President of NSSF, Shirantha Peries near Kohuwala.

“We have been craving for a permanent national shooting range since 2015, but so far nothing has materialised in favour of the sport. There were requests made to several Sports Ministers who were in and out of office during this period, but the NSSF had to finally make a crucial decision to setup this temporary shooting range in early 2019. Now the electronic targets are placed here for the use of national shooters,” Pradeep Edirisinghe, the General Secretary of NSSF said in a statement.

The introduction of electronic targets has several objectives. It will come handy to shooters of the national squad to train prior to any important international meet, which have been not held globally since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

More importantly, the introduction of electronic targets will facilitate the upcoming inaugural Asian Online Shooting Championship 2021, which will be held on January 29 and 30. Currently members of the national shooting squad are engaged in a qualifier trial meet in the 10m Air Rifle and 10m Air Pistol individual events for men and women.

“The trials are a good lead up to the NSSF as this is the first time Sri Lanka is taking part in an online Asian competition. Unlike at our local competitions where the whole process is done manually, the outcome at electronic targets happens in real time. We can fully rely on the accuracy of the process, as during the competitions the Asian Shooting Federation will monitor the whole course from Kuwait,” Edirisinghe explained.

According to the guidelines issued by the Kuwait Shooting Federation, the organisers of the competition, three participants each per discipline from each country, will be given the opportunity to compete. In Air Rifle and Air Pistol for both Men and Women, three shooters each must qualify based on the minimum qualifying standards set by the organisers.

“In addition skeet and trap events will take place during the same period, but Sri Lanka will be able to take part only in the skeet because we are having the NSSF Skeet Open this weekend and the top three shooters will automatically qualify for that. Air Rifle and Air Pistol shooters from all countries must qualify,” said Edirisinghe.

The Asian Online competition will start at 10.00am local time in each country at their respective shooting ranges and updates will be monitored in real time by the organisers based in Kuwait. The respective countries taking part must provide facilities to shooters under strict health guidelines, and ISSF qualified independent judges in each country will officiate the matches, before submitting the approved report with results to Kuwait.

“We will begin shooting at these competitions starting from 10.00am as instructed at this temporary facility in Kohuwala and at the Clay Target Shooting Club of Colombo’s shotgun range facility in Payagala. We, as the NSSF must take the responsibility for an honest report and these results are totally based on mutual understanding,” he further explained.

The NSSF intends to continue this exercise during the coming months as international meets are yet to resume since early 2020, due to the pandemic and global travel restrictions. However the introduction of electronic targets to Sri Lanka is a welcome sign for NSSF, as it will have the ability to provide its shooters a facility they could only experience overseas.

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