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Sri Lanka bank on Hasaranga taking on world champions Australia

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Australian skipper Aaron Finch and his Sri Lankan counterpart Dasun Shanaka pose for pictures at Sydney Cricket ground ahead of the five match T-20 series.

The pandemic has forced us to do a lot of catching up. We witnessed a T-20 World Cup last year and we will witness another one this year. Having been crowned World Champions in Dubai, Australia will defend their title this year at home. On their way to World Cup defence, the five match bilateral series against Sri Lanka is their first assignment. The first game gets underway today in Sydney at 1:40pm Sri Lanka time. The first two games will take place at SCG followed by the third game in Canberra while Melbourne will host the last two games.

The Sri Lankan side is thin on experience but in Wanindu Hasaranga they have world’s number one ranked bowler and the tourists will be banking on him. The leg-spinner rose through the ranks last year and has come up with some match winning performances while his batting exploits lower down the order have been handy and Sri Lanka have used him as a floater whenever there has been a collapse. He has been up to the challenge.

Sri Lanka will not encounter old pal David Warner, who has been rested. The left-hander was in such poor form when Sri Lanka took on Australia in last year’s World Cup and a dropped catch early in his innings allowed him to get back into form and he ended up as Player of the Series in the World Cup. Rested along with Warner is Man of the Match in the World Cup final against New Zealand Mitchell Marsh.

Ben McDermott, a right-handed top order batsman will replace Warner while wicketkeeper batsman Josh Inglis will make his debut. He will not keep wickets though as Australia rely on Matthew Wade.

In Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, the hosts have a formidable pace attack and probably the best in the world. It will be a good challenge for Dasun Shanaka’s side on bouncy pitches.

Sri Lanka suffered a major blow when Kusal Mendis tested positive for COVID. Technically, he should be available for the third T-20 in Canberra on Tuesday if his second PCR test next Monday is negative but Sri Lanka are unlikely to take a chance and his best bet seems to be returning to the side next Friday in the fourth game at MCG. Dinesh Chandimal is expected to keep wickets.

It remains to be seen whether Sri Lanka will back Danushka Gunathilaka to open the innings with Pathum Nissanka or Avishka Fernando will be preferred. It could be that both batsmen feature in the game with Fernando occupying number four slot. Charith Asalanka was so impressive during the World Cup and with the added responsibility of vice-captain this will be a breakthrough year for a player who has promised so much in his brief international career so far.

Inclement weather could play spoil sport in the first T-20 International.



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Spin bowling coach concedes Sri Lanka under bowled Dhananjaya

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Rex Clementine in Galle

The question in everyone’s mind watching the second day’s play of the first Test between Australia and Sri Lanka was why off-spinner Dhananjaya de Silva was not bowled enough as he was creating opportunities. The part-timer sent down just two overs on the day while the rest of the spinners took a hammering.

Dhananjaya had started off the day well claiming the wicket of Travis Head when he took a return catch but skipper Dimuth Karunaratne hardly bowled him thereafter even when Australian batsmen went on the rampage. Sri Lanka’s Bowling Coach Piyal Wijetunga conceded that Dhananjaya was under bowled.

“When Ramesh was bowling well, I thought we could have used Dhananjaya more. I thought we under bowled him. Had he bowled more, it could have been lot more different,” Wijetunga, a former Test cricketer told reporters.

Lasith Embuldeniya has been disappointing. While he has not been able to make breakthroughs, he also sent down too many loose deliveries which were duly punished. The left-arm spinner had struggled in the recent Test series in Bangladesh as well and the question was asked whether he would have been better off playing against Australia ‘A’ lead up to the Test series.

“Lasith has bowled well in training. The problem is when he goes out to the middle he struggles. It’s a matter of handling the pressure. The Bangladesh setback maybe is working on his head. When something of this nature happens, the player has to sort it out. A spinner more than a fast bowler or a batsman needs to be mentally strong. We need to address that issue,” Wijetunga stressed.

Sri Lanka’s spinners haven’t been able to send down even a single maiden over in the innings and Wijetunga said that it was due to the fact that the opposition batsmen were looking to attack. But in reality, every over the spinner offered loose balls and they were put away.

“I accept the fact that we didn’t bowl single maiden over in this innings. On spinning tracks batters try to be aggressive. This is not an excuse. We could have bowled a few maiden overs. According to my opinion the reason is the batsmen trying to be aggressive. They were looking to sweep and reverse sweep. Their batsmen handled spin better than our batters.”

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Science in search of first win this season

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By a Special Sports Correspondent  

S. Thomas’ College will be looking for a better performance this week when they confront St. Joseph’s College in their Division 1 Segment A Group 1 A match scheduled for Saturday (June 2) which could be rated as one of the key matches to be worked off in the second week of the inter-school league rugby tournament.

The match scheduled to take place at Havelock Park will be played for the Lady Jayatilake Shield. The Thomians went down fighting last week to Trinity. Much is expected from the lads from Mount Lavina tomorrow if they are to get the better of Trinity; a team which proved last week that they are one of the sides to watch this season.

Trinity meanwhile lock horns with St. Anthony’s Katugastota at Nittawela today (Friday). Royal take on Kingswood which is the other game scheduled today.

In a key game in the Division 1 Segment A Group 1 B this week Science take on Dharmaraja. In this fixture Science is set to record its first win for the season. Last week the lads from Mount Lavinia went down fighting to Isipathana 18-9 and earned much respect for the spirited performance.

Vidyartha host St. Peter’s on Sunday at Nittawela. At the time of writing the venue for the Wesley vs Isipathana match was not released to the media by the tournament organizers.

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Sri Lanka lose plot as Australia lead goes past 100

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Rex Clementine in Galle

Spin had done the job against Australia in the limited overs series and with the opposition vulnerable against the turning ball, the quartet of spinners that Sri Lanka had picked were expected to put the brakes on the batsmen in the first Test in Galle. But the hosts were poor as they bowled too short and sent down too many loose balls to hand the initiative of the Test match to Australia, who finished day two on 313 for eight with a healthy lead of 101.

Sri Lanka were unable to tie down the attacking batsmen as none of the spinners managed a maiden over. Left-arm orthodox spinner Lasith Embuldeniya was expensive conceding 73 runs in his 15 overs giving away almost five runs an over while leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay went  for more than six runs an over with his ten overs costing 68 runs.

Skipper Dimuth Karunaratne’s bowling changes were also poor. Off-spinner Dhananjaya de Silva had provided an early breakthrough when he took a return catch to dismiss Travis Head but soon after that he was taken off the attack on a rain curtailed day. Shockingly, Dhananjaya bowled just two overs on day two and the most economical and experienced bowler in the team has sent down only five overs in the innings.

Ramesh Mendis finished with four wickets and looked the most threatening among the bowlers, particularly against the left-handers. Jeffrey Vandersay claimed two including the big wicket of Usman Khawaja, world’s highest run getter this year, but lacked discipline.

Only 44 overs were bowled in the day of the scheduled 90 due to rain and a wet outfield. Sri Lanka had reduced Australia to 157 for five and were looking to knock the lower order cheaply, but there was little pressure from the spinners despite the pitch offering assistance.

Alex Carey and Cameroon Green added 84 runs for the sixth wicket with the wicketkeeper smashing 45 off 47 deliveries with six fours. There were questions asked at the start whether Australia would have been better off with the spinning all-rounder Glenn Maxwell instead of seaming all-rounder Green. But the Perth based big man justified his selection top scoring with 77 runs.

Green, considered a long term investment by Australia with a solid First Class record, could play a role of someone like Michael Bevan, who was an expert batting with the tail in limited over games.

Green and Mitchell Starc were dismissed in the space of three deliveries and with the total on 278 for eight, Sri Lanka looked to knock off Australia before they reached 300. But skipper Pat Cummins with a few mighty blows took the score beyond 300 and the lead past 100. He remained unbeaten on 26 in 16 deliveries with one four and three sixes. All three sixes came off Vandersay including two in an over.

Play will get underway early today at 9:45 am to catch up for lost time on day two.

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