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Sri Lanka fight back with late wickets after Dickwella fifty

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Rex Clementine in Galle

We tend to emphasize a lot on Shane Warne’s heroics in Galle following a terrific performance in that 2004 series. Making a return to international cricket after being banned from the game for doing drugs, the late leg-spinner took a match bag of ten wickets to help Australia record a come from behind victory in one of world’s most iconic grounds. Warne also edged past Muttiah Muralitharan in the race to 500 becoming the first spinner to the magical mark in the same game. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon could be writing his own fairytale in Galle.

Lyon was a curator at the Adelaide Oval when his talent was spotted by Darren Berry, one time a leading contender to take up Sri Lanka’s Head Coach position. Seven months after making his First Class debut,  Lyon was brought to Sri Lanka where he made his Test debut here in Galle in 2011. He entered the record books when he picked up a wicket off his first ball in Test cricket. No ordinary batsman; someone by the name of Kumar Sangakkara, world’s number one ranked batsman at that point. He went onto claim a five wicket haul in the first innings and the rest is history.

Lyon, now 34 has over 400 Test wickets and he is Australia’s third highest wicket taker all time. The saying that Sri Lanka either makes or breaks people is true in the case of Warne and Lyon. He was quite a handful yesterday too helping Australia to bowl out Sri Lanka for 212 and Australia finished the day on 98 for three, trailing by 114 runs.

A couple of poor shots from Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Mendis had reduced Sri Lanka to 42 for two and then Dimuth Karunaratne and Angelo Mathews rebuilt the innings as the hosts reached 68 for two at lunch. Lyon then made a breakthrough as Warner took a stunning one-handed catch to dismiss the captain.

Leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson dismissed Dhananjaya de Silva and Dinesh Chandimal in successive deliveries to reduce them to 97 for five.

Niroshan Dickwella joined Angelo Mathews and added 42 runs for the sixth wicket as Sri Lanka staged a recovery. There was a further 54 run stand between the wicketkeeper and Ramesh Mendis as Sri Lanka closed in on the 200 run mark.

With his sweeps and reverse sweeps, Dickwella reached his half-century and the shot of the day was when he scooped Pat Cummins for four over the head of the wicketkeeper.

With a below par score, Sri Lanka needed early wickets. However, Australia’s openers added 47 runs off 55 deliveries and kept the pressure showing aggression.  Ramesh Mendis created opportunities but sent down loose balls frequently too allowing the tourists to cash in. Warner had raced to 25 off 24 deliveries before being trapped leg before wicket by Mendis.

Marnus Labuschagne attempted to reverse sweep Mendis but hit it straight to Asitha Fernando at backward of point.

Sri Lanka evened things out on day one with the wicket of Steve Smith, who was sold down the river by Usman Khawaja, the non-striker. Smith was furious as he walked off the ground.

Khawaja was unbeaten on 47 and Australia need a big knock from him. He’s been in solid form this year having scored close to 800 runs in seven Tests at an average of 133. The first Muslim to play for Australia has scored four hundreds this year.



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All Seeded players through to semis

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P & S Sri Lanka Junior Open Golf Championship

The P&S Sri Lanka Junior Golf Match-play championship, sponsored by P&S Bakers group, entered the knock-out stage, with the quarter-final matches worked off with the seeded players moving through comfortably bar the thrilling cliff-hanger match between Jacob Norton Seeded 3 in the Silver Division and Varun Fernando (6th Seed) who fought all the way to take the match to the 20th hole, where Jacob prevailed.

Jacob Norton will meet second-seeded H.D. Adithya Weerasinghe (A’pura) who beat T. Deshan 6 & 4 comfortably. The top-seeded Reshan Algama beat Kaiyan Johnpillai convincingly 7 & 6, and will face fifth-seeded Jevahn Sathasivam who defeated fourth Seeded Keshav Algama with an easy 7 & 6 victory.

In the Gold Division, second-seeded Yannik Kumara withdrew after the qualifying round as he was scheduled to play in a tournament overseas and was not included in the match-play draw.

The top seed Haroon Aslam breezed through to the semi-final pulverizing W.G. Isurur  Shimal 9 & 7 and will meet Pranav Muralidharan the fourth seed who handsomely beat an experienced T. Vikash 7 & 6. In the bottom half of the Junior  Championship  Draw, second-seeded K. Danushan smashed Thenuk Sathnidu 8 & 7. He will play third seed Vinuka Weerasinghe who beat Yehan Kenthula 6 & 4.

In the Girls Gold Division number one seed Kaya Daluwatte will meet Yehani Perera who received a walk-over from Dhanushi Wanasinghe. Third seed Dhavinka Kanag-Isvaran beat R.M. Dinumi Sanjana 7 & 6 to set-up the second semi-final against second seed Sherin Balasuriya who also received a walk over from Sanduni Wanasinghe.

The Bronze Division Semi-Final clash between top seed Thejas Rathis Kanth and Keya Abhayarathne will be the feature battle. Keya Abhayarathne defeated Kaitlyn Norton 6 & 5 to set-up the semi-final match versus the top seed Thejas. In the bottom half of the draw second-seed Mohamed Saqeer Zuhar  will meet third-seeded Yehansa Senananayake.

In the Copper Division played over nine holes, Yuvan Rathis Kanth beat L.G. Anuja Methsara 6 & 4 to meet the second seed Jaeden Sathasivam whilst in the top half of the draw top seed Danik Daluwatte faces Taalia Silva.

The five semi-final matches scheduled for Thursday promise to be thrillers with the youngsters soaking in the pressure and performing well, adapting to the exciting Match-play format, that moulds the character of young golfers.

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Arjuna heads new Sports Council  

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Members of the newly appointed Sports Council pose with the Sports Minister

A new Sports Council was appointed by Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe yesterday with World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga taking the reign as the head of the apex body.

The other members of the Sports Council are: Lieutenant General H.L.V.M. Liyanage, Air Marshal S.K. Pathirana, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, Amal Edirisooriya, Maj. Gen. Rajitha Ampemohotti, Dr. Maiya Gunasekara, Shriyani Kulawansa, Ajith Pathirana, Sunil Jayaweera, Chrishantha Mendis, Lasitha Gunaratne, Nalinda Illangakoon, Sudath Chandrasekara, Sujani Bogollagama.

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NH bids adieu to Ladies’ College after 50-year stint as TT coach

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N.H Perera pictured with the Ladies’ College table tennis team players

By a Special Sports Correspondent

Former table tennis National Champion, National Coach and sporting legend N.H Perera probably set a record in the Sri Lankan school sporting arena when he retired from coaching Ladies’ College Colombo in the ping pong ball and racket game after serving this academic institute for 50 years.

NH, as he is fondly known in the table tennis circles, started coaching Ladies College back in 1972 following an invitation made to him by the teacher in charge of sports back then Delita Fernando. When he turns the pages of time the only reason that came to his mind to say yes to this coaching assignment was that he wanted to give something back to the sport. He was quite young then (21 to be exact) and had won the table tennis national singles crown twice (1968/70) by then. He recalled with fondness how the lasses from this school won the National School Games title in 2019.

He produced many outstanding female players from this school and the secret behind his success was him being a strict disciplinarian. At the time he said yes to coaching at Ladies’ College he had laid down a condition for the authorities of the school. That was to arrange practices in the morning. This was because he was gainfully employed in work done outside table tennis. This goes on to show the caliber of players in the golden years of the sport. A good many of them had the capacity to contribute to society using their brains and education unlike today where the players are forced to supplement their income through table tennis coaching. For the record, NH served several companies and institutes in many capacities; proving that engaging in competitive sport and showing commitment to employment are a possibility when the individual has the capacity to manage both. When he finally retired from work he held the post of Marketing Manager at United Arab Shipping Lines.

He had his education at Nalanda College and had the honour of being the first table tennis national captain to be produced by this academic institute.

He rates the 1970s as the golden era of the sport. “I say this because we were invited by the ITTF to contest the Afro Asian Latin American Table Tennis Championship in Peking, China. During his playing days, NH had beaten top players from Russia, China, and also Europe. The picture he sees now in Sri Lankan table tennis is not so rosy. “We even lost to Nepal at the last SA Games. I believe the TTASL must be dissolved and a Board of Control for Table Tennis must be formed instead. Today we see many coaches out there who cannot put the ball over the net,” said Perera.

NH sees more potential in the Sri Lanka female players. According to him, the women’s players from Sri Lanka had finished sixth at the previous Commonwealth Games. “I trust that the way forward would be to bring down a female table tennis coach and male trainer; both from China. This would raise the standard of our playing,” said Perera who many years ago qualified as a coach from the Peking University of China.

He also spoke about the psychological aspects to training players. NH underscored the importance of bringing in psychology to training to help players handle unexpected challenges in the game. “You have to do sessions to develop the minds of the players,” said Perera.

He is at present engaged in coaching the students at S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia. The school by the sea won the All Island Table Tennis Championships in 2019 under his guidance.

NH maintains high standards for his players and himself. He recalls an incident in the past; which occurred during the time he was young and already the national champion. “I was coming out of the YMCA training hall after training and a photographer asked me to pose for a picture. I was in slacks and this picture appeared in the newspaper. I was summoned to the TTASL and a top official asked me why I had disgraced the sport by not being properly attired for a photograph that appeared in a national newspaper. I learned a valuable lesson in life,” concluded Perera.

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