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Sri Lanka set aside their worst fears



Impressive spells by Matheesha Pathirana in Sri Lanka’s opening Asia Cup fixture against Bangladesh at Pallekele on Thursday cast aside the team’s worst fears of bowing out early from the tournament after being forced to field a depleted attack

by Rex Clementine
at Pallekele

There’s a fair bit to be done for Sri Lanka to get back to their glory days in cricket, but you can safely say that the team has a taken huge strides to achieve that target. Yes, the drubbing by Pakistan at SSC and in Galle are still fresh in memories but Test cricket is one format where they have done reasonably well.

It is the white ball formats the team has struggled, playing multiple qualifying tournaments in the last three years across T-20s and ODIs. T-20 cricket has reached a safety zone, no doubt about it and the automatic qualification for next year’s tournament in the US and West Indies is proof for that.

ODI format is still a work in progress, but there are impressive signs. The team’s bowling is pretty formidable with both the quicks and spin departments bowling sides out with some impressive performances. If they make a genuine effort to fix the injury woes, that will be a massive relief. This Asia Cup, they are literally depending on their seconds string attack.

There were doubts how Matheesha Pathirana will go. He has pace sure, but accuracy was a question mark and there were doubts whether he will be as good as in the 50 over format as he was in the 20 overs game.

Was it the right decision to pick him over Pramod Madushan and Binura Fernando, some of us wondered? What an inspired decision it proved to be.

In his first spell, Matheesha accounted for the big wicket of Shakib-al-Hasan and then in the second spell claimed the wicket of Mushfiqur Rahim, the other experienced batter in the opposition line-up. Then the tail couldn’t handle his pace and his four-wicket haul gave Sri Lanka a much-needed win and fears of the team might not being able to make it to the second round were set aside.

Maheesh Theekshana was sensational as well making early inroads bowling with the new ball. His variations are confusing, and batters aren’t able to play him with confidence. Of course, there will be bigger challenges when they play India and Pakistan.

Then there’s Dhananjaya de Silva, a very underrated cricketer. You can always be assured of his ten overs for not many and he gives you the much-needed cover at number six. Why the selectors picked Kusal Mendis ahead of Dhananjaya as vice-captain is confusing indeed.

Mendis of course is on borrowed time. He’s been on borrowed time for quite some time now, but they seem to create roles for him to fit into the side. How much we can go on saying that he has got talent and that he is the future of the team needs to rest and other deserving players need to be looked at.

If Sadeera Samarawickrama had got half the chances that Mendis had got, he would have won us many more games. It remains to be seen if Kusal Perera is fit, whether the selectors will have the courage to axe Mendis. Of course, that will make the selectors look dumb. Not often do you drop your vice-captain from the side. However, they have done dumber things than this.

Sadeera first came into the scene in 2017 and should have gone onto become a permanent fixture. But once Graham Labrooy, who picked him finished his term, he was thrown in the cold store and successive selection panels didn’t even bother to try him out.

If a player’s work ethic and attitude doesn’t impress selectors or the team management, there is certainly something wrong in the system. That’s one reason why we have struggled so much.

How well Sadeera batted against Bangladesh after the top order had collapsed. His only blemish is that he plays too many attacking shots too early in the innings. Even on Thursday, he had an opportunity to prove his mettle by finishing off the game, but he threw away his wicket. He will learn.

However, Mendis, whether he will learn is a big question mark. So is Niroshan Dickwella. The opportunities these two have got, had we invested on some others, we would have made rapid progress. Better later than never.

Young batters putting up their hands and making it count has helped Sri Lanka to move forward in the right direction. Pathum Nissanka has already established himself and then there’s Charith Asalanka, who has played some match winning knocks under pressure. He didn’t carry a lot of form into the Asia Cup but the unbeaten 62 at Pallekele would have given him lot of confidence.

The unsung hero of Sri Lanka’s recent success is Kasun Rajitha. It’s a pity that even in these pages, we discuss him last. Often Rajitha ends up without taking a wicket but what the scorecard doesn’t say is that how many catches were dropped off him. Captain Dasun Shanaka put down one against Bangladesh and poor Rajitha continues to suffer.


France rout Namibia 96-0 in Rugby World Cup match




France captain Antoine Dupont was forced off in the second half with an injury to his face during the Pool A rout of Namibia (pic BBC)

France are on the brink of reaching the World Cup quarter-finals after claiming their biggest-ever win with a 96-0 victory over Namibia in Pool A.

Damian Penaud scored a hat-trick, while Jonathan Danty, Charles Ollivon and Louis Bielle-Biarry all scored twice.

Antoine Dupont, Thibaud Flament, Baptiste Couilloud and Melvyn Jaminet also crossed before a penalty try took their total tally to 14 in Marseille.

The only French cause for concern was the loss of Dupont to injury. The hosts’ captain was withdrawn during the second half following a head-on-head tackle by Johan Deysel, whose yellow card was upgraded to a red by the bunker-review system.

France head coach Fabien Galthie’s decision to keep his talisman on the field despite his side’s huge 54-point half-time advantage could be scrutinised if Dupont’s injury keeps him on the sidelines with the knockout stages looming.


France: Ramos; Penaud, Fickou, Danty, Bielle-Biarry; Jalibert, Dupont; Baille, Mauvaka, Atonio; Woki, Flament; Cros, Ollivon, Jelonch.

Replacements: Bourgarit, Wardi, Aldegheri, Taofifenua, Boudehent, Couilloud, Moefana, Jaminet.

Namibia: Van der Bergh; Mouton, Deysel, Burger, Greyling; Loubser, Theron; Sethie, Van der Westhuizen, Coetzee, Tjeriko, Ludick, Katjijeko, Retief, Gaoseb.

Replacements: Nortje, Benade, Shifuka, Van Lill, Hardwick, Blaauw, Izaacs, Rossouw.

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)

(BBC Sports)

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Bangladesh discover Mustafizur’s success with the new ball in rainy Dhaka




Mustafizur picked up two wickets with the new ball to dent New Zealand early (pic Cricbuzz)

In a called-off game, disrupted due to rain on several occasions, Bangladesh lucked out. Amidst the rain breaks in the three-match ODI series opener between Bangladesh and New Zealand at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, the hosts found out their experienced campaigner Mustafizur Rahman had something to offer with the new ball.

In the recent past, Mustafizur had hardly looked dangerous with the new ball and in the present setup – comprising Taskin Ahmed, Hasan Mahmud and Shoriful Islam – it looks he’ll hardly have the chance to open the bowling attack. Mustafizur’s recent performances also validate the fact that his role is to hold the batters during the middle overs, and he is doing that quite efficiently with his cutter and slower deliveries.

Mustafizur, who was rested after the opening game against Sri Lanka in the recently-concluded Asia Cup, made a comeback against India in their last game of the tournament after team management rested several first-choice fast bowlers and it also opened an opportunity for him to bowl with the new ball.

Though he put up an impressive show with the ball picking up 3-50 he turned out to be more effective with the old ball. He had given away 31 runs in the first four overs against India without any success but returned strongly when he was asked called in during the death overs.

It’s true that the two-paced wickets in Sri Lanka helped him against India, being suitable for cutters and slowers which were too hot to handle for the lower-order batting unit of their Asian neighbours. However, on Thursday against New Zealand, Mustafizur proved he still has something to offer with the new ball. What was more heartening for the hosts was the way he attacked to pickup a wicket – an instinct that had been missing for a while.

The way the 28-year-old got rid of Finn Allen (9), courtesy of a brilliant catch by Nurul Hasan Sohan behind the stumps, only showed he can still make the new ball talk as the New Zealand opener hardly had an answer to the length delivery that was pitched on the leg-stump and took the edge.

Since picking the wicket of Allen, Mustafizur was keen on trying different things that included bowling some short balls while he also tested the batters with his angled deliveries and quite surprisingly it was different from the way he bowled in the recent past where his major focus only remained on keeping a check on the flow of runs rather than going for wickets.

“Potentially, yeah. I thought Mustafizur bowled really nicely and hit the seam with the new ball,” New Zealand skipper Lockie Fergusson said after the first ODI was called off.

For Bangladesh, it was a breath of fresh air seeing him remove Chad Bowes (one) when the batter failed to negotiate his swinging delivery while he trapped Henry Nicholls (44) plumb in front to end the day with 3-27 from his seven overs.

Although the overcast conditions helped Mustafizur a lot to shine with the new ball, Bangladesh can definitely heave a sigh of great relief after his terrific performance just before the World Cup. Their interim head coach Nick Pothas echoed the same sentiment.

“Yeah he was very tidy. You know Fizz has been working very hard the last month or so to try and find some rhythm. We know his credentials bowling at the death. You can ask him to wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning and bowl death overs and he will do them with the best in the world,” said Pothas.

“He has just been trying to get back some rhythm with the new ball and he has worked very hard himself along with Allan Donald and you can see the fruits. Just coming good at the right time just before the World Cup and very happy for him,” he added.

Pothas added that switching roles for Mustafizur is not a problem for him considering the vast amount of experience he has.

“No they are very specific, those two roles (bowling with new ball and old ball). They are almost living in two different boxes. These guys are professionals and have to be able to do everything. He does it and prioritizes that very well and he got a lot of experience.”

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Murali’s ‘800’ to be screened from Oct 6th



Muttiah Muralitharan and Arjuna Ranatunga chat prior to the press briefing to announce the movie 800.

by Rex Clementine

A movie titled ‘800’ elaborating the life and career of spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan will be screened in Sri Lanka from the 6th of October onwards. The movie made in several languages will be a hit and a trailer was shown in Colombo yesterday in the presence of Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardene and Murali’s first Test captain Arjuna Ranatunga.

Murali, a World Cup winner with Sri Lanka, retired from Test cricket in 2010 with a wicket off the last ball he bowled and it turned out to be his 800th Test wicket. The movie is titled ‘800’.Directed by M.S. Sripathy, Indian actor Madhur Mittal plays the role as Muralitharan.Muralitharan played his entire career during the civil war and recalls how the entire nation supported him and his commitment to the nation.

The movie deals on the chucking controversy during successive tours of Australia in 1995 and 1998 and how the entire team and the nation stands behind the bowler.In the infamous ODI at Adelaide where Sri Lanka win by one wicket, captain Ranatunga is seen urging last man Muralitharan to score the winning runs and win the game for the team and Murali does exactly that.

Ranatunga spots Muralitharan first during a school match in Kandy and then does everything to fast track the off-spinner to the senior side.

“We knew that what Australia was doing for Murali was wrong. We stood by Murali. The irony is that several years later, Australia appointing Murali as their Spin Bowling Coach. This for me is Australia accepting their guilt,” Ranatunga said during the press briefing.

Actor King Ratnam, who plays the role of Ranatunga in the movie speaking at the briefing suggested that a movie should be made on Sri Lanka’s World Cup triumph and on Arjuna himself.The captain had taken so much risks putting his own career in danger in protecting Murali.Muralitharan speaking at the briefing said that no captain will ever take the risks that Ranatunga took.

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