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Sri Lanka to meet Ireland, Netherlands and Namibia in Group A

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2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup

Sri Lanka, Ireland, the Netherlands and Namibia will contest Group A in the first round of the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup for the right to reach the Super 12 stage.

Only the top two teams will progress from the group after all four have played against each other once in the round-robin format, kicking off with the first games on October 18.

Namibia will make history after qualifying for the tournament for the first time, having qualified through the 2019 ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier with victory over Oman.

Ireland and Netherlands also secured their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup berths through the same route while 2014 champions Sri Lanka qualified through their world ranking.

The top seeds from Group A will enter Group 1 of the Super 12 stage along with Australia, England, South Africa, West Indies and the second seed from Group B.

Meanwhile, the second team from Group A go into Group 2 with Afghanistan, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and the top seeds from Group B after the first round of fixtures.

Sri Lanka (seventh appearance)

Favourites on paper to progress as top seeds from Group A, Sri Lanka have been inextricably intertwined with the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup ever since the first one in 2007.

They have contested every single tournament since then, finishing runners-up in 2009 and 2012 before finally lifting the trophy with victory over India in the 2014 final.

Outside the top eight of the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s T20I Team Rankings at the cut-off date and currently ranked 10th, their form going into the 2021 edition has been up and down to say the least.

A landmark 2-1 series win over India in July this year was also bookended by 3-0 series whitewashes to England in their own back yard and the Proteas in South Africa.

But no team has won more T20 World Cup games than Sri Lanka and their experience – along with a talented squad – makes them prime candidates to reach the Super 12 stage.

Captained by Dasun Shanaka, Avishka Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera and Maheesh Theekshana are all potential match-winners for Sri Lanka on their day.

They will open their campaign against debutants Namibia on 18 October in Abu Dhabi before a potentially decisive meeting two days later with Ireland, ranked two places lower in 12th.

Sri Lanka conclude their Group A fixtures on 22 October with a clash in Sharjah against the Netherlands, who they defeated by nine wickets en route to claiming the 2014 title.

Ireland (sixth appearance)

Since missing out on the inaugural tournament in 2007, Ireland have been a regular feature of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup and will contest their sixth in the UAE and Oman.

Their best ever performance to date came on their debut at the 2009 edition hosted by England, progressing from the first round to reach the Super 8s after beating Bangladesh.

Ireland have failed to progress beyond the first round in their last four appearances, missing out on net-run rate in 2014 following group stage wins over Zimbabwe and the UAE.

But as shown by their victory against Bangladesh in 2009, they have made a penchant of beating teams higher in the standings than them at major tournaments over the years.

Pakistan, England, West Indies and Zimbabwe have all fallen to Ireland in the 50-over Cricket World Cup and they will definitely fancy their chances of progressing from Group A.

They booked their place at this year’s tournament by topping their group in the 2019 qualifier on net run rate despite dropping matches to Canada and the UAE in the process.

A series victory over Zimbabwe earlier this year will certainly have encouraged captain Andrew Balbirnie ahead of his side’s opening fixture against the Netherlands on October 18.

And with the likes of Paul Stirling, Kevin O’Brien and rising star Josh Little among their ranks, the world No.12-ranked team possess the experience and talent to cause more upsets.

Netherlands (fourth appearance)

The Dutch showed their pedigree in the shortest format by winning the 2019 ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier, beating Papua New Guinea by seven wickets in the final in Dubai.

Netherlands had already secured their qualification by reaching the semi-final stage, where they defeated Ireland by 21 runs to lay down a marker to their Group A rivals.

In fact, Netherlands have won seven of their 12 T20Is against Ireland and came out on top in their recent ODI series, meaning they will also be targeting a place in the Super 12 stage.

Their squad is packed with experience, with Ryan ten Doeschate and Roelof van der Merwe two of the names who will be expected to play a prominent role during the middle overs.

Stephan Myburgh is another player who will be able to provide plenty of know-how, with the 37-year-old scoring 280 runs at an average of 31.11 in his previous T20 World Cups.

Another dangerous weapon comes in the form of tall fast bowler Paul van Meekeren, who can touch 140kph and possesses a slower ball that could cause plenty of problems.

This is the fourth time that the Dutch have qualified for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, making their debut in 2009 when they stunned England at Lord’s in a last-ball thriller.

But their best performance in the tournament came five years later, topping Group B to reach the Super 10 stage where they notched another famous win over England.

Namibia (debut appearance)

The lowest ranked team in the tournament at 19th, Namibia are making their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup debut this year and will be viewed as underdogs to progress from Group A.

Yet their road to the showpiece event showed that they do not give up without a fight, clinching their maiden appearance with five straight wins after defeats to Netherlands and PNG.

Namibia’s 54-run win over Oman in their semi-final play-off at the 2019 T20 World Cup Qualifier sealed their place and capped an impressive year for Pierre de Bruyn’s emerging side.

They also earned ODI status by winning the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 before securing their berth at this year’s T20 tournament with a string of impressive performances.

While this will be Namibia’s first taste of the T20 World Cup and their first match at an ICC World Cup in either limited overs format since 2003, their squad is not without experience.

Former South African international David Wiese has been included for his second T20 World Cup after the all-rounder qualified for the team through his Namibian-born father.

Meanwhile, potent bowler JJ Smit is another of the team’s stars along with their skipper Gerhard Erasmus, who is capable of anchoring an innings or accelerating when needed.

Namibia’s historic first match will be up against 2014 champions Sri Lanka, a tough examination that will be followed by meetings with Netherlands and Ireland in their bid for a Super 12 spot.



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Gateway felicitates coach for making Sri Lanka proud 

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Gateway’s top coaches Tharindu Fernando, Thilanka Jinadasa and Pradeep Nishantha are pictured here

Pradeep Nishantha, Assistant Head of Sports of Gateway College Colombo was felicitated by the school for his remarkable contribution in producing two medal winners at the recently concluded Paralympic Games in Japan.

The national anthem was played for the very first time at an Olympics when Dinesh Priyantha Herath who was trained by Pradeep Nishantha won a gold medal with a new world record. Pradeep has been employed at Gateway since 2005 and he has been responsible for producing many national athletes from Gateway.

Gateway students are blessed to be coached and guided by professionals of the highest caliber. Thilaka Jinadasa, the Team Leader – Sports development for the entire group represented Sri Lanka in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

Among Gateway’s team of coaches are a number of top Sri Lankan coaches. Tharindu Fernando, who was recently appointed National Basketball Coach for the Under 23 Sri Lankan side is among them.

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Dialog and SLC release T20 World Cup song ‘Ape Kollo’ 

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Amali Nanayakkara, Group Chief Marketing Officer, Dialog Axiata PLC hands over the first CD of the ‘Ape Kollo’ song to Dr. Jayantha Dharmadasa, Vice President, SLC. Also in picture artistes and Dialog brand ambassadors who performed the ‘Ape Kollo’ song, (L-R) Madhuvy, Sanka Dineth, Sanuka, Sajitha, Santhush, Upul Nawaratne Bandara, Head of Marketing, SLC, Harsha Samaranayake, Senior General Manager, Brand and Media – Group Marketing, Dialog Axiata PLC, Bathiya, Umaria, Senali and guest performer, Roy. Absent - Yohan

The national cricket team’s sponsor and Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata, together with Sri Lanka Cricket, recently released ‘Ape Kollo’ the T20 World Cup song in support of the Team on their T20 World Cup campaign which will commence on the 18th of October 2021 in the United Arab Emirates.

The song will be sung by a stellar line-up of artistes and Dialog brand ambassadors including, Bathiya and Santhush, Umaria, Yohani, Sanka Dineth, Sajitha, Sanuka, Madhuvy and guest performer, Roy Jackson. With lyrics written by Triad, the Sri Lanka Cricket T20 World Cup song is an initiative powered by Dialog Axiata connecting the wishes of every Sri Lankan.

Dr. Jayantha Dharmadasa, Vice President of Sri Lanka Cricket said, “I would like to thank Dialog Axiata for materializing the T20 World Cup song into existence. This tribute will be an immense morale boost for players and fans alike. The team over the past few months have been playing tourneys and trial games which have been instrumental in selecting the best combination for the T20 World Cup in UAE.”

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Sri Lanka will qualify, but can they reach semis?  

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by Rex Clementine

The cricket fans of Sri Lanka are truly amazing. They know pretty well that the chances of the team reaching the semi-finals in UAE is as low as that of Maithripala Sirisena winning a future Presidential election, but they keep believing that their team will deliver. It is only fair that the players come up with a decent show, unlike Maithripala.

If the IPL is any indication, there aren’t going to be too many high scoring games over the next four weeks and spin is going to play a huge part. That will certainly be a good indication for Sri Lanka’s bowlers.

Their batsmen, however, it remains to be seen what lessons they have learnt on sweeping. Grant Flower seemed to be having little tricks up his sleeve on the advantage of the sweep, both the conventional, paddle and reverse. Hopefully, now that Sri Lanka have a fine sweeper in their coaching staff in Mahela Jayawardene, the issue has been discussed at length.

Lack of smart options against spin has been one reason for Sri Lanka’s decline in the shorter formats of the game. Ours was a team where the sweep was the batsmen’s bread and butter and it’s quite perplexing how the current lot have forgotten to sweep and the coaching staff have failed to address the issue.

Avishka Fernando has been tremendous to watch. He has always been an exciting player and such a shame that he failed a fitness test in January and was banished from the team hotel. He was so close to making his Test debut against England and failing the fitness test was a bitter pill to swallow. But glad that the selectors and the coaching staff had the conviction to do it. They have spared the rod and spoilt too many young children. Avishka has bounced back; leaner, fitter, stronger and hungrier. IPL teams will be watching and the gut feeling is we are talking of a future billionaire in this space.

There is some school of thought that Avishka should bat at number four. He has come up with some consistent performances in that position this week. It’s true that he is Aravinda’s heir apparent, but Sri Lanka has to make the most of the Power Plays and Avishka should open batting with Kusal Perera to make most of the field restrictions. You sense that you have enough fire power in Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga and Chamika Karunaratne to take care of the death overs.

Oppositions will focus a lot on Hasaranga’s leg spin as he has had quite a bit of success in the lasts 12 months and ended up earning a contract in the IPL. World Cup is a superb occasion for him to stamp his authority as one of world’s leading wrist spinners.

Maheesh Theekshana, the new kid, has a bit of surprise element in him and could trouble teams that have not seen him much as he proved during his debut against Proteas last month. It will be interesting to see how teams that do not play spin that well handle him.

The last minute decision to include Akila Dananjaya while axing Praveena Jayawickrama hasn’t gone down too well with some supporters. But it’s a smart move. There’s no denying of the fact that Akila has looked a pale shadow of his former self since remodeling his action and in recent months has looked awful. But then, Sri Lanka have to qualify. The team is thin on experience after our selectors chased away half a dozen seniors and Akila has a surprise element about him and that could come in handy; particularly in the qualifying round.

The spin trio is not Sri Lanka’s only strength. Their main weapon is pace with Dushmantha Chameera picking up wickets with the new ball consistently and he will be their key weapon. Such a shame that the team will miss the services of Nuwan Pradeep, a clever bowler in death overs.

All hope is not lost for Sri Lanka though. One good thing is that they are not playing any Asian teams. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are all in Group ‘B’. Sri Lanka will have Australia, England, West Indies, South Africa and one more qualifier and if their spin fires, they could spring a few surprises. Can they go onto book a semi-final berth?

In T-20 cricket anything can happen. So don’t just rule out the Sri Lankan team. The same can be said of our voters. Don’t rule out Maithripala.

A land like no other!

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