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!
Thehan clinches men’s singles tennis title
106th Colombo Championships
Royal College player Thehan Wijemanne clinched the men’s open singles title of the 106th Colombo Championships as he beat Chathurya Nilaweera in the final played at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Wednesday.
Wijemanne who partners Nilaweera in the men’s open doubles was tied 1-1 in the singles final before pulling off a 10-7 win to seal his victory. The final scores read 6-4, 4-6, 10-7.
The Royalist beat Kiran Vairavanathan and Archana Lokuge in a row to book his final place to meet the champion of the Under 18 age category.
Wijemanne registered a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Lokuge in the semis after beating Vairavanathan 4-2, 3-5, 11-9 in the quarter-final.
It is the first Colombo Championships singles title for Wijemanne who will celebrate his 18th birthday later this month. He is also the reigning Clay Courts Singles champion after winning the March final against Luca Knese.
Meanwhile, Gehansa Methnadi of Musaeus College reached the Under 12 girls’ singles final after recording a convincing straight sets win in the semi-final played on Wednesday. She beat Movindi Fernando 4-1, 4-1 in the afternoon.
In an Under 12 girls’ singles quarter-final Akeesha Silva beat Venuli Jayasinghe 4-1, 4-0 to reach the semi-final.
Karunaratne climbs up in Test Player Rankings
Sri Lanka’s win in the first match of the ICC Men’s Test Championship has put the team on top of the table powered by MRF (on percentage points), and several players including skipper Dimuth Karunaratne have improved their rankings after the first Test in Galle.
Captain Karunaratne’s Player of the Match effort of 147 and 83 has lifted him four places to seventh, just one below his career-best sixth position attained in August 2019. Former captains Angelo Mathews (up two places to 23rd) and Dinesh Chandimal (up four places to 46th) have also advanced.
Left-arm spinners Lasith Embuldeniya (up four places to 37th) and Praveen Jayawickrama (up six places to 44th) and off-spinner Ramesh Mendis (up 28 places to 57th) have improved in the rankings for bowlers.
Fast bowler Shaheen Afridi has made it to the top five of the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s Test Player Rankings for the first time in his career after a fine show in the first Test against Bangladesh which Pakistan won by eight wickets.
The 21-year-old left-arm bowler, who grabbed seven wickets including a haul of five for 32 in the second innings of the Chittagong Test, has moved up three places to fifth position after overtaking James Anderson, Kagiso Rabada and Neil Wagner.
Shaheen’s new-ball partner Hasan Ali too is at a career-best position after finishing with a similar seven-wicket match haul that included a five-for in the first innings. Hasan has advanced five places to 11th place. His previous best in Tests was 14th, reached in May this year.
Pakistan’s opening batters were not the ones to be left behind. Abid Ali may have missed out on a century in each innings but his scores of 133 and 91 helped him shoot up 27 slots to a career-best 20th position while Abdullah Shafique enters the rankings at 83rd with scores of 52 and 73.
For Bangladesh, Mushfiqur Rahim is up four places to 19th with scores of 91 and 16 while Liton Das has moved up 26 places to a career-best 31st position after accruing 114 and 59. Left-arm spinner Taijul Islam has progressed two places to 23rd after an eight-wicket match haul that included seven scalps in the first innings.
The thrilling draw in Kanpur between India and New Zealand had quite a few performances from either side that reflect in the latest weekly update that also includes the first Test between Sri Lanka and the West Indies at Galle, which the host side won by 187 runs.
Debutant Shreyas Iyer’s Player of the Match effort of 105 and 65 helped him enter the rankings in 74th position while opener Shubman Gill (up six places to 66th) and Wriddhiman Saha (up nine places to 99th) also made notable progress after notching half-centuries.
Ravindra Jadeja is up two places to 19th among bowlers with five wickets in the match and is also up one place to second among all-rounders. Ravichandran Ashwin is the third-ranked all-rounder and 79th among batters.
For New Zealand, Tom Latham’s knocks of 95 and 52 place him back in the top 10 as he goes up from 14th to ninth. Fast bowler Kyle Jamieson is ninth among bowlers, his three wickets in each innings resulting in a gain of six places. Tim Southee has gained 15 rating points to reach within one point of second-placed Ashwin (840) after his eight-wicket match haul.
Mickey’s ‘sloppy cricketers’ hand Windies the edge
Rex Clementine in Galle
Sri Lanka Head Coach Mickey Arthur once told The Island that he hates ‘sloppy cricketers’. Given how Sri Lanka approached batting in their second innings here in Galle yesterday, the 53-year-old would have given them a firm dressing-down. Having conceded a first innings lead of 49 in the second Test, Sri Lanka had to bat well to set West Indies a decent target. With the wicket turning square, the batsmen already had their work cut down and to gift West Indies two wickets through run outs was not ‘sloppy cricket’ but committing hara-kiri.
There’s a lot at stake here. Sri Lanka have never lost a Test match at home to the Windies and everyone is looking forward to give Arthur a grand send off. To make things worse, Angelo Mathews is down with a hamstring injury and that leaves a huge hole in the batting line-up. Sri Lanka’s batsmen barring Dimuth Karunaratne have been susceptible against spin and unless they bat out at least two full sessions on day four, history could be in the making for West Indies.
Dimuth was the first to be dismissed. Having pushed one to backward of point, he attempted a risky single, but instead of rushing he was watching the fielder. Kyle Mayers picked up the ball one-handed and threw down the stumps with a direct hit to find the batsman well short.
The comedy of errors continued when Oshada Fernando was run out with the total on 39. Having pushed one to point, Oshada was walking down the track, half-hearted not knowing whether a run was on. There was none there and by the time he was sent back by the non-striker it was all too late and not even a dive could save him.
Sri Lanka’s batsmen spoiled the brilliant efforts of their spinners who did well to bowl out West Indies for 253. The tourists were well placed at one stage at 166 for two but then Ramesh Mendis’ career best figures of six for 70 saw Sri Lanka bounce back. West Indies at one stage slumped to 208 for eight, losing six wickets for 42 runs. But a ninth wicket stand of 38 runs between Mayers and Veerasammy Permaul ensured they ended up with a decent lead.
Kraigg Brathwaite was brilliant as he top scored with 72 runs that came off 185 deliveries with nine fours. A peach of a delivery from Lasith Embuldeniya accounted for the captain. The ball pitched outside of the leg-stump, spun viciously past the right-hander and clipped the top of off-stump.
Spinners accounted for all ten wickets to fall with Embuldeniya and Praveen Jayawickrama sharing four wickets between them well supporting Mendis.
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