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Sri Lankan pace bowing excites Dale Steyn

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by Rex Clementine in Dubai

South Africa has always produced quality fast bowlers and one of meanest bowlers of this generation has been Dale Steyn. Ranked world’s number one bowler for an extended period of time, Steyn made quite a few visits to Sri Lanka and won the hearts of local fans for his aggression on the field and friendly nature off it.

Steyn is in UAE for the T-20 World Cup as a commentator and in an interview with a few Sri Lankan journalists said that he actually thought the Proteas had lost the plot in their clash against Sri Lanka in Sharjah last week before they recorded a stunning come from behind win in the penultimate ball of the game.

“I actually thought Sri Lanka had the game in the bag. Felt like South Africa got things wrong. I was going to do the post match presentation and was actually preparing for a South African loss. They missed the opportunity to hit boundaries in the middle overs whereas Sri Lanka just kept coming at them.”

For this World Cup, Sri Lanka moved away from their traditional strength of spin and built up a bowling unit on their pace. In the qualifiers, pace came in handy but when it came to the business end of the competition, the pacies, particularly Lahiru Kumara was a let-down.

“I like their aggression. Sri Lanka is not a country known to have that aggression. Whenever I played against Sri Lanka, there were some good fast bowlers, don’t get me wrong, Malinga was amazing but he wasn’t like the most aggressive man in the world. It’s nice to see a bit of mongrel inside those young Sri Lankan bowlers,” Steyn explained. What’s mongrel? Well, Steyn is giving them a complement in South African terms; like a dog that has grown up on the streets and has good fighting qualities.

“They are bowling 145kmph which is quick and good. Where they went wrong was their lengths were off. Against Australia they were too full. Then in the backend they dragged their lengths back. Against South Africa it switched the other way. That’s experience for you. You have got to play at the highest level. Yes, they are playing at the highest level but they need to do so more frequently.”

“I like the way Kumara went about it. Chameera is more round arm and he can swing it. Kumara is kind of hit the deck and he will be a good bowler in South Africa where you get something off the deck and find the edge when batters don’t know to whether go back or come forward. I felt bad for him. Just running into a guy like David Miller is not easy,” explained Steyn.

Steyn is not from any of the big South African cities. He is from the little known Phalaborwa, a village near the Kruger National Park. The first time he was out of South Africa was when he toured Sri Lanka in 2004 with the ‘A’ team. It was a whole new experience to him and he had it all; kottu rotti, an accident and much more.

“I just had the best time. I went to the mall in Colombo and for the first time I bought DVDs. That was bootleg DVDs, but I bought them anyway. I was eating different food for the first time. We went to the tea plantation at Dilmah. We had a car accident. Our bus crashed. Two police officers got badly injured. I sincerely hope they are okay. Then we had to jump into the Sri Lankan bus. So until the Sri Lankan bus arrived, we had to sit on the road for about five hours. We went to Kandy and I saw at the team hotel elephants cruising along. I absolutely loved it.”

“From a cricketing perspective, I can’t remember what really happened. It didn’t matter. It was one of the amazing tours. Every time I went to Sri Lanka, I sort of wanted more of it. The first time I went to Galle, it was great. I remember going up on the ramparts. Went to the little beaches and I loved it. We have won and lost games of cricket but Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful places I have been to. West Indies and Sri Lanka are two of my favourite places,” Steyn went onto say.

Two years after that tour, he came to the island again, this time with the South African Test team. Playing his first Test match overseas, Steyn had a tough welcome to Test cricket in Asia as this was the game Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene were involved in a World Record 624 run stand.

“Thanks for reminding. In that Test, I had got Sanga out off a no ball and I had him dropped at point two balls earlier. Sanga went onto make almost 300. Mahela batted for two days and almost made 400. It was tough, but a great learning curve. You always want to win games and take five wicket hauls. But there is no learning in that. You need to have really bad stuff like that to learn. At that time I wasn’t enjoying it and looking back I think that was one of the best things that happened to my cricket at the start of my career. It’s a great story to tell and a great experience. As a young fast bowler I wanted to run and bowl as fast as I could. My mindset was similar to what Sri Lankan bowlers have right now. Sometimes it work sometimes it doesn’t.”

Steyn shares a special relationship with former skipper Kumar Sangakkara. While they have played cricket against each other, they have been also team mates at Warwickshire while playing County Cricket, in IPL for Deccan Charges and Sunrisers Hyderabad and Jamaica in Caribbean Premier League.

“What’s there not to like about Sanga. He’s the best man in the world. When it comes to his cricket, he is just phenomenal. Even when he was whacking hundreds against us, it was great to watch and so beautiful. There was fierce competition no doubt against each other but it’s been never ugly. That’s because Sanga is the nicest guy in the world and I love him. I don’t want to treat him any other way. Playing against him, I want to get him out but we are also friends. That’s the best thing about cricket.”

Has the master sledger have sledged Dale Steyn? “He is very clever. He is smart with his cricket brain. He will say little things. Maybe he would irritate me than sledge me. He’s got a point you know and I just step back.”

There are quite a few fast bowlers in world cricket at the moment who are exciting to watch; Pat Cummins, Kagiso Rabada, Mark Wood, Trent Boult and Jasprit Bumrah. Does any of them remind him of Dale Steyn of his prime. “Probably Antrich Nortje. I think what he does; his thought process is similar to me. I don’t look at his action or his style and say he is like me. But I like what’s going on in his head. His execution is similar to what I do. We are roughly the same height trying to bowl really quickly. Looking to skid the ball, I mean beat you for pace before the bat gets there. Good bouncer and keeps it very simple bowling gun barrel straight. That’s the key thing. He doesn’t bowl many wide balls outside the off-stump. His action allows him to bowl gun barrel straight.

Having terrorized batsmen for a decade and half, Steyn has now joined the commentary panel and doing a good job. Will he remain there? “Have you watched Happy Gilmore movie? If you get the chance watch the movie Happy Gilmore. It is one of the best sports movies. It is a comedy. It is about a guy who plays ice hockey. He has got a bad temper and he ends up playing golf and he is really good at it. He is wining and everyone is asking him you are winning golf and what about your golfing career. He says I am a hockey player and I am just playing golf to make enough money so that I can play hockey. I feel very much the same. I am a cricketer who is currently doing commentary. I am not a commentator. It’s fun. I am enjoying it.”



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Dimuth on the verge of several batting milestones

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Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne will equal the World Record for most consecutive fifties in Test match cricket if he scores a half-century in the first innings of the second Test against West Indies in Galle starting Monday.

by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne has hit a purple patch this year and the 147 he scored against West Indies in the first Test in Galle this week was his fourth hundred in 2021. The 33-year-old came up with an equally solid 83 in the second essay as Sri Lanka won by 187 runs and a session to spare.

His exploits have seen him accumulating 854 runs this year in Test cricket at an average of 77. Only Joe Root and Rohit Sharma have scored more runs in 2021 although they have played more games with the England captain featuring in 12 Tests and the Indian star appearing in 11 games compared to Dimuth’s six Tests.

Dimuth has now scored six consecutive half-centuries and a 50 in the second Test starting on Monday will see him equaling a World Record shared by six other players. Everton Weeks, Kumar Sangakkara, Andy Flower, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, Chris Rogers and K.L. Rahul have all scored seven consecutive fifties in Test cricket.

In the list of most runs in Test cricket for Sri Lanka, Dimuth went past former skipper Arjuna Ranatunga this year and he is currently the ninth highest run scorer. He’s on 5406 runs and if he scores 96 more runs in the second Test, he will knock off three more Sri Lankan greats; Tilan Samaraweera (5462), T.M. Dilshan (5492) and Marvan Atapattu (5502). That will see him sitting at number six among the highest run scorers for the country.

Dimuth is hungry for runs and he wants to finish his career with 10,000 Test runs. Only two other Sri Lankan greats have achieved the milestone. Kumar Sangakkara with 12,400 runs and Mahela Jayawardene with 11,814 runs are the only members of the exclusive 10,000 club.

“Scoring 10,000 runs is my dream. I don’t know if I’ll be able to achieve that, but that’s what I’ve got in my mind. If I can continue this form, I’ll be able to get close to 10,000 runs. I like to improve as much as I can, and whenever I finish a match, I’ll go and check where I am on the Sri Lanka run charts, to figure out how many I need to score to pass someone,” Karunaratne explained.

The Sri Lankan captain was Man of the Match as Sri Lanka took a 1-0 lead to retain the Sobers-Tissera Trophy. The win also enabled Sri Lanka to collect 12 points in the ICC Test Championship.

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Amasha smashes Susanthika’s Army record, Roshan dazzles with hurdles feat

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Amasha de Silva smashed Susanthika Jayasinghe’s meet record in the women’s 100 metres.(Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

57th Army Athletics Championships  

by Reemus Fernando  

Sprinter Amasha de Silva smashed Olympian Susanthika Jayasinghe’s longstanding Army Athletics Championship 100 metres record and Roshan Dhammika Ranatunga came almost close to breaking his national record in the 110 metres hurdles as they blazed the track on the final day of the Army Athletics Championships at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.

Amasha clocked 11.67 seconds to win the women’s 100 metres final ahead of Susanthika’s niece Medhani Jayamanne in the afternoon. She broke Susanthika’s 1994 hand-timed record of 11.6 seconds. With yesterday’s feat, Amasha has now taken both the 100 and 200 metres records of the Army Championships under her belt. The athlete trained by Sanjeewa Weerakkody has a personal best of 10.55 seconds from 2020 and is the fourth fastest athlete in history in the 100 metres behind Susanthika, Damayanthi Dharsha and Rumeshika Ratnayake.

In the morning, Roshan Dhammika produced the second-fastest legal time ever run by a Sri Lankan in the men’s 110 metres hurdles.

Dhammika, who broke Olympian Mahesh Perera’s 24-year-old 110 metres hurdles record at the National Championships four weeks ago, clocked 13.91 seconds to win the gold in the 110 metres hurdles final. The SLEME athlete’s effort had a minus 1.9 wind reading as he finished the event just two milliseconds slower than his national record.

His coach Thiron Gamage was confident that Dhammika would improve his national record once again and he almost achieved the target running against the wind. “He missed the record but with this feat, Dhammika has proved beyond doubt that his national record was not a fluke,” Gamage told The Island after the new meet record performance.

How much he has got to offer was evident from the time Dhammika ran a relaxed heat in the morning. Despite breaking the second hurdle he was still leading when he cleared the last hurdle but slowed down to finish third in the heat.  In the final his only blemish was breaking the last hurdle. Still, he was metres ahead of the rest. With his third sub 14 seconds run (13.97 secs and 13.89 secs at the Nationals) the former Kularatne Central, Godakawela athlete has become the only Sri Lankan to run the distance under that mark legally.

All three athletes who had previously run the distance under 14 seconds, namely Chaminda Fonseka, Supun Viraj Randeniya and Mahesh Perera had wind readings above the legal limit.

Those were not the only impressive track performances as Pabasara Niku produced his personal best with a 46.36 seconds to finish first in the men’s 400 metres final which was minus national champion Kalinga Kumarage and the other leading contender Aruna Dharshana. Dharshana pulled out from the competition due to injury in the semi-finals on Thursday. Harsha Karunaratne who won the 800 metres, finished second behind Niku in a time of 46.83 seconds. In the corresponding women’s event, Nadeesha Ramanayake bagged the gold medal. She clocked 54.54 seconds.

There were two other individual meet record performances from Sarangi Silva in the women’s long jump and Samith Fernando in the men’s shot put.

Sarangi cleared a distance of 6.14 metres to win the long jump. Fernando cleared 16.60 metres to create his record.

Nilani Ratnayake, whose steeplechase feat was adjudged the most outstanding performance in the female category won her third individual gold medal when she clocked 4:25.20 seconds to finish the 1,500 metres. While Samantha Pushpakumara (RMS) won the men’s 10,000 metres in a time of 31:12.28 seconds, H.A.M. Dilrukshi was the winner in the women’s discus throw. Men’s 100 metres winner Himasha Eshan (10.29 secs), who was involved in many victories for the Artillery regiment- the winners of the championship- won the award for the most outstanding performance in the men’s category.

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From the Army Athletics Championships

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The 57th Army Athletics Championships concluded at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday. The five-day event witnessed several record breaking performances by leading national athletes. Here are some action pictures from day five of the championships.

(Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi) 

 

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