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Sri Lankan pace bowing excites Dale Steyn



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.”


Sri Lanka level series with big win in second ODI 



Dushmantha Chameera wheels away in celebration

Rex Clementine
at Suriyawewa  

Sri Lanka bounced back to beat Afghanistan by 132 runs on Sunday to square the three-match one-day series in Suriyawewa yesterday. It was Sri Lanka’s biggest win over Afghanistan in ODIs and makes amends for its disappointing performance in the first ODI on Friday, which they lost by six wickets,

Having set Afghanistan a stiff 324-run target, fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera dismissed the dangerous Rahmanulah Gurbaz cheaply for two runs to give his side an early advantage. Although Afghanistan put together two strong partnerships after that, the required run rate kept climbing and the Afghans lost their way trying to keep pace.

 Opening batsman Ibrahim Zardan continued his good form, posting 54 runs while captain Hashmatullah Shahidi top scored with 57 runs, but once Sri Lanka dismissed the top order there was not much resistance from the rest of the batters.From 146 for two, Afghanistan collapsed to be bowled out for 191 runs in 42.1 overs, losing their last eight wickets for just 45 runs.

Spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Dhananjaya de Silva shared six wickets between them to seal a comprehensive win for the home side.   Sri Lanka’s batting put on a show giving the team confidence ahead of the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe this month.

Afghanistan have already qualified for the World Cup and despite the heavy defeat on Sunday, will feel positive with star Rashid Khan expected to feature in the final game on Wednesday. The leg-spinner was ruled out of the first two games with a back injury.

Half-centuries by Kusal Mendis and Dimuth Karunaratne helped Sri Lanka post their commanding total. While Mendis top scored with 78 runs off 75 balls with seven fours and one six, Karunaratne, who was recalled for this series to stabilize the batting, made 52 off 62 balls with seven fours. Opener Pathum Nissanka contributed 43 runs while Sadeera Samarawickrama, featuring in an ODI for the first time since 2019, made 44 off 46 balls.

There was some big hitting by the lower middle order with captain Dasun Shanaka chipping in with 23 runs while Wanindu Hasaranga finished things off in style with an unbeaten 29 off 12 balls with four fours and a six. Dhananjaya de Silva was named Man of the Match for his unbeaten 29 and three wickets.

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Tharushi wins silver, Uththara clinches bronze at Asian Junior Athletics Championships  



By Reemus Fernando  

Ratnayake Central, Walala runner Tharushi Karunaratne and Holy Cross College, Gampaha sprinter Jayeshi Uththara shared the silver and bronze medals respectively of the women’s 400 metres to give a winning start to Sri Lanka’s Asian Junior Athletics Championship campaign on day one of the event in South Korea on Sunday.

Karunaratne and Uththara reached the final as the second and third fastest from the heats held in the morning and those positions remained unchanged as they finished second and third respectively in the final.

Karunaratne clocked 53.70 seconds to finish second behind India’s Rezoana Mallick Heena who returned a time of 53.31 seconds for the gold. Uththara clocked 55.51 seconds for her bronze.

Commenting on their achievements Sri Lanka Athletics in a statement said that it was the first time in almost three decades that two Sri Lankan female athletes had won medals in a single event at the Asian Junior Championships.

The track and field governing body was referring to the gold and silver doubles of legendary Susanthika Jayasinghe and Damayanthi Dharsha who shared the gold and silver medals in the 100 metres and 200 metres with championship records at the 1994 edition held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

At the last edition held in Gifu, Japan Sri Lanka’s men’s pair of Aruna Dharshana and Pasindu Kodikara won the gold and silver medals in the men’s 400 metres.  Karunaratne who is trained by veteran coach Susantha Fernando is set to compete in the women’s 800 metres final today where she will be the favourite for gold.

She returned an Asian leading time of 2:01.39 seconds at the selection trail held in March though her preparation for the event was plagued by a sickness forcing her to skip the recently held Junior National Championships. Tharushi will enter today’s race as the third fastest 800 metres runner in the world this year.

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Dominant Sri Lanka claw back to level series




Sri Lanka came up with a dominant show with both bat and ball to stage a strong comeback and level the three-match series against Afghanistan on Sunday (June 4). Having lost the first ODI, the hosts staged a commendable comeback with their top four laying the platform for a 300-plus total which was then defended with ease as Afghanistan fell short by 132 runs.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 323/6 in 50 overs (Kusal Mendis 78, Dimuth Karunaratne 52; Mohammad Nabi 2/52) beat Afghanistan 191 in 42.1 overs (Hashmatullah Shahidi 57, Ibrahim Zadran 54; Dhananjaya de Silva 3/39) by 132 runs

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