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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.”


Tharushi shocks seniors, breaks own record and sets world-leading time



Tharushi Karunaratne erased her own national junior record as she beat national record holder Gayanthika Abeyratne to win the women’s 800 metres yesterday.

By Reemus Fernando

Ratnayake Central, Walala prodigy Tharushi Karunaratne blazed the track with the country’s second fastest time ever in the women’s 800 metres to provide a sensational start to the 2023 season proper as the Junior and Senior track and field trials commenced at Diyagama on Monday.

The athlete trained by Susantha Fernando clocked 2:01.39 seconds to beat reigning national champion and national record holder Gayanthika Abeyratne. The 18-year-old’s winning time was only 19 milliseconds shy of the national record established by the veteran runner last year.

Incidentally, Karunaratne’s feat is the world-leading time in her age category this year.

Abeyratne led the race for a better part but Tharushi beat her in the last few metres in the home straight to produce one of the fastest 800 metres races on home soil.

Tharushi who emerged as a future prospect with notable performances at the Under 16 level at Junior school competitions has been on a record-breaking sphere.

Competing in the senior category she shattered her own National Junior Record and announced her readiness even to make her senior debut for Sri Lanka at international competitions.

Her winning time yesterday stands out as it ranks above the women’s 800 metres Asian Junior Championship record. No one has run the women’s 800 metres faster than China’s Lang Yinglai (in 1997- 2:02.66 secs) at Asian Junior Championships.

Tharushi, who has represented Sri Lanka at back-to-back World Junior Athletics Championships has not only secured a place in Sri Lanka team for Asian Junior Championships but has also emerged as a strong contender to make the teams for the Senior Asian Championships and the Asian Games.

Sri Lanka Athletics conducts the two-day event as a precursor for the final selection for the Asian Junior Championships, Asian Senior Championships and the Asian Games taking place this year.

Meanwhile, in yet another notable feat Janindu Lakvijaya broke the national record in the men’s 110 metres hurdles as he clocked 13.82 seconds in the heats.

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After Big Match duties Sineth, Tharupathi guide Sri Lanka U19s to big win



Just a day after finishing their Big Match duties Royal College batsman Sineth Jayawardena and Richmond College spinner Malsha Tharupathi featured prominently in Sri Lanka Under 19s five-wicket victory over their Bangladesh counterparts in UAE on Monday.

Chasing a target of 230 runs to win Sineth Jayawardena top-scored with 101 runs to secure a five-wicket victory with 33 balls to spare. Jayawardena put on a first-wicket stand of 95 runs with St. Joseph’s batsman Hirun Kapurubandara who scored a half-century.

When Bangladesh Under 19s decided to bat first, Sri Lanka bowlers did well to restrict them to 229 runs. Tharupathi with three wickets was the pick of the blowers.

Sineth Jayawardena scored a century
for Sri Lanka Under 19s.

Sri Lanka Cricket had given exemptions for Sri Lanka Under 19 players Jayawardena, Tharupathi and Mahinda College Galle player Dinura Kalupahana to join the team in UAE after completing their Big Match duties.

Jayawardena took two wickets in the second innings though he was off colour with the bat in Royal College’s victory at the historic 144th Big Match. Tharupathi took six wickets for Richmond in the drawn Lovers’ Quarrel Big Match against Mahinda. All rounder Kalupahana who scored a half century and took three wickets for Mahinda in the Big Match, contributed with 10 runs yesterday, while his five overs could not yield wickets.


Bangladesh U19s

229 for 8 in 50 overs (Chowdhur Md Rizwan 38, Jishan Alam 40, Ahrar Amin 50; Malsha Tharupathi 3/35)

Sri Lanka U19s

234 for 5 in 44.3 overs (Hirun Kapurubandara 52, Sineth Jayawardena 101, Hiran Jayasundara 35; Jishan Alam 3/31)

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New Zealand seal 2-0 whitewash despite Sri Lanka’s lower order resistance



Southee and Tickner picked three wickets each.

Despite a strong resistance by Sri Lanka’s lower order, three wickets apiece by Tim Southee and Blair Tickner helped bundle out the visitors for 358 to help New Zealand clinch the second Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington by an innings and 58 runs, on Monday. With the win, the hosts also sealed the two-match Test series 2-0.

The visitors, who were asked to follow on after bundling out for 164 in the first innings, in response to New Zealand’s 580 for 4, provided a strong fight for most parts of the first two sessions, led by Dhananjaya de Silva’s 98 – and well supported by Dinesh Chandimal’s 62 and Nishan Madushka’s 39. However, on either side of the two partnerships – for the fifth and sixth wicket respectively – the hosts triggered collapses.

They struck in the first over of the day itself, with Kusal Mendis mistiming a pull off Matt Henry to mid wicket, without adding to the overnight score. The short-ball which got them the success early in the day, was used rather generously by the New Zealanders throughout the day, especially Blair Tickner who filled in that role in the absence of Neil Wagner.

In the fourth over of the day, the other overnight batter – Angelo Matthews – departed pulling Tickner to square leg. Despite losing two wickets early in the day, Sri Lanka continued to be on the offensive, with Chandimal and Dhananjaya taking on the short-pitched attack. The duo stitched a 126-run stand for the fifth wicket, in what proved to be a high-scoring session where Sri Lanka picked 136 runs.

The attacking approach that the two batters maintained also helped them quickly take advantage of the loose deliveries as well. However, late in the morning session, Chandimal eventually fell to the ploy, top-edging a pull off Tickner to the fine leg fielder.

Madushka, on debut, got off the mark by going down the track off Michael Bracewell and hitting the offspinner for a six in the last over before Lunch. He attempted to drive the next delivery, but was tricked by the dip and eventually hit it just short of the fielder. The approach post Lunch though was rather cautious. Against the moving new ball, the batters were tested by Matt Henry and Tim Southee. However, apart from a couple of leg before appeals and a few beating the bat, there wasn’t much threat posed to them.

They slowly kept chipping away at the deficit with a 76-run partnership for the sixth wicket before Madushka fell at the stroke of Tea – yet again dismissed pulling against Tickner, this time caught at mid on.

Sri Lanka’s chances of wiping off the deficit took a massive hit when Dhananjaya was dismissed in the second over after tea. Looking to sweep Michael Bracewell, he got a top edge to the short-leg fielder. Thereafter, the lower order only delayed the inevitable. They kept the New Zealand bowlers at bay for nearly two and a half hours from thereon to hand them the last three wickets, two of which were eventually scalped by Southee.

Kasun Rajitha played out 110 deliveries in the company of Prabath Jayasuriya and Lahiru Kumara, both of whom added 45 balls each. Rajitha’s dismissal – caught at second slip poking at an away-going delivery – ended Sri Lanka’s innings soon after play was extended for the day.

Brief scores:

New Zealand

580/4 decl. in 123 overs (Kane Williamson 215, Henry Nicholls 200n.o.; Kasun Rajitha 2-126)

Sri Lanka

164 all out in 66.5 overs (Dimuth Karunaratne 89; Matt Henry 3-44, Michael Bracewell 3-50) and 358 all out in 142 overs (Dhananjaya de Silva 98, Dinesh Chandimal 62; Tim Southee 3-51, Blair Tickner 3-84)

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