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Story behind Shanika’s record breaking feat  

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The team trained by Madura Perera. Back row from left: Piyumika Weerathisun, Ayan Thushara, Lahiru Sampath, Madura Perera (Coach), Chandima Sadaruwan, Himantha Kavidu, Sadun Krishantha. Front row from left: Charuni Pramudika, Samanthika Liyanage, Shanika Lakshani, Sureka Sewwandhi, Nawodhaya Madushani, Shiwanthi Jayathilaka And Saumaya Dilrukshi.

by Reemus Fernando

Hailing from a not so well to do family from Gampaha, Shanika Lakshani had many an obstacle to overcome before she shattered the 35 year old Junior National record held by Dammika Menike at the last month’s National Athletics Championships. Probably the most challenging one was the Covid 19 forced lockdown strictly enforced in the Gampaha District following the outbreak of the second wave of the pandemic. According to her coach Madura Perera who has been training a team of nearly 30 athletes, months of hard work behind preparing athletes for the National Championship, would have gone wasted if not for the extra effort taken to continue training amidst the pandemic.

“Unavailability of training facilities was the biggest obstacle during the pandemic. With grounds and training facilities shutdown it was difficult to continue training. I and Chandana Amarasinghe requested support to conduct residential training at the Subodhi Ground, Gampaha so that training could continue without interruption. Our request was given special attention to by the Additional District Secretary Sugath Kithsiri, who got the approval from health authorities to conduct training,” said Perera who considers it as one of the cornerstones of the success of his team.

Shanika Lakshani who broke the 35 year old Junior National record of Dammika Menike poses with her coach Madura Perera. (Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

At a time when sport is not high in the agenda of many government officials, the support given by the Additional District Secretary of Gampaha is highly commendable.

“He not only gave us permission but also found couple of sponsors to look after the extra nutritional needs of athletes. It was athletes who bore the costs of food but Mr. Sugath Kithsiri went out of his way to help us reduce costs,” said Perera.

Perera said that the residential camp has also helped him address nutritional issues of some athletes. He said it wouldn’t have been possible had they been taken care of by their parents.

Many athletes give up sports due to the negligence of authorities. Support does not only mean big time sponsorships as it is proven in the case of Perera’s team. The support given by the government official was crucial in Shanika reaching the standard to break the more than three decades old junior national record. She not only broke the record but also came almost close to achieving entry standards for the World Under-20 Championships in two disciplines. It was a huge confidence boost for junior athletes who not only missed competitions but also training opportunities during the pandemic.

When Shanika broke Dammika Menike’s record she was just five seconds behind the entry standard for 1500 metres. In the 800 metres she missed the entry standard by just milliseconds.

Madura Perera is confident that Shanika Lakshani would reach entry standards for the World Junior Championships during the next few months.

Perera is confident that his charge would achieve the entry standard during the next National Championships in April or the Junior National Championships both of which are scheduled within the qualifying period.

While Shanika Lakshani hogged limelight breaking a junior record, there were few other athletes trained by Perera who had their own success.

Though a number of them missed medals they had been able to finish among the top athletes. A fresher Gayan Thushara who was placed fifth in the 400 metres hurdles and Shivanthi Jayathilaka who was placed fifth in the women’s 200 metres have shown lot of promise.

Triple jumper Sandun Krishantha, steeplechase athlete M.S. Sewwandi, long distance runner Dilhani Liyanage and hurdler Lahiru Sampath are among the other athletes who have impressed in their pet events at other national level competitions.

At a time when the contribution of sports officers for the development of sports is questioned, the way this team has overcome barriers is exemplary.



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Sri Lanka fight back with late wickets after Dickwella fifty

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Rex Clementine in Galle

We tend to emphasize a lot on Shane Warne’s heroics in Galle following a terrific performance in that 2004 series. Making a return to international cricket after being banned from the game for doing drugs, the late leg-spinner took a match bag of ten wickets to help Australia record a come from behind victory in one of world’s most iconic grounds. Warne also edged past Muttiah Muralitharan in the race to 500 becoming the first spinner to the magical mark in the same game. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon could be writing his own fairytale in Galle.

Lyon was a curator at the Adelaide Oval when his talent was spotted by Darren Berry, one time a leading contender to take up Sri Lanka’s Head Coach position. Seven months after making his First Class debut,  Lyon was brought to Sri Lanka where he made his Test debut here in Galle in 2011. He entered the record books when he picked up a wicket off his first ball in Test cricket. No ordinary batsman; someone by the name of Kumar Sangakkara, world’s number one ranked batsman at that point. He went onto claim a five wicket haul in the first innings and the rest is history.

Lyon, now 34 has over 400 Test wickets and he is Australia’s third highest wicket taker all time. The saying that Sri Lanka either makes or breaks people is true in the case of Warne and Lyon. He was quite a handful yesterday too helping Australia to bowl out Sri Lanka for 212 and Australia finished the day on 98 for three, trailing by 114 runs.

A couple of poor shots from Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Mendis had reduced Sri Lanka to 42 for two and then Dimuth Karunaratne and Angelo Mathews rebuilt the innings as the hosts reached 68 for two at lunch. Lyon then made a breakthrough as Warner took a stunning one-handed catch to dismiss the captain.

Leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson dismissed Dhananjaya de Silva and Dinesh Chandimal in successive deliveries to reduce them to 97 for five.

Niroshan Dickwella joined Angelo Mathews and added 42 runs for the sixth wicket as Sri Lanka staged a recovery. There was a further 54 run stand between the wicketkeeper and Ramesh Mendis as Sri Lanka closed in on the 200 run mark.

With his sweeps and reverse sweeps, Dickwella reached his half-century and the shot of the day was when he scooped Pat Cummins for four over the head of the wicketkeeper.

With a below par score, Sri Lanka needed early wickets. However, Australia’s openers added 47 runs off 55 deliveries and kept the pressure showing aggression.  Ramesh Mendis created opportunities but sent down loose balls frequently too allowing the tourists to cash in. Warner had raced to 25 off 24 deliveries before being trapped leg before wicket by Mendis.

Marnus Labuschagne attempted to reverse sweep Mendis but hit it straight to Asitha Fernando at backward of point.

Sri Lanka evened things out on day one with the wicket of Steve Smith, who was sold down the river by Usman Khawaja, the non-striker. Smith was furious as he walked off the ground.

Khawaja was unbeaten on 47 and Australia need a big knock from him. He’s been in solid form this year having scored close to 800 runs in seven Tests at an average of 133. The first Muslim to play for Australia has scored four hundreds this year.

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Australia vs Sri Lanka an enthralling ODI series

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Dunith Wellalage was a revelation in this series showing an abundance of talent and temperament.

by Anura Tennekoon

The recently concluded 0DI series between Australia and Sri Lanka was one of the best if not the best cricket series witnessed on Sri Lankan soil. I am of this opinion due to the highly competitive and attractive cricket played by both sides.

1st ODI at Pallakelle Stadium Kandy

This contest was won by Australia by two wickets on the Duckworth & Lewis method as the game was affected by rain.

Sri Lanka batting 1st scored 300 for seven in 50 overs, with Kausal Mendis returning to form with a commanding innings of 86 not out.

Agar bowled best for Australia with figures of two for 49. Australia in its turn scored 282 for eight in 42.3 overs with the revised target being 282 in 44 overs. Maxwell led the way for Australia with a belligerent 80 not out. Hasaranga captured four wickets for 58.

2nd ODI at Pallakelle Stadium Kandy

Sri Lanka batted first to notch up 220 for nine in 47.4 overs. Once again Kusal Mendis was the top scorer with 36 runs. Pat Cummins was the main wrecker with four for 59. Australia in their turn were all out for 189 in 37.1 overs in response to a revised target of 216 in 43 overs. Chamika Karunaratne showed his prowess as a bowler in capturing three wickets while Chameera, Wellalage, and Dananjaya took two wickets apiece. This was a comprehensive win for Sri Lanka and signalled to Australia that they were up for a fight.

3rd ODI at Ketharama

Australia batted first and made 291 for six in 50 overs. Travis Head being the main scorer with a well compiled unbeaten 70. Vandersay three for 49 compensated for the absence of Hasaranga due to injury. Sri Lanka chasing a stiff target batted brilliantly to overhaul the Australian total in 48.3 overs for the loss of four wickets. Pathum Nissanka played a master class innings of 137 runs which made the difference in this game. I described his innings more comprehensively in a previous article of mine. Jhye Richardson was the only bowler to withstand the Sri Lankan onslaught taking two wickets for 39 runs. Sri Lanka going two up in the series must have been looking forward for the next match to seal the series.

4th ODI at Ketharama

In this game Sri Lanka batting first, lost early wickets, when Asalanka and Dananjaya associated themselves in a big partnership and pulled Sri Lanka out of trouble. Asalanka went onto score his maiden ODI century while holding the Sri Lankan innings together for a total of 258 all out in 49 overs. Australia in chasing down this moderate score were doing well when suddenly they lost three wickets in a space of two overs which turned the game on its head and Australia were all out for 254 loosing by four runs. Thus Sri Lanka registered a historic series win. Warner was unlucky to miss a well deserved century by one run.

5th ODI at Ketharama

The final game of this absorbing series was one in which Australia had to play for pride. Sri Lanka batting first kept loosing wickets regularly and looked like being restricted to a score of under100 runs. Chamika Karunaratne had other thoughts and established two partnerships with Vandersay and debutant Madushan and took the total to 160. Chamika batted aggressively with authority to stamp himself as a more than useful all-rounder in scoring 75 runs in 74 balls. Now this recovery in the Sri Lankan innings gave heart to its bowlers and they made batting tough for the Aussies on a wicket taking vicious turn. The Australians huffed and puffed in scoring the required runs winning by four wickets. Credit must be given to the Sri Lankan bowlers who almost defended a meagre score. 19 year old Wellalage was a revelation in this series showing an abundance of talent and temperament.

He is bound to do well in the future. Taking facts and figures I have enumerated it is evident that this series was hard fought and Sri Lanka came on top due to them winning more key moments. If this relatively young team keeps improving they will be strong contenders in the 2023 fifty overs World Cup which is being staged in India. The wickets and conditions there will be to our liking.

I would like to pay a tribute to Sri Lankans who turned up for the final game of the series in Aussie colours. This was a magnanimous gesture which is what sport is all about. In conclusion I say that the players and spectators made Cricket the winner in this series.

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Junior squash players excel in Thailand

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Sri Lanka junior squash players took part in the 29th Asian Junior Individual Squash Championship 2022 in Thailand recently.

29th Asian Junior Individual Squash Championship 2022

Sri Lankan squash players went on to better their previous record at the 29th Asian Junior Individual Squash Championships held from June 15 to 19 in Pattaya, Thailand. Sri Lanka finished with five of their players, namely Linuka Silva, Bihandu Nanayakkara, Matheesha Wijesekara, Anargi Perera and Nevindu Lakman winning their matches and being placed among the top 16 players in the Asian circuit. At the last edition only two players reached that level.

At the just concluded edition four players went on to reach the Plate semi-finals, another two players plate finals and two players eventually moving forward to winning the plate event in their respective age groups.

In the boys U-13 category Linuka Silva beat Thailand’s Chayapob Nilobol before losing to top seed Shiven Agrawal of India. Bihandu Nanayakkara beat Kuwaiti Abdulla Alkandari before losing to tournament runners up, Farkhur Razi of Malaysia.

In the boys U-15 category, Matheesha Wijesekara who was adjudged the most promising junior player at last year’s Junior Nationals went on to beat Mingi Park from Korea before losing to Pakistani Mubeen Khan in a closely contested encounter where the first set went on finish with scores reading 14-12.

In the girls U-19 category Anargi Perera went on to beat Lin Yu Chun from Chinese Taipei before losing to tournament champion Aira Azman. Current Junior National Champion Nevindu Lakman went on to beat Korean Kangin Lee but lost to Lap Man Au from Hong Kong after a hard fought four setter winning the third set in the boys U-19 category.

Yeheni Kuruppu after losing to Tournament semi-finalist Heng Wai Hong went on to beat Sonya Bajaj from Singapore and Dami Kim from Korea to win the girls U-19 plate championship. Chanithma Sinaly who lost to Indian Shameena Riaz in a tightly contested four setter winning the second set and narrowly losing the last by just two points went on to beat Sana Bahadar from Pakistan, Arichaya Chujith from Thailand and Putri Yataqi from Indonesia to win the girls U-17 plate championship. Hiruna Coralage who lost to Thailand’s Patarapam Prampai in a close five setter went on to win again with Thailand’s Natthapat Theeraslip before losing to Korean Pan Yi An in the plate final. Adithi Gunesekara who was adjudged the most promising junior player at last year’s Junior Nationals lost to tournament semi-finalist Tsz Ching Cheung from Hong Kong but beat Warisara Chujit from Thailand before losing to Waka Tachibana from Japan in the U-15 plate final.

Kaveen Kohombange, Kavithma Silva, Nethmi Wickramasinghe and Thinura Randina qualified for the semi-finals in the plate event in their respective age groups. Asian Junior Squash Championship was held after a lapse of three years (since 2019) due to the outbreak of Covid 19.

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