Rex Clementine in Galle
There aren’t better things in cricket than Dhananjaya de Silva in full flow. A right-handed version of England’s David Gower, the 30-year-old Sri Lankan can make batting look ridiculously easy, but yesterday, in the scorching heat of Galle, it was not all elegant cover drives and wristy flicks, it was more Geoff Boycott like grind as he had to rescue his side from a crisis. He did that and then ensured that the team’s lead was sufficient enough to bat West Indies out of the contest. There was the occasional VVS Laxman like strokes, but mostly it was hard work.
When Sri Lanka started the day, on 46 for two, they were still trailing West Indies’ first innings score. When overnight batsman Charith Asalanka fell with the total on 73, the lead was just 24. Another collapse looked on the cards. But Dhananjaya played so well to ensure that Sri Lanka will move up the ICC team rankings and secure the series.
There were three vital partnerships. First a 78 run stand with Pathum Nissanka (66) for the fourth wicket that enabled Sri Lanka to fight back and then a 51 run stand for the sixth wicket with Ramesh Mendis (25) that steadied the ship. Soon after that, when a flurry of wicket saw them slump to 221 for eight, Sri Lanka were still not out of the woods with a lead of 172.
Then followed the unbroken ninth wicket stand between Dhananjaya and Lasith Embuldeniya. That basically killed the West Indies as they went wicketless in the final session as the pair added a record 107 runs. They broke the record for the highest ninth wicket partnership between these teams previously shared by Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas worth 66 runs.
West Indies were ruing the drop catch off Dhananjaya when he was on five. Joshua da Silva was the culprit and the tourists paid a massive price.
Dhananjaya reached his eighth Test hundred picking up two runs to mid-wicket. His 150 came in style as he elegantly drove Nkrumah Bonner for four.
This maybe not Dhananjaya’s finest knock in Tests with his century against Mitchell Starc and friends on his first series standing out. This is not even his second best as that should be going to Delhi 2017 on a crumbling wicket. But this should rank as his third best. It was not just batting out time and waiting for loose balls. It was smart cricket.
With spinners not able to make breakthroughs, West Indies opted for pace. There were a few short balls with fielders placed in the deep. Dhananjaya didn’t take the bait and was quite happy to knock off singles as he was mindful of the larger picture.
Now it’s a matter of finding out when Sri Lanka will declare. Ideally, they should do it overnight and give the bowlers enough time to wrap up the series 2-0. But the important point is after some sloppy cricket on day three; they played out of their skin to return to safety on day four. Mickey Arthur deserves a grand send off.
Athapaththu, Sri Lanka too strong for Kenya
ICC Commonwealth Games Qualifier 2022
Sri Lanka’s spinners restricted Kenya to 87 for six before captain Chamari Athapaththu struck 57 off 29 balls to power Sri Lanka to a nine-wicket win on the third day of the ICC Commonwealth Games Qualifier 2022 at the Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur.
Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bowl in a match they dominated virtually throughout even though their bowlers got off to a shaky start, conceding seven wides in the first three overs.
Sri Lanka’s infielders were just as sharp as in the first game against Scotland that they won by 109 runs. Kavisha Dilhari’s direct hit sent opener Mary Mwangi back to the dugout before Kenya captain Margaret Ngoche was trapped in front by Inoka Ranaweera.
Kavisha Dilhari was introduced into the attack in the eighth over, bowling a maiden, which included the run out of Sharon Juma. This brought Sarah Bhakita to the crease. The powerful right-hander wasted no time, pulling a delivery into deep mid-wicket for four before she launched Ranaweera over her head for six.
Not to be left behind, opener Queentor Abel drove Dilhari against the spin and through the covers for two boundaries in the 14th over. Athapaththu broke the 45-run partnership between Abel and Bhakita, trapping the former in front with the score on 71 after 16 overs. Bhakita departed soon after, miscuing a Dilhari delivery into the hands of Ama Kanchana at mid-wicket.
Sri Lanka only conceded nine runs in the final three overs to restrict the East Africans to 87 for six.
In reply, Sri Lanka were in an aggressive mood right from the first over. Vishmi Gunaratne lofted Lavendah Idambo over mid-on for her first boundary of a run-a-ball knock of 26. Mercyline Ochieng came in for some treatment in the second over as Athapaththu cleared the off side circle twice for a pair of boundaries to get her innings going.
Things would go from bad to worse for Kenya who were helpless in the face of the assault from Athapaththu, who had struck 86 off 45 in Sri Lanka’s earlier win over Scotland. The left-hander flicked Mwangi off her pads for her first of three maximums, taking 16 off the final over of a Powerplay, which yielded 57 runs.
Two overs later, Sarah Bhakita was carted over her head for six by the Sri Lankan skipper before she was swept over the deep mid-wicket boundary off the very next delivery.
With five runs required for victory, Athapaththu was stumped off the bowling of a jubilant Esther Wachira. Sri Lanka, however, had no issues hunting down what remained of the target, winning with 63 balls to spare.
Kenya skipper Margaret Ngoche remained optimistic in spite of the loss.
“We bowled too many extras, but the girls did well. We put up a fight,” she said.
Athapaththu was asked about Dilhari’s development, and she responded by heaping praise on the off spinner.
“Kavisha is one of our main bowlers who we rely on to keep the opposition in check. Today, she flighted the ball and drew the batters to make mistakes. We hope she keeps doing this in the remaining games,” she said.
Athapaththu also took home the Player of the Match award, yet she expects even more from herself going forward in the tournament.
“This is how I always play. By my standards, I’m still not fully satisfied, and I feel I can still tighten up my game. I look forward to the next few games,” she said.
87/6 in 20 Overs
Mary Mwangi 33, Sarah Wetoto 29 ; Chamari Athapaththu 1/10
89/1 in 9.3 Overs.
Vishmi Gunaratne 26 not out, Chamari Athapaththu 57; Esther Wachira 1/04
Sri Lanka Under 19s looking to keep unbeaten status intact against hosts
by Reemus Fernando
Sri Lanka Under 19s will enter today’s final group ‘D’ encounter almost assured of their quarter-final place and fates of Australia and hosts West Indies in the ICC Under 19 World Cup in their hands. Despite leading the points table in their group the team will look forward to registering a win against the hosts.
“The team will try to enter the quarter-finals unbeaten and will field a team that can counter West Indies’ strengths,” a team official told The Island from St. Kitts yesterday.
Mahinda Halangoda, the manager of Sri Lanka Under 19 team was speaking to The Island after fellow Group ‘D’ team, Australia beat Scotland to remain in contention for a place in the quarter-finals.
“You need to win to avoid looking at net run rates to earn your quarter-final place. The team will not take chances,” Halangoda said.
Sri Lanka will meet hosts as the only unbeaten team in Group ‘D’. While Scotland are out of contention, West Indies will be looking to register a victory to secure a place in the quarter-final in the tournament proper.
Despite Australia’s big win against Scotland on Wednesday giving them a net run-rate boost, they are not assured of qualification. If West Indies beat Sri Lanka in a very close finish, then Australia could be eliminated to the Plate round. If Sri Lanka beat West Indies, Australia will qualify.
Sri Lanka registered a four-wicket win against Australia in their second tournament match on Monday to lead the points table. “No one expected us to beat Australia as they were a strong team, one of the favourites. Dunith Wellalage did really well to guide the team. A victory on Friday will be the ideal way to conclude the group stage,” said Halangoda.
Wellalage picked up his second five-wicket haul of the tournament on Monday before scoring a crucial half-century to lead the side to victory.
The tournament’s decisive phase has seen one of the team’s leading batsmen failing to deliver while a batsman replaced him producing results. Pawan Pathiraja who was the team’s most consistent batsman until the team reached West Indies was dropped after he failed to impress. It would be interesting to see if the team would recall him for the final group match.
Sakuna Liyanage who replaced wicketkeeper-batsman Anjala Bandara did a rescue job in the first match he played scoring a match-defining half-century. Liyanage also kept wickets for Sri Lanka as both wicketkeepers were not fit to play during the initial stages. Liyanage’s form has seen him retain his place despite Bandara returning to the match against Australia.
Sri Lanka banked on spinners to earn results in this World Cup and it would be interesting to note how the team from the land of legendary fast bowlers would take the final group encounter.
Rumesh faults bowlers, says nothing wrong with batting strategy
Rex Clementine at Pallekele
Sri Lanka’s interim coach and one of cricket’s most amiable guys Rumesh Ratnayake admitted that there were a few grey areas in the team’s bowling in the first two ODIs. Zimbabwe nearly scored 300 runs in the first game and although the hosts chased down the target, when the tourists crossed the 300 barrier on Tuesday, Sri Lanka faulted. The series is squared at 1-1 and today’s third and final ODI will decide the outcome of the series.
“We can’t afford to give away 300 runs. The maximum we can give away is 260. In the last two days we have been trying to fix that. Hopefully we will fix it in the next game,” Ratnayake told journalists.
The team’s strategy of playing three all-rounders and relying on just four specialist batsmen has been criticized heavily, but Ratnayake endorsed the strategy. “Composition of the side is the best we can have at the moment. We don’t have eight of our best players for this series. We filled in with guys like Kamindu (Mendis) and all. He’s not regular batting at three. I am sure when recognized players come it would be much better. I feel Kamindu has done his best. After the struggle losing four wickets it was a super fight back. Whoever who comes in we can’t say they are new. We need to have a seamless transition,” added Ratnayake.
Captain Dasun Shanaka has a lot of admirers for bringing the team together and getting the most out of his players. Tactically, however, he’s no Ian Chappell or M.S. Dhoni. In the second game, several of his frontline bowlers were underutilized. “Chamika (Karunaratne) had four overs to bowl and we have addressed that issue. Jeffrey (Vandersay) had one over left and Dushmantha (Chameera) had one over left. I hope it won’t happen again. We have now spoken of giving the main bowlers a go.”
As expected, Sean Williams and Craig Ervine have been Sri Lanka’s biggest challenge in the series. While Williams made a century in the first game, Ervine produced a match winning 91 in the second game. Ratnayake added that Sri Lanka needed to target the two key batsmen. “They have two left-handed batsmen and they are the mainstay of their batting. We will try to address the issue tomorrow.”
Does that mean that off-spinner Ramesh Mendis will get a game, “Good idea isn’t it,” Ratnayake said playing his cards close to his chest, like always.
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