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Suncorp Hoodoo!

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by Rajitha Ratwatte

The Bledisloe dead rubber but a game with points for the tri-nations rugby tournament played at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. The Wallabies had lost only once at this venue and is there something in a venue that has an outcome on the result?

All blacks had rung in some changes and so had the Wallabies. A humid day in Brisbane and a rather hurried transit to the ground for the Blacks and Nick Berry refereeing a game expected to be an easy win for the NZ team. The Wallaby no1 James Slipper led the team out in his 100th appearance for Australia.

Within two minutes of the kick-off, a nice little chip kick from Reece Hodge playing at no10, combined with a favourable bounce of that ever so fickle rugby ball saw the Wallabies score the first try mid-left. A relatively easy kick was missed by the Aussie no10 and the Wallabies were off to a 5 – 0 lead.

Eight minutes into the game, a desperate attack by the All Blacks with equally resolute defence from the Yellow Jerseys culminated in Ricco Ioane getting over the line from his left-wing. The kick from the extreme left of the posts saw Jordan Barret, who had the kicking duties for the game hit the upright. The kick missed score 5 – 5.

Scott Barret the third of the Barret boys showed great skills in loose play and won the ball and his big brother Beauden made a great touch kick in the 13th minute. However poor positional play by the All Blacks no1 Karl Tu’inukuafe gave away a defensive penalty deep in Wallaby territory.

Around the 20th minute Seevu Reece who was playing on the right-wing and from whom great things were expected, seemed to be trying too hard and got pinged twice in succession for playing the ball when on the ground and gave away penalties, the second of which was mid-left and around 30 meters from the posts. Easily kickable for Hodge and over it went. Wallabies lead 5 – 8.

Then the card game began! Yet another microscopic analysis by the TV ref of a tackle reached a conclusion that the All Black no3 Ofa Tuungafasi while tackling had struck his Wallaby opponent on the point of his jaw with his shoulder. This was simply due to the different heights of the players and obviously had no malicious intent at all. There was plenty of malicious play going on from the Aussies as is their style but the Referees’ got it completely wrong and what should have been a simple penalty or even a yellow card at worst was declared a red card offence! In the 23rd minute of the game, the All Blacks were reduced to 14 players for the rest of the game. A vital lifter in the line out had been summarily dispatched from the game.

A scrum came up in the 28th minute and there was a problem as the no3 had been red-carded! Akira Ioane the elder brother of Ricco ( we had two sets of brother representing NZ in this game – 3 Barrets’ and 2 Ioannes’) who had a strong game had to be benched to get another prop on the field and midfielder Lennert- Brown had to bind at no6 in the scrum. Sam Cane who had been targeted for some foul play by the Aussies, unseen by all the referees, of course, intercepted an Aussie pass from the scrum with great skill that led to a kickable penalty in the 32nd minute. It was around 36 meters out but in front and Jodie Barret was not going to miss that. 8 – 8 scores level.

An almost identical situation that had led to the first red card of the game happened but was totally ignored by the on-field ref. However, the pedantic eye of the TV camera spotted it and the cards that seemed to be burning a hole in the referee’s pocket came out again. Red it was against Australia this time, establishing consistency according to the pundits! Both sides down to 14 players for the rest of the game.

The Customary and obligatory Aboriginal welcome speech at the start of the game saw an Aboriginal elder describe the game as a game of rugby league by mistake. Maybe the Ref was under the impression that there were too many players on the field!

The All Blacks attacked relentlessly and Aussie defence held up. But four penalties in a row inside the 22-meter line saw the card pack being shuffled again and out came a Yellow against the Aussie no11. Seven in a row on another occasion only resulted in penalties. Surely the option of a penalty try is available for so many professional fouls from inside the 22-meter line? The half-time score remained tied at 8 – 8. There were certain commentators describing the game as entertaining but only if you thought it was a brawl of some sort, not a game of Rugby Union!

The referee started the second half by missing a blatant forward pass that had to be pointed out to him by his touch judge. Aussies now had 13 players against the All Blacks 14. Four minutes into this half the Aussies were awarded a kickable penalty, exactly what they wanted with two players short and Reece Hodge made no mistake 8-11 Aussies in front. The 51st minute saw a forwards try off a line out for the All blacks with no2 Codie Taylor managing to ground the ball extreme right. A great conversion by Jodie Barret saw the All Blacks back in the lead 15 -11. In the 54th minutes, the Aussies were looking very threatening, getting the better of the Scrums and of course, engaging in what is now called gamesmanship – taking every opportunity to rough up their opponents and put extreme pressure on the referee. A blatant hand in the scrum was not seen by the referees and the All Blacks thought they got out of jail but it was not to be. A scrum penalty was to follow soon enough, it was around 40 meters out but straight in front and was duly knocked over by Reece Hodge who specializes in this sort of kick. 15 – 14 All Blacks just in front.

Ardie Savea made a few strong runs but the All Blacks forwards were feeling the humidity and showed it by not getting to rucks and mauls in time. Maybe the bench should have been used a little earlier due to the weather? The Linesman or the assistant referee as he is known these days spotted Scott Barret doing what was deemed playing the ball of the ground. What it looked like was a feeble wave of his hand at the Aussie no 9 who then dropped the ball while making a pass.

When the whistle went we all thought it was for a knock-on but lo and behold it was another time to shuffle the cards and a yellow to the youngest of the Barret brothers. So we had two red cards and two yellow cards during this brawl that has been described elsewhere as an “entertaining game of Rugby football”, which it wasn’t!

In the 74th minute, the Wallabies scored mid-left through their substitute prop wearing the no18 jersey. A veritable tank of a man who was totally unstoppable from five meters out. The goal was completed and the score read 15 – 24 All Blacks behind. AB’s were not giving up and in the 78th minute Tupou Vaa’I scored for them under the posts and the resulting kick saw the score move to 22 – 24. Brilliant and desperate defence from Korobiete on the wing for Australia resulted in the All Blacks being unable to score further and the match ended with a 2 point win for the Wallabies who had been trashed just a week ago in Sydney by 37 points.

All in all, it was a tight game but lacked any brilliant passages of play and the antics of the referee left one wondering if we were watching a game of cards or a game of rugby. However, the Aussies played to their strengths, they don’t have the three quarters to match the Kiwis and can not play the open running rugby that we saw in the past two games. However, the Aussies know how to spoil and how to stretch the rules and play the referee. They did this to perfection and got the better of a much superior side. This win will do a lot for Aussie rugby and probably teach the All Blacks never to get complacent against the Aussie battlers.

It is true that the Aussies won the game and it will probably result in some added interest from spectators who were getting tired of watching the Wallabies lose time after time. It may also allow the Wallabies to try and contrive a situation when they can secure the tri-nations trophy, or whatever this latest money-making scheme for the TV networks is called! Whoever won and whoever stands to benefit, it wasn’t the great game of Rugby union!

 

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Devapathiraja stun Isipatana, Mahinda oust St. Joseph Vaz’s

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Under-19 Cricket

by Reemus Fernando

Devapathiraja secured their first ever semi-final place in an Under-19 Division I tournament with a six wicket victory over Isipatana and Mahinda cruised to the semis with a crushing 131 runs victory over St. Joseph Vaz’s in the Tier ‘B’ quarter-finals played on Thursday.

An unbroken 94 run stand for the fifth wicket between Jeewaka Shasheen (56n.o.) and Sudeera Weerarathna (31n.o.) helped Devapathiraja turn tables on Isipatana as they recovered from 58 for four wickets at one stage to seal their semi-final place with six wickets to spare.

Mahinda posted 252 runs in 43 overs thanks to a quick fire half century by Dhanuja Induwara, who hammered 73 runs (in 32 balls) inclusive of six sixes and six fours. St. Joseph Vaz’s were shout out for 121 runs as Kushan Madusha , Navod Paranavithana, Subanu Rajapaksha and Kavidu Lakshan shared bowling honours.

Mahinda will now meet Ananda in the semi-final, while Devapathiraja take on Dharmasoka.

Results

Division I Tier ‘B’

Mahinda beat St. Joseph Vaz’s by 131 runs at Moratuwa

Mahinda

252 for 8 in 43 overs (Navod Paranavithana 62, Subanu Rajapaksha 62, Dhanuja Induwara 73; Kaushan Wijerartne 2/28)

St. Joseph Vaz’s

121 all out in 38.2 overs (Chamath Fernando 18; Kushan Madusha 2/25, Navod Paranavithana 2/23, Subanu Rajapaksha 2/11, Kavidu Lakshan 2/08)

Devapathiraja beat Isipatana by six wickets at DSS ground

Isipatana

151 all out in 39.5 overs (Tharusha Nethsara 31, Naveen Kanishka 23, Themiya Gunaratne 18; Sasanka Nirmal 2/21, Sudeera Weeraratne 2/24, Irushka Thimira 3/28)

Devapathiraja

152 for 4 in 43.2 overs (Irushka Thimira 32, Jeewaka Shasheen 56n.o., Sudeera Weerarathna 31n.o., Thevindu Dickwella 4/28)

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Daunting task ahead after Bangladesh pile up runs

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Rex Clementine at Pallekele

Twenty years ago, Test matches against Bangladesh were a cakewalk for Sri Lanka. There was a game at SSC where Marvan Atapattu scored  a double hundred and retired followed by Mahela Jayawardene who retired on 150. Sanath Jayasuriya was least bothered smashing 89 off 59 balls with 11 fours and four sixes. The entire Bangladesh team managed one run more than Jayasuriya in their first innings. Now the roles are reversed. Bangladesh seem to be giving the Sri Lankans a taste of their own medicine. Has Bangladesh cricket really improved or has Sri Lankan cricket become so bad?

You can not say that Bangladesh cricket is on a high. They lost a recent Test series to West Indies at home and last year lost to Afghanistan. Some 90 percent of their wins in Test cricket have been against Zimbabwe. So why is Sri Lanka playing catch up in this game is an interesting question. The answers will be known by stumps on day three when Sri Lanka get a chance to bat.

It was a remarkable effort by the tourists who are without their main match winner Shakib Al Hasan and their lead bowler Mustafizur Rahman, both of them are at IPL.

Bangladesh finished day two on 474 for four after resuming on 302 for two with Mominul Haque and Najmul Shanto posting big hundreds. The pair shared a record 242 run stand, a new record for Bangladesh in Test match cricket. It’s also a joint record at Pallekele for the third wicket with Younis Khan and Shan Masood posting 242 runs six years ago.

Sri Lanka’s  bowling lacked venom as no wickets fell in the morning session. Lahiru Kumara provided the breakthrough when he took a return catch to dismiss Shanto. The left-hander who posted his maiden Test hundred on Wednesday finished on 163 having batted for seven minutes short of nine hours. He faced 378 deliveries and hit 17 fours and a six. Niroshan Dickwella’s dropped catch early on in his innings proved to be costly.

For Mominul it was his 11th Test hundred and the first overseas. He was dismissed when he edged part-timer Dhananjaya de Silva to Lahiru Thirimanne at first slip.

The scoreboard doesn’t look good for Sri Lankans but their bowlers did a decent job to stop the run flow on day two having sent down too many loose balls on day one. Suranga Lakmal in particular was impressive bowling some tight spells. He was unlucky and needed more backing from others.

Play was called off early due to bad light and 25 overs were not bowled. The game will resume today 15 minutes early.

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May the educated continue to run cricket!

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by Rex Clementine

While the Test series  involving Sri Lanka and Bangladesh is on at Pallekele in a bio-secure bubble, the media has been allowed to cover the series in what is called the  ‘outer bubble’. The press can file their stories from the press box and carry on with their day today activities. The only thing that we can not do is to come face to face with players and support staff.

Sri Lanka Cricket is at the moment run by a respected doctor – Professor Arjuna de Silva. Apart from being a brilliant physician, he is proving to be an outstanding administrator as well. Glad he does not wish to avoid the press like the plague in these testing times.

The press discussed a similar method during the England series, but it fell on deaf ears of those who were running the sport at that time. Leave alone giving us a fair hearing, it took SLC more than a week to respond to our collective mail.

Then there were lies all around.  SLC first said that it was impossible to accommodate the press as the England and Wales Cricket Board had objected to our presence. We referred the matter to the ECB, who denied it outright saying that they had no issues with press covering the series. Then there were more lies, even misguiding the Minister of Sports.

The same SLC Executive Committee a few weeks either side of the England series had requested the media to cover their press briefings and they were well attended. But cricket matches for some mysterious reasons were out of bounds for us. Obviously, SLC hierarchy were getting advice from the wrong people.

South Africa, Australia, England, Pakistan and even India where COVID cases are at a staggering high had allowed the media to attend cricket matches but SLC was an exception. Did they have an axe to grind with the press for constantly highlighting daylight robbery at Maitland Place?

There was a storm of protest at the treatment meted out to the media. Former players, administrators and fans expressed their disappointment at what was happening but SLC bosses were thick skinned. Its President boasted that he was going to get more than 100 votes at the AGM. He was all too powerful. But the law of the land proved to be more powerful than him as the entire Executive Committee was dismissed on technical grounds. The CEO continues, although his time is hanging by a thread.

Further woes followed at the COPE hearing as the Parliamentary watchdog found large scale corruption and no accountability. The Secretary to the Sports Ministry was informed to initiate legal proceedings against officials who were responsible for corrupt deals that included money that broadcasting partners owed the board being transferred into offshore accounts.

It remains to be seen what action the Sports Ministry intends to take with the game suffering several blows both on and off the field in the last five years. The slide started during the Yahapalana regime and not much has been done to address the woes under the present government. The Sports Minister backdating a letter legalizing the term of the Executive Committee was the last straw. The move was opposed and the Minister was forced to dismiss the Executive Committee and bring in fresh faces amidst much criticism.

The same Ex Co did not bother to take disciplinary action against misbehaving players. This coupled with poor on field performances saw cricket’s ardent fans turning away from the game. While the national cricket team was involved in a series in the Caribbean, the retired players were featuring in a Legends tournament in India. Strangely, the fans preferred to watch the former players in action than their national team. This was extremely disturbing news.

Soon after the administration was changed, a clear message has been sent that misconduct will be sternly dealt with. An opening batsman who had got into constant trouble was hauled up for an inquiry on Tuesday and has been warned to behave or pack his bags. This is the way forward. When there is discipline, results will follow automatically.

The elected officials who were in power before that had double standards. For example, captain Dimuth Karunaratne who was involved in a late night accident was fined Rs. one million. This was despite him buying a brand new three wheeler to the other party involved in the accident. Kusal Mendis who was involved in a hit and run was treated with kids’ gloves. The board closed the case claiming it was a personal matter. That a poor man on his way to work was killed wasn’t a serious enough issue for them. That was not on.

Thankfully, the attitude of the administration has changed now. The powers that be need to ensure that the educated run cricket. Let the corrupt rot in jail.

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