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The Mace for Aotearoa



By Rajitha Ratwatte

Two years of Test matches to find the World Test Champions came down to a one-off six-day Test match in Hampshire. The English weather of course playing a part and everything down to the final session of play on the last day.

On a freezing cold winter day in Aotearoa, hunched over the TV, New Zealand needing 100 runs in the last session with the Baharat army in full voice, the drums pounding and New Zealand’s two most experienced batsmen at the crease.

Technically a sixth day wicket although less than four days have been played on it, slowing down, showing uneven bounce, and making shot playing difficult. Ravichandran Ashwin of India in the middle of a brilliant spell of spin bowling backed up solidly by Mohammed Shami. Even the experienced Sunil Gavaskar in the commentary box, rooting for India!

New Zealand with its five million people holds America’s Cup for sailing and is runners-up in the World Cup of Rugby and Cricket in the one-day format. Overachievers some may say and others say the opposite.

Small town boys can’t handle the pressure and choke at vital times is an assessment we have often heard. Kane Williamson the captain and the number two ranked Test batsman in the world in his bubble and fighting hard.

Ross Taylor the most senior batsman showing signs of panic at a minor collapse orchestrated by Ashwin and the resultant inability to get ahead of the run rate required. The best possible combination for NZ but notorious for running each other out under pressure!

Commentators speculating on a change in the batting order for the Kiwis with may be Colin De Grandhomme or even Tim Southee coming in early with a license to hit and break the back of this relatively small target.

A much-hackneyed phase but this is the ultimate form of the game and although it is scoffed at by younger and more populist sports reporters and others, Test cricket will never die in the hearts of the purists and true lovers of the game.

Virat Kohli the Indian skipper playing the crowd and chatting to his bowlers all the time. A marked opposite from the conduct of Ajinkya Rahane his deputy who did such an exceptional job in Australia.

The New Zealand public doesn’t rate cricket very high. It ranks way below rugby union of course and probably below rugby league and netball, with sailing also giving a good fight in the eyes of the sponsors.

India forced to rest the best bowlers and the advent of Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja to the attack resulted in a few runs and an eerie silence from the Bharat army.

Cheteshwar Pujara dropped Taylor off Jaspreet Bumrah, a sitter at first slip in the 20th over with 60 runs needed! Have theydropped the mace?

Drinks break before the last hour of the game and New Zealand were needing 35 runs in 15 overs to win with eight wickets in hand. Do the Gods of cricket and the “glorious uncertainties of the game” have any more surprises to deliver?

A flurry of runs off a Sharma over forced the Indian skipper to bring back his best bowlers. Williamson pulling Shami imperiously from outside off-stump for two, skipping down the track and driving Jadeja classically through the v and getting a little carried away with a wild swing that goes straight up in the air but eludes Bumrah.

Even Mr. Ice Cool is human after all. The small Kiwi contingent at the ground starts to believe and the chills of winter begin to get less depressing at home. Ross Taylor finishes it off with a regal front flick off his pads through the mid-wicket region to prove that sometimes the nice guys win!

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First sprinter to run 100m in under 10 seconds dies




Jim Hines held the world record in the men's 100m for nearly 15 years (pic BBC)

US sprinter Jim Hines, the first man to run the 100m in under 10 seconds, has died at the age of 76.

He broke the record in 1968 when he recorded a hand-timed 9.9 seconds at the US Championships. Hines then broke his own record shortly after while winning gold at the 1968 Olympics, where an electronic timer in Mexico City recorded him at 9.95. His record held for nearly 15 years until Calvin Smith ran a time of 9.93 in 1983.

That is the longest length of time an athlete has held the record for the men’s 100m since the International Amateur Athletic Foundation began keeping track – 110 years ago.

His death was announced in a statement by World Athletics. The organisation said it is “deeply saddened” by the news. Both the Olympics and USA Track and Field shared tributes to Hines on Twitter. “The sport has lost a legend,” USA Track and Field said.

Hines was born in the state of Arkansas in 1946 but was raised in Oakland, California.

He had an early love of sport, namely baseball, but showed a real talent for sprinting as a teenager. He attended Texas Southern University where he ran for the Tigers track team before competing in national championships and the Olympics.

In addition to winning the 100m at the Mexico Olympics, he was also part of the US 4x100m relay team which won a gold.

He ended his sprinting career shortly after the Olympics and joined the NFL. He spent three years in the league, playing for the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs.

(BBC Sports)

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Silverwood promises to address dot ball issue



Rex Clementine
at Suriyawewa

Leading up to the World Cup Qualifiers starting in less than two weeks’ time in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Chris Silverwood promised to address the team’s dot-ball woes.

In the first ODI against Afghanistan which the hosts lost by six wickets here on Friday, there were 158 dot balls with the batters struggling to rotate the strike. That is a huge amount coming up to more than 25 overs. Although the number was cut down to 128 in the second game, Sri Lanka would like to do better than that.

“The dot ball issue is something that we are addressing. A lot of people are talking about it I know. We need to rotate the strike better and put the pressure back on the bowlers. The boundary percentage went up in the last game. Getting a balance between the two will help us to score above 300,” Silverwood told journalists.

Silverwood, the former England Head Coach, also welcomed the return of seniors Angelo Mathews and Dimuth Karunaratne back into the side bringing more stability to the batting unit. Mathews was left out for game two, but that appears to be part of the team’s strategy to give everyone in the squad a go.

“Angelo was brought into the squad to boost the batting lineup and bring confidence into the side. He has experience of playing big matches. The fact is we must prepare the whole squad to cover ourselves to face any situation.

“Dimuth is making a comeback into the ODI side and he played superbly. He had a good Test series against Ireland. His tempo is very good. He gave us something to build on. The openers added 80 plus for the first wicket. Every partnership after that was scored at less than run a ball. It shows what we can do when we have a good start,” noted Silverwood.

Dhananjaya de Silva came up with a match-winning effort in the second game bowling his off-spin so well picking up three wickets that included the prize scalp of Ibrahim Zadran and earlier his less than run a ball 29 had helped Sri Lanka to a match-winning total of 323 for six.

“Dhananjaya is at six and has to adapt to situations whether it be setting a target or chasing one. The first game he played a superb inning. Today we saw him capitalizing after we had a great start. He kept the momentum going. Obviously scored quickly which is exactly what we need to get over 300. We want to keep pushing the barriers. When it comes to his bowling, he has been threatening to do it for a while.”

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Tharushi dazzles with two golds



Sri Lanka’s mixed relay team with their medals. (from left) Jayeshi Uththara, Tharushi Karunaratne, Susantha Fernando (coach and manager), Shehan Dilranga and Vinod Ariyawansa.

Asian Junior Athletics Championship

by Reemus Fernando

Ratnayake Central, Walala runner Tharushi Karunaratne won back to back gold medals as Sri Lanka reaped a haul of three medals on day two of the Asian Junior Athletics Championships in South Korea on Monday.

Karunaratne won the gold medal in the women’s 800 metres before running the vital anchor leg for her team to clinch gold ahead of strong Indian and hosts’ teams in the 4×400 metres mixed relay.

Gold medals Sri Lanka won yesterday were its eighth and ninth since the commencement of the biennial championship in 1986.

Competing in her pet event, Karunaratne was hardly challenged as she led from the first 100 metres to finish in a time of 2:05.64 seconds. Karunaratne, had set an Asian (junior) leading time just outside the current national record to earn her ticket to the event in South Korea. “I am really proud of her achievement. I was not expecting her to run close to her personal best as she had given her best in the 400 metres,” Susantha Fernando her coach told The Island after she clinched her first gold. She won the silver medal of the 400 metres on Sunday.

In the mixed relay she started in the third position but when the Indian counterpart who had won the gold in the 400 metres individual event tumbled at the start she grabbed the opportunity to fight for the first place and there was no turning back for her from there on. Jayeshi Uththara who won the 400 metres bronze, Shehan Dilranga and Vinod Ariyawansa were the others to form the mixed relay team.

She finished in a new Sri Lanka record time of 3:25.41 seconds. She was also a member of the team that had set the previous national record at the World Junior Championships. While the country’s senior athletes are yet to run the mixed relay at an international event, the junior athletes’ performances had been considered as National Records.

Kahawatta Central triple jumper Malith Yasiru was the other medallist of the day. Yasiru cleared 15.82 metres, seven centimeters shy of his personal best, to win the bronze ahead of India’s Sukhpreet Singh. Japan’s Miyao Manato who was the only athlete to clear the 16 metres mark (16.08m) and China’s Ma Yinglong (15.98m) won the gold and silver medals respectively.

With the two gold medals won yesterday the country has nine gold medals against her name at these championships now. Sri Lanka’s first gold medals of these championships were won by Damayathi Dharsha (100m) and Susanthika Jayasinghe (200m) in Jakarta Indonesia in 1994. The country had to wait till 2012 when it hosted the event in Colombo to witness the next gold. Dulaj Madusanka and Shivanthi Kumari Ratnayake won golds in the men’s and women’s 400 metres at the Sugathadasa Stadium while also anchoring the 4×400 metres relay teams to bronze and silver.

At the last edition in Gifu, Japan the country won three golds with Aruna Dharshana winning the men’s 400 metres with a championship record time of 45.79 seconds. Dharshana also ran a vital leg to win the 4×400 metres gold. The other gold came in the women’s 3000 metres steeplechase when Parami Wasanthi clocked a National Junior Record time of 10:21.54 seconds to win.

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