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There Are No Clear Favourites, Any Team Could End Up Lifting The Trophy – Muralitharan



Sri Lanka spin icon Muttiah Muralitharan stated there are no clear favourites for ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 which starts from Sunday. The T20 World Cup will begin with the Round 1 Group B encounter between hosts Oman and Papua New Guinea on Sunday, with Scotland and Bangladesh, the other teams in Group B, clashing in the evening match.

“The most exciting thing about the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 is that there are no clear favourites. Coming into the competition in the United Arab Emirates and Oman, it feels like there is no standout side and as a result, any one of a large number of teams could end up lifting the trophy,” Muralitharan said in an ICC column.

“I’m obviously delighted to see the importance that spinners have taken on in T20 cricket. It is a fast game and is meant to be a batter’s game, but the bowlers have adapted in the 18 years since the format first started in England. Fast bowlers are bowling slow balls and cutters and different balls. Those are the skills you have to develop.”

Muralitharan also shared his experience of T20 cricket as a player and coach/mentor and said one has to approach the shortest format of the game with a ‘defensive mindset’.

“My experience, both as a player and a coach or mentor in T20 cricket, was that you have to approach it with a defensive mindset, whereas in ODIs or Tests, the aim is to take wickets. Defending is attacking in T20 in my mind, you need to aim to go for 6 or 6.5 runs an over and if you can manage that, you will probably take a couple of wickets as well,” he said.

“I have been out in the UAE for the IPL and looking at the wickets, it is clear that the spinners are going to have a huge role to play in the World Cup. It will depend a lot on how the curators have prepared the wickets, but it looks like the spinners will be key as the batters were finding it hard to connect and it made for some low scoring,” the Sri Lankan pointed.

Sri Lanka is placed with Ireland, Netherlands, and Namibia in Group A. The Round 1 matches will run till October 22. The top two teams in each group will proceed to the Super 12 stage of the tournament, beginning on October 23.

“From a Sri Lankan perspective, the team will have to go through qualifying in the first round. The team has gone down in the last five or six years and it’s the first time in our history that it has happened to us. Frankly speaking, we were not good enough, and have not played good enough cricket which is why we are in this position. But the team has capable players who can reach the Super 12s and have an impact, but first they have to qualify,” Muralitharan opined.

“The spinners are very good, whereas the batting is a little bit weaker, but if they can step up and manage decent totals, then the bowlers can defend them. If they make it through, I think they will upset a few teams,” he added.

The first semi-final of the T20 World Cup will be held in Abu Dhabi on November 10. The second semi-final will be hosted by Dubai on November 11. Both semi-finals have reserve days. The marquee clash of the tournament will take place in Dubai on November 14, Sunday, with Monday acting as the reserve day for the final.

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Akbar Brothers Group and SSC extend their partnership  



From Left - Dimuth Karunaratne - Test Captain, Samantha Dodanwela - Chairman Cricket Commitee -SSC, Mahela Jayawardena - Member-Executive Commitee- SSC,.Nilanka Peiris - Treasurer- SSC, Wasantha Wijesekera - Hon.Secretary -SSC, Charith Asalanka -Cricket Captain SSC, Silva - President SSC, Tyeab Akbarally - Managing Director-Akbar Brothers, Amaan Akbarally, Dasun Shanaka - National Limited Over Cricket Captain, Sanjeewa Jayawardena - Director Sales & Marketing - Akbar Brothers, Hussain Akbarally - Executive Director - Akbar Brothers, Taher Akbarally - Director -Akbar Brothers

Akbar Brothers Group, Sri Lanka’s largest exporter of tea, and Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) reaffirm their commitment to developing cricket infrastructure with an extended partnership for 2023-2024. The collaboration, which builds on their three-year association as principal sponsors across all cricket formats, signifies their shared vision for the sport and its national significance.

Recognized as the premier cricket club since 1899, SSC takes pride in nurturing top-notch cricketers, including Test and ODI captains. I.S. De Silva, SSC President, expressed his appreciation for the continued partnership, stating, “we are proud to continue our association with Akbar Brothers, the leading tea company in Sri Lanka. Their unwavering support has strengthened our legacy and elevated cricket to new heights.”

Hussain Akbarally, Executive Director of Akbar Brothers, noted that it is a pleasure to partner with SSC, saying, “We share their vision and are eager to propel Sri Lanka’s infinite local talent, fostering our next generation of cricketers.”

Former national captain Mahela Jayawardene, representing SSC’s Executive committee, expressed his delight in the extended partnership, noting, “We are delighted to continue our partnership with Akbar Brothers, a company known for its tremendous success and commitment to social responsibility.” He emphasized the positive impact on cricketing skills development and the modernization of cricket infrastructure at SSC.

Samantha Dodanwela, Chairman of SSC Cricket, emphasized the club’s ambition to enhance cricket infrastructure and elevate skill levels among upcoming players. He stated, “Our goal is to grow cricket infrastructure and foster the development of young talents. This extended partnership with Akbar Brothers will be instrumental in achieving these objectives.”

The ongoing collaboration between Akbar Brothers Group and SSC reflects their joint dedication to the cultivation of future cricket stars in Sri Lanka and the growth of the industry. Their shared focus on excellence, innovation, and the advancement of cricket infrastructure underscores their commitment to the sport’s long-term success.

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Tharushi will next vie for medals at Senior Asian Championships 



Tharushi Karunaratne poses with her coach Susantha Fernando after winning one of her three medals in South Korea.

by Reemus Fernando   

After her double gold medal triumph at the Asian Junior Athletics Championships, Ratnayake Central, Walala runner Tharushi Karunaratne will have a bigger challenge ahead when she competes in the senior version of the regional event in Pattaya, Thailand next month.

She has been selected in the Senior Asian Athletics Championship team to compete in two individual and two team events alongside senior counterpart Gayanthika Abeyratne, with whom she shares the top two spots in the list of Asia’s fastest 800 metres runners this season.

The athlete trained by veteran coach Susantha Fernando produced her personal best of 2:01.39 seconds in the 800 metres to upset veteran runner Abeyratne in March before her training regimen was disturbed by an illness. However, despite the setback she lived up to her reputation to win the gold in the 800 metres, silver in the 400 metres and another gold in the mixed relay events at the Asian Junior Championships concluded on Wednesday.

At the Asian Junior Championships in South Korea, she was hardly challenged in her pet event of 800 metres. She clocked 2:05.64 seconds to win gold.

“We have one month to prepare for the Asian Championships. In Korea, she did not have much competition. Because of that, she could not come close to her personal best. Her best chance is in the 800 metres in which we could strive to improve her ranking,” Susantha Fernando told the Sunday Island on his arrival in Sri Lanka last week.

At the Championship which starts on July 12, she will be competing against seniors with the hope of becoming a schoolgirl medallist. Apart from the 400 metres and the 800 metres, Karunaratne is expected to play a key role in the women’s 4×400 meetres and the 4×400 metres mixed relays alongside Nadeesha Ramanayake who will be the other sprinter taking part in the 400 metres individual event.

Nishendra Fernando and Lakshima Mendis are the other two joining the 4×400 metres relay team, Abeyratne is the reserve of the relays. Apart from the 800 metres, Abeyratne will also compete in the 1,500 metres.

Long jumper Sarangi Silva, triple jumper Randi Cooray and javelin thrower Nadeeka Lekamge will compete in field events.

In the men’s category, US-based high jumper Ushan Thiwanka is selected to make a long overdue senior Asian debut and Shreshan Dananjaya is picked for both the long jump and the triple jump.

The new national number one in the men’s 400 metres, Aruna Dharshana and Rajitha Rajakaruna will feature in their pet events, while former number one Kalinga Kumarage and Pabasara Niku join them to form the 4×400 metres relay team. Pasindu Kodikara is the fifth member of the team. Asian Senior Athletics Championships will be held in Pattaya, Thailand from July 12 to 16.

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Manchester City beat Inter Milan to win first Champions League




Ilkay Gundogan lifts the trophy as he celebrates with teammates after winning the Champions League (pic Aljazeera)

Manchester City have won the Champions League title for the first time by beating Inter Milan 1-0 in Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium, making them the second English team to complete the treble.

Spaniard Rodri struck in the 68th minute on Saturday to see the Premier League champions and FA Cup winners complete a treble of trophies this season.

While it is the first time City have won European football’s biggest club competition, it is the third time Pep Guardiola has lifted the trophy as a coach.

City triumphed despite losing inspirational midfielder Kevin De Bruyne to an injury in the first half.  Erling Haaland, scorer of 52 goals this season, went a fifth straight match without finding the net but City still had enough to edge out opponents who had never been expected to get this far in the first place.

The victory means City finally achieved their ambition of reaching the summit of European football, 15 years after Abu Dhabi’s ruling family transformed it into one of the richest teams in the world.

Owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan was in attendance to see City’s crowning moment. It was only the second time he has watched his team in person in 15 years.

City’s winner came when Rodri collected Bernardo Silva’s cutback and fired through a crowded penalty box.

The relief was unmistakable as he raced towards City’s fans and slid on his knees in celebration.

Romelu Lukaku had the chance to score a late equaliser but headed straight at Ederson from about four metres out. Inter almost evened the score within minutes of that goal when Federico Dimarco hit the bar from close range. He then looked like turning in the rebound but saw his shot come back off teammate Lukaku.

It completed a treble for City, making them only the second English club to complete it after Manchester United also won the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in 1999.

“Unbelievable night, I’m so happy. Difficult to put into words. I think today we made history,” City captain Ilkat Gundogan told BT Sport. “It was clear it was going to be difficult for both teams. We weren’t our best in the first half. It was a 50-50 game. One goal made the difference as it often does in finals. We feel very fortunate it was for us.

“We knew everyone was talking about the treble. The pressure was there but I think this team is built to handle pressure in the best possible way.”


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