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Two years on, England’s Galle win still hurts

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England completed a rare win in Galle in the opening Test match of the 2018 series.

England barely last three days in Galle. The extreme heat, turning tracks and little help for seam bowlers makes the venue a nightmarish experience for most visiting teams, particularly the ones from England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. But exactly two years ago to this week, England achieved the unimaginable. They won a Test match in Galle which has been a true fortress for successive Sri Lankan teams over two decades.

Sri Lanka Cricket makes a kill when England visit the island. Everyone – from hoteliers to small business owners make huge profits. Us, poor journalists, who book our rooms in the last minute, can’t find anything in Galle and have to go beyond Hikkaduwa to find accommodation. Tickets per day are priced at Rs. 5000 and when some 5000 Barmy Army fans land in Galle, it is a financial windfall for the board. So when a Test match that is supposed to last five days ends in three days, a lot of people are unhappy, particularly SLC. One meticulous treasurer of the board told journalists that when a Test match involving England’s ends with two days to spare, the board loses Rs. 50 million from gate collection alone.

So, how come Sri Lanka who have dominated England in Galle lose in 2018? They played some sloppy cricket and had very little back up plan.

There was unnecessary distractions for the hosts on the eve of the opening Test as their premier fast bowler was sent home on disciplinary grounds.

This eventually resulted in Sri Lanka going into the first Test with a lone seamer and poor Suranga Lakmal had too much on his plate as Akila Dananjaya who was returning to the side after a ban for a suspect bowling action was less effective.

Making debut for England was 25-year-old Surrey wicketkeeper Ben Foakes and he had a fabulous game. He made a century in the first innings, a crucial 37 in the second essay and was neat behind the stumps. He was Man of the Match. Much accomplished England players had come to Sri Lanka and their technique in playing spin had been found wanting. So how did a debutant have such a massive impact?

Foakes was out three times when he made the hundred in the first innings. But Sri Lanka had run out of their referrals. The team’s use of referrals was so poor that they had exhausted their referrals even before their premier bowler – Rangana Herath had come onto bowl.

Herath had decided to quit after the first Test and it wasn’t the farewell he wanted as England handed his side a thumping 211 run defeat.

Sri Lanka’s use of reviews never improved throughout the series. The series was a disaster. The hosts were thrashed well and truly 3-0.

 

 

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LPL rocked by corruption scandal  

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By Rex Clementine 

A former Sri Lanka cricketer is under probe after his alleged attempt to entice a player into corrupt practice in the inaugural Lanka Premier League tournament that will get underway today at Hambantota. 

The former player – an off-spinner with a dodgy action – had represented Sri Lanka frequently from 2012 to 2016 before being discarded after being reported for a suspect action. He has featured in various T-20 leagues since losing his spot in the Sri Lankan side. Cricket officials said that he had been under the spotlight for corrupt activities but had escaped punishment due to lack of evidence. 

The player who was approached was former S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia spin bowler Tharindu Ratnayake. The ambidextrous Ratnayake bowls both left-arm orthodox spin and right-arm off-spin and represents Sinhalese Sports Club in domestic cricket. The former Sri Lanka player had got to know him at the club having also played for the Maitland Crescent club. 

Ratnayake had reported the approach after he received a Watasapp message tempting him to corrupt practice during the Lanka Premier League. Ratnayake represents Colombo Kings. 

Sri Lanka Cricket officials said that while they were disappointed that something of this nature had occurred on the eve of the tournament added that they were happy that players are taking corruption in the sport seriously.

“We have spent a lot of time, energy and money educating our young players of dangers of corruption and we are glad the incident was reported,” a senior cricket official told The Island.

The captain of the Colombo Kings franchise Angelo Mathews also came in for special praise by SLC. “We are glad to note that Angelo as the captain of the Colombo franchise had called up all his players for a meeting and had warned them to be vigilant of nefarious plots,” the official added. 

The official said that Mathews also had vehemently opposed an Indian player who was banned for corruption being flown in to be part of the Colombo franchise which Mathews leads. 

The LPL will get underway today at Hambantota and the scandal was the last thing the organizers wanted having gone through many difficulties in making the event a reality. The organizers were working in a short time frame to make this a reality and in the middle of that the outbreak of the pandemic threatened the event. 

Sri Lanka Cricket has successfully worked with health authorities in bringing down overseas players, support staff and television crew who have gone through isolation before being drafted into a bubble to resume training ahead of the tournament. 

 

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Steyn to play LPL, but could miss early games  

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By Rex Clementine

Lanka Premier League received a shot in the arm after it was confirmed that pace sensation Dale Steyn will be arriving in the island shortly and will turn out for Kandy Tuskers. However, he will miss the first two games of the competition due to the mandatory isolation period that players have to go through.

Players who had been arriving in Sri Lanka from a bubble had been given a three day isolation period before they could resume training while others had to stay in isolation for seven days. Accordingly, Steyn will be unavailable for the Kandy Tuskers first two games.

However, sources close to the organizers told The Island that negotiations are being made to make exceptions and South Africa’s premier bowler could get into action straightaway if he gets two negative PCR tests, one before departure to Katunayake and one on arrival.

Guidelines have been issued by health authorities to follow strict quarantine guidelines after two players tested positive after arriving in the island. They are now receiving medical treatment and by the time they recover and finish quarantine, the competition would have reached the tail end.

Galle Gladiators received a major boost yesterday after Shahid Afridi confirmed his participation. However, Afridi tweeted that he had missed his flight to Colombo but said will be joining his team mates soon.

The players, support staff and television crew have been in isolation at various hotels in Hambantota for the last several days.

The tournament gets underway on Thursday with Colombo Kings captained by Angelo Mathews taking on Kusal Perera’s Kandy Tuskers.

The tournament was postponed on several occasions as the pandemic posed many challenges for the organizers. But to their credit, they have addressed most of the issues in putting through the event involving five franchises. 

Sri Lanka Cricket will earn US$ two million in the first year and the five year deal will bring them a sum in excess of US$ ten million.

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Dambulla Viikings gear up to conquer

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While a captain is to be officially named this team is not short on leadership; in Dasun Shanaka, Upul Tharanga and Ireland international Paul Stirling, Dambulla boast three players who have captained their sides on the international stage.

Hard work, innovation, team work. These are the three pillars on which the Dambulla Viiking franchise has sought to build their squad for the upcoming inaugural Lanka Premier League. As such their 21-man squad, led by head coach former England cricketer Owais Shah, sees a truly competitive blend comprising the cream of Sri Lankan talent, international experience, and youthful exuberance.

While a captain is to be officially named this team is not short on leadership; in Dasun Shanaka, Upul Tharanga and Ireland international Paul Stirling, Dambulla boast three players who have captained their sides on the international stage. This strong leadership base is supplemented by the considerable international experience of players such as Niroshan Dickwella, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha, Afghanistan duo Aftab Alam and Samiullah Shinwari, and veterans Anwar Ali from Pakistan, India’s Sudeep Tyagi and Englishman Samit Patel.

The team’s collective of promising Sri Lankan youngsters will no doubt benefit from rubbing shoulders with players of such international stature. Ashen Bandara, Kavindu Nadeeshan, Ramesh Mendis, Sachindu Colombage, Dilshan Madushanka and Pulina Tharanga, may not yet be household names, but given the right opportunity and guidance they are poised to flourish.

Strong Sri Lankan base While possessing a wealth of international talent, the team nevertheless is built around a strong Sri Lankan spine. In Shanaka, Dickwella, Oshada Fernando and Tharanga, Dambulla have four batsmen who have delivered at the highest level, while the big-hitting offered by the likes of Stirling, Patel, Shinwari and Lahiru Madushanka, provide punch in the middle and lower order.

In Angelo Perera and Mendis, Dambulla can also lay claim to two immensely talented players hitting the peak years of their careers; notably, Perera recently became the first player in history to hit two double centuries in a first-class game, while Mendis earlier this year hit an unbeaten first-class triple hundred.

The pace department meanwhile is led by the express Kumara and the precise Rajitha, who are fast becoming mainstays in the national team setup. Supported by bowlers the calibre of Ali, Alam and Tyagi, who are capable of swinging and seaming the ball, Dambulla’s pace attack boasts many strings in its fast-bowling bow.

In the spin-bowling department, it’s Malinda Pushpakumara that will likely lead the way, the veteran left-arm spinner who has taken an astonishing 793 first-class wickets in his career.

Aiding him will be a plethora of spin options, namely the wise old heads of Shinwari and Patel, who will also no doubt play a major role in guiding some of the raw spin talent in the squad.

Crucially many of Dambulla’s bowlers are more than capable with the bat, which will give head coach Shah a pleasant headache when putting together the team.

“We have a great blend of youth and experience, with a lot of complementary skill sets. Once the tournament starts and each teams strengths and weaknesses become clearer, we’re confident of being able to field a strong XI in every game,” said Shah.

Dambulla will play their first match of the LPL on 28 November against the Kandy Tuskers

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