by Rex Clementine
The fun filled festive season has many highlights and one of them obviously is the Boxing Day Test match. There were three happening at the same time and while the Indians turned things around remarkably to catch the Aussies off guard at the MCG, Pakistan stretched the game to the final day before going down fighting at the Bay Oval. At Centurion, the Sri Lankans, meanwhile, failed to show up. Not only did they suffer an innings defeat, half their side broke down as well making the Test match a mockery. The national cricket team has become a laughing stock.
It is not a sensible idea to run a team down before the series concludes. There have been instances where the Sri Lankans have turned things around remarkably after losing the opening Test match of a series. But the issue here is that we are left with too many questions and not too sure whose going to answer them.
The amount of pictures Sri Lanka’s cricketers post on social media of them doing gym work makes you believe that these are super fit athletes. But when they go onto the field, they are like the Kerawalapitiya Power Plant; always break down. The list is long. Given the lucrative insurance schemes now in place, you suspect that some may be even faking injuries. That simply is not cricket. Sri Lanka Cricket needs to investigate whether players are misusing the Insurance scheme and if so this needs to be done away with.
You also tend to get the feeling that trainers and physiotherapists feel that their future depends on the recommendations players provide and they may not be totally honest with their injury assessments.
As a result of the pandemic, little cricket was played this year. But all contracted players – some with retainers in excess of US$ 100,000 – were told to look after their fitness by coaching staff. It appears that not everyone was professional with the approach and they were well and truly exposed at the Centurion.
It started with Dhananjaya de Silva pulling a thigh muscle and he has been ruled out of the series. Kasun Rajitha lasted just two overs while Lahiru Kumara is making a habit of breaking down middle of a game. The previous instance it happened was last year in Brisbane. Dinesh Chandimal is also down with a groin strain and it’s not known whether he will be available for Wanderers. Suranga Lakmal and Oshada Fernando are on the mend and it remains to be seen whether they will be fit for the second Test.
There are huge question marks over the modern day training methods. A fast bowler during training does not send down more than 30 deliveries as the team management fears burn out. Perhaps they need to take a look at how some of Sri Lanka’s most successful bowlers trained to be supremely fit.
Chaminda Vaas played international cricket for 15 years and into the bargain played County Cricket in England for ten years but he had just one major injury throughout his career. His training methods were insane and ten kilometer runs were a daily routine for him. Today it’s such a shame that you find fast bowlers with excess weight and no body wants to put them in their place.
Not often teams lose a Test match leave alone by an innings after posting 400 runs in the first innings. When you make 400 runs, you give yourself a good chance to win the game. Had all bowlers been firing on all cylinders, this Test match would have been a closer contest than what it turned out to be. There were positives, like posting their highest total ever in South Africa and all-round skills of Wanindu Hasaranga. But the team was losing a player almost every session and it was painful to watch.
Sri Lanka were asking for trouble when they played a T-20 tournament ahead of a Test series. The gap between the LPL final and the opening Test was ten days. Mickey Arthur has conceded that in hindsight they would have been better off pulling out the fast bowlers from the LPL. Is there a better example of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted!
Chathurya, Kiran, Anjalika reach quarter-finals
ITF Junior Circuit Week II Tourney
Chathurya Nilaweera, Kiran Viravanathan and Anjalika Kurera ousted their foreign counterparts to reach the quarter-finals of the boys’ and girls’ singles of the ITF Junior Circuit week II event continued at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Wednesday.
Nilaweera outplayed number two seed Caymus Hei Tung Choi from Hong Kong 6-4, 6-0 in his second round match, while Viravanathan beat Sergiy Rafiee from Great Britain 6-4, 6-2 to secure his quarter-final place.
In the girls’ singles, National Champion Kurera was the only local player to make the quarter-finals as she beat Kazakhstan’s Marina Omarova 6-2, 6-0 in the second round match.
In the boys’ doubles, Vichinthya Nilaweera and Zaidh Zihar edged out top seeds Hayden Khoo Menon from Malaysia and Caymus Hei Tung Choi from Hong Kong. They scored 6-7, 6-1, 10-5 victory to reach the semi-finals. Chathurya and Kiran reached the semi-finals of the boys’ doubles with a 3-6, 6-4, 10-6 win over Devaharshith Neelam (USA) and Arjun Premkumar (India).
Kusal and Asalanka star in big Colombo win
Kusal Mendis (67) and Charith Asalanka (52) posted half-centuries as Colombo beat Dambulla by seven wickets in a National Super League one-day match at P. Sara Oval yesterday.
Dambulla were shot out for 143 inside 40 overs with Prabath Jayasuriya claiming three wickets and in reply, Colombo hardly broke a sweat winning in the 21st over.
Mendis was in superb form smashing 67 off just 44 deliveries with six fours and four sixes. After his dismissal in the 16th over, Asalanka ensured that Colombo reached the target with plenty to spare. His 52 came off 48 deliveries and contained eight fours.
Meanwhile, at SSC, Kandy chased down a 247 run target with more than ten overs to spare after an excellent batting display by Niroshan Dickwella (69), Pathum Nissanka (32) and Kamindu Mendis (57*).
Dickwella and Nissanka added 105 in just 86 deliveries for the first wicket and that set the tone for the run chase. Kamil Mishara (34) and Oshada Fernando (18) made useful contributions before Kamindu (57*) and Sahan Arachige (28*) finished things off adding an unbroken 68 runs for the fifth wicket.
Colombo beat Dambulla by seven wickets
143 all out in 40 overs
(Lasith Abeyratne 41, Prabath Jayasuriya 3/35, Kalana Perera 2/18, Charith Asalanka 2/19)
144 for three in 20.4 overs
(Kusal Mendis 66, Charith Asalanka 52*)
Kandy beat Jaffna
247 for eight in 50 overs
(Lahiru Thirimanne 56, Janith Liyanage 41, Santhush Gunathilaka 45, Nipun Ranskia 3/41)
248 for four in 39.4 overs
(Niroshan Dickwella 69, Kamindu Mendis 57*)
Wellalage leads World Cup wicket tally as team meet Afghanistan
ICC Under 19 World Cup quarter-finals
by Reemus Fernando
When Sri Lanka Under 19s met Afghanistan in an Under 19 Asia Cup semi-final in 2018, Dunith Wellalage played second fiddle in the spin department taking a solitary wicket in a crucial victory. Now more than three and half years later, the St. Joseph’s College spinner will be leading Sri Lanka Under 19s against the same opposition as the leading wicket-taker of the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup.
Sri Lanka Under 19s can rely on the leading wicket-taker of the ongoing Under 19 World Cup and the rest of the bowling attack when they take on an ‘unpredictable Afghanistan’ in the quarter-finals of the biennial event in Antigua today. But Wellalage said that the ‘self-confidence’ will be the key to their success.’
“Self-confidence is our key. All 15 of us are confident of our abilities. We always keep faith in our abilities and are going to do our best to accomplish something that will be good to Sri Lanka,” said Wellalage in an online interview with Sri Lankan media on Tuesday.
Wellalage currently has 13 wickets from this World Cup. That is three wickets more than that of the next highest wicket-taker Joshua Boyden of England. Boyden has ten wickets against his name.
Wellalage played key roles with his spin bowling in all three Group matches and strengthened the middle-order batting with a crucial half-century in the match against Australia when some of the top-order batsmen failed to deliver.
Team coach Avishka Gunawardena said that he was expecting one of the top-order batsmen to bat throughout the innings. Except for Sadeesha Rajapaksa, who scored a half-century in the last group match, the top-order batsmen are yet to come up with big knocks, though the likes of Shevon Daniel, Raveen de Silva and Chamindu Wickramsinghe have made 20s and 30s.
Gunawardena said that Afghanistan were an “unpredictable team’ and his charges were not taking any team lightly in this knockout stage. The team were expecting to consider combinations after inspecting ground conditions in the evening yesterday, hence it was not clear whether Pawan Pathiraja who was dropped for the last two matches would make a comeback.
Sri Lanka emerged champions in group ‘D’ beating Scotland, Australia and West Indies to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2016 and are expected to clear that hurdle to reach the semi-finals. In 2016, Sri Lanka Under 19s reached the semi-finals where they were beaten by India.
Afghanistan, who are likely to bank on spin, were the runners up to Pakistan in group ‘C’. They beat Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea to earn their quarter-final place.
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