Buoyed by the ODI series win, Sri Lanka will be looking to take on the momentum for the longer format of the game as the two match Test series against Australia gets underway today (Wednesday) at the Galle International Stadium. Australia are the holders of Warne-Murali Trophy and they are also world’s number one ranked team in Test match cricket and it will be quite a task for the Sri Lankans to challenge them.
Sri Lanka blanked Australia 3-0 in the last series at home in 2016 but that was with the experienced spin duo of Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera in the side. The current side is entirely different with Dimuth Karunaratne needing to depend on an inexperienced spin attack that struggled during the recent series in Bangladesh.
Australia completed a series win in Pakistan in March this year and are expected to play the same side that won the last Test in Lahore. Travis Head, who missed the latter part of the ODI series with a hamstring injury, is expected to go through a fitness test on the morning of the game. Glenn Maxwell is on standby.
Leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay, who had a good outing in the ODI series, is set to make his Test debut. According to Sri Lankan standards 32 maybe bit too old for someone to debut. Vandersay came close to making his debut on a couple of occasions but he has frequently got into trouble with the authorities for his off the field excesses. But as the saying goes, there’s no saint without a past and no sinner without a future.
Vandersay is expected to share the spin duties with off-spinner Ramesh Mendis and left-arm orthodox spinner Lasith Embuldeniya with Praveen Jayawickrama likely to sit out. Sri Lanka also have a back up spin option in middle order batsman Dhananjaya de Silva, who bowled superbly in the ODI series.
Opener Pathum Nissanka, who missed the Bangladesh Tests with injury will return to the side with Oshada Fernando, who had a decent outing in the last series facing the axe.
Sri Lanka have a chance to climb up the ICC Rankings if they win the series 2-0. They are currently at number seven and a series sweep will enable them to move up to number six. Australia, meanwhile, will lose their number one slot if they lose both Tests.
Sri Lanka (Probable XI)
Dimuth Karunaratne (Captain), Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella, Ramesh Mendis, Lasith Embuldeniya, Jeffrey Vandersay and Asitha Fernando.
Australia (Probable XI)
David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Travis Head or Glenn Maxwell, Cameroon Green, Alex Carey, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Swepson.
Nitin Menon (IND) and Kumar Dharmasena (SL)
Michael Gough (ENG)
Javagal Srinath (IND)
All Seeded players through to semis
P & S Sri Lanka Junior Open Golf Championship
The P&S Sri Lanka Junior Golf Match-play championship, sponsored by P&S Bakers group, entered the knock-out stage, with the quarter-final matches worked off with the seeded players moving through comfortably bar the thrilling cliff-hanger match between Jacob Norton Seeded 3 in the Silver Division and Varun Fernando (6th Seed) who fought all the way to take the match to the 20th hole, where Jacob prevailed.
Jacob Norton will meet second-seeded H.D. Adithya Weerasinghe (A’pura) who beat T. Deshan 6 & 4 comfortably. The top-seeded Reshan Algama beat Kaiyan Johnpillai convincingly 7 & 6, and will face fifth-seeded Jevahn Sathasivam who defeated fourth Seeded Keshav Algama with an easy 7 & 6 victory.
In the Gold Division, second-seeded Yannik Kumara withdrew after the qualifying round as he was scheduled to play in a tournament overseas and was not included in the match-play draw.
The top seed Haroon Aslam breezed through to the semi-final pulverizing W.G. Isurur Shimal 9 & 7 and will meet Pranav Muralidharan the fourth seed who handsomely beat an experienced T. Vikash 7 & 6. In the bottom half of the Junior Championship Draw, second-seeded K. Danushan smashed Thenuk Sathnidu 8 & 7. He will play third seed Vinuka Weerasinghe who beat Yehan Kenthula 6 & 4.
In the Girls Gold Division number one seed Kaya Daluwatte will meet Yehani Perera who received a walk-over from Dhanushi Wanasinghe. Third seed Dhavinka Kanag-Isvaran beat R.M. Dinumi Sanjana 7 & 6 to set-up the second semi-final against second seed Sherin Balasuriya who also received a walk over from Sanduni Wanasinghe.
The Bronze Division Semi-Final clash between top seed Thejas Rathis Kanth and Keya Abhayarathne will be the feature battle. Keya Abhayarathne defeated Kaitlyn Norton 6 & 5 to set-up the semi-final match versus the top seed Thejas. In the bottom half of the draw second-seed Mohamed Saqeer Zuhar will meet third-seeded Yehansa Senananayake.
In the Copper Division played over nine holes, Yuvan Rathis Kanth beat L.G. Anuja Methsara 6 & 4 to meet the second seed Jaeden Sathasivam whilst in the top half of the draw top seed Danik Daluwatte faces Taalia Silva.
The five semi-final matches scheduled for Thursday promise to be thrillers with the youngsters soaking in the pressure and performing well, adapting to the exciting Match-play format, that moulds the character of young golfers.
Arjuna heads new Sports Council
A new Sports Council was appointed by Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe yesterday with World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga taking the reign as the head of the apex body.
The other members of the Sports Council are: Lieutenant General H.L.V.M. Liyanage, Air Marshal S.K. Pathirana, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, Amal Edirisooriya, Maj. Gen. Rajitha Ampemohotti, Dr. Maiya Gunasekara, Shriyani Kulawansa, Ajith Pathirana, Sunil Jayaweera, Chrishantha Mendis, Lasitha Gunaratne, Nalinda Illangakoon, Sudath Chandrasekara, Sujani Bogollagama.
NH bids adieu to Ladies’ College after 50-year stint as TT coach
By a Special Sports Correspondent
Former table tennis National Champion, National Coach and sporting legend N.H Perera probably set a record in the Sri Lankan school sporting arena when he retired from coaching Ladies’ College Colombo in the ping pong ball and racket game after serving this academic institute for 50 years.
NH, as he is fondly known in the table tennis circles, started coaching Ladies College back in 1972 following an invitation made to him by the teacher in charge of sports back then Delita Fernando. When he turns the pages of time the only reason that came to his mind to say yes to this coaching assignment was that he wanted to give something back to the sport. He was quite young then (21 to be exact) and had won the table tennis national singles crown twice (1968/70) by then. He recalled with fondness how the lasses from this school won the National School Games title in 2019.
He produced many outstanding female players from this school and the secret behind his success was him being a strict disciplinarian. At the time he said yes to coaching at Ladies’ College he had laid down a condition for the authorities of the school. That was to arrange practices in the morning. This was because he was gainfully employed in work done outside table tennis. This goes on to show the caliber of players in the golden years of the sport. A good many of them had the capacity to contribute to society using their brains and education unlike today where the players are forced to supplement their income through table tennis coaching. For the record, NH served several companies and institutes in many capacities; proving that engaging in competitive sport and showing commitment to employment are a possibility when the individual has the capacity to manage both. When he finally retired from work he held the post of Marketing Manager at United Arab Shipping Lines.
He had his education at Nalanda College and had the honour of being the first table tennis national captain to be produced by this academic institute.
He rates the 1970s as the golden era of the sport. “I say this because we were invited by the ITTF to contest the Afro Asian Latin American Table Tennis Championship in Peking, China. During his playing days, NH had beaten top players from Russia, China, and also Europe. The picture he sees now in Sri Lankan table tennis is not so rosy. “We even lost to Nepal at the last SA Games. I believe the TTASL must be dissolved and a Board of Control for Table Tennis must be formed instead. Today we see many coaches out there who cannot put the ball over the net,” said Perera.
NH sees more potential in the Sri Lanka female players. According to him, the women’s players from Sri Lanka had finished sixth at the previous Commonwealth Games. “I trust that the way forward would be to bring down a female table tennis coach and male trainer; both from China. This would raise the standard of our playing,” said Perera who many years ago qualified as a coach from the Peking University of China.
He also spoke about the psychological aspects to training players. NH underscored the importance of bringing in psychology to training to help players handle unexpected challenges in the game. “You have to do sessions to develop the minds of the players,” said Perera.
He is at present engaged in coaching the students at S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia. The school by the sea won the All Island Table Tennis Championships in 2019 under his guidance.
NH maintains high standards for his players and himself. He recalls an incident in the past; which occurred during the time he was young and already the national champion. “I was coming out of the YMCA training hall after training and a photographer asked me to pose for a picture. I was in slacks and this picture appeared in the newspaper. I was summoned to the TTASL and a top official asked me why I had disgraced the sport by not being properly attired for a photograph that appeared in a national newspaper. I learned a valuable lesson in life,” concluded Perera.
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