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Walallawita making good progress in County Cricket

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He survived the nightmare that was the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 – now Thilan Walallawita is dreaming of his debut in first-class cricket.

Middlesex’s Sri Lankan-born left-arm spinner may be the unfamiliar name in the Seaxes’ squad for their opening Bob Willis Trophy encounter with Surrey at the Oval starting on Saturday, after Middlesex applied to the ECB to register him as an ‘un-qualified’ player earlier this week.

It’s another huge step on his eventful journey, which but for his father Ajith’s instinct and fleetness of foot would have ended, aged just six, that fateful Boxing Day 16 years ago when more than 30,000 Sri Lankan lives were lost.

The family were enjoying a meal at a beach-side restaurant when the disaster struck.

“Dad heard a noise and went outside to check,” said Walallawita.

“He saw the waves going back and building up. He said it was like the end of the world was coming. He was shouting ‘Get out, get out, a tsunami is happening’.

“The bridge we needed to get across was gone by the time we reached it, so we had to park our car in front of a house and run.

“There was a church on top of a hill we had to reach to escape the second more deadly wave, so my dad had to carry me and run.

“I could see the wave coming behind us. If he hadn’t carried me I wouldn’t be here now.”

Life spared, Walallawita soon inherited his father’s love of cricket, Ajith having the foresight to encourage him to switch from right to left-handed to make himself more distinctive, not to say marketable, as a bowler.

Arriving in England aged 12, he joined Potters Bar CC and was soon sent for Middlesex trials.

Walallawita progressed through the county’s age-groups and academy, becoming their leading wicket taker in Second XI cricket last season and earning his first professional contract in January.

“This is a dream, there are no words to describe how grateful I am to the Middlesex staff for having my back and showing faith in me,” Walallawita said.

“I’m known for my consistency as I can get onto a line and length very quickly. I wasn’t able to turn the ball as much in the early days, but now I get turn, bounce, everything.

“I now have to work on my tactical side, such as getting all the fielders in the right place for every ball.

“Batting-wise it’s about being patient. The coaches call me Jayasuriya as I’ve got some lovely cover drives, but in four-day stuff you have to be patient and put some shots away in the locker.”

Should Walallawita get the call-up for the Oval, he’s already had a dress-rehearsal thanks to the friendly between the two sides earlier this week – a game where the 22-year-old picked up a couple of good scalps.

And with Radlett, Middlesex’s second XI base, hosting their home matches, Walallawita is itching to get in on the action.

“The practice match was lovely, and it was great to be out there in front of 1000 people,” he added.

“Even though it was a friendly, getting my first two wickets was memorable and I dedicate them to my family and all those who’ve helped me out on this journey so far.

“The wicket we’re going to play on this Saturday is apparently spin friendly and there was a lot of bounce on the practice match pitch too. Turn and bounce is perfect – a dream for a spinner. I only need to get one ball to turn and I’m in the batsman’s head.

“Radlett is good for me too because it turns late in the game. So, if the batsmen can put runs on the board the spin twins, Nathan (Sowter) and I could get the job done.”

 

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Colombo win Super Over thriller in LPL opener

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Colombo Kings came from behind to tie the curtain-raiser of the Lanka Premier League against Kandy Tuskers and then held onto a tensed win in the Super Over at Hambantota yesterday.

There was lot of exciting cricket and Kandy Tuskers looked to be having the game in the bag but Colombo Kings snatched victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to some brilliant all-round performance from Isuru Udana, the only Sri Lankan to get an IPL contract this year.

 Set a stiff target of 220, Colombo were well on course as Dinesh Chandimal produced a fine effort posting 80 off 46 balls. The T-20 format often requires improvisation but Chandimal’s were pure cricketing shots as he showcased that he can still excel in the shortest format of the game without slogging.

Chandimal was guilty of throwing it away though as he sliced a Naveen-ul-Haq delivery to third man where Nuwan Pradeep completed the catch.

Colombo lost Thikshila de Silva and skipper Angelo Mathews in quick succession but the presence of big hitting Andre Russell kept them in the hunt.

But Nuwan Pradeep returned for a second spell to claim two wickets including that of Russell and soon Kandy were in the driver’s seat again.

But Isuru Udana threw caution to the wind smashing 34 off 12 balls including four sixes to tie the game.

Colombo needed three to win in the last ball but Udana could only manage two sending the game to a Super Over.

Colombo managed 16 runs in the Super Over and then Udana was entrusted to defend it and he did a terrific job as Kandy could only get 11 runs.

Kandy owed it to their skipper Kusal Janith Perera, whose splendid effort gave them a competitive total of 219. KJP top scored with 87 runs off 52 balls with nine fours and four sixes.

Together with Rahmanullah Gurbaz (53), KJP gave his side a good start. Kandy’s 100 runs came in the eighth over and from thereon, they only had to bat sensibly to set a daunting target.

In the end, it all proved to be insufficient.

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Successful staging of LPL would pave the way for other sports to resume – Dr. Lal Ekanayake

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by Reemus Fernando

Dr. Lal Ekanayake, the Director General of the Institute of Sports Medicine expressed hope that Lanka Premier League (LPL) cricket tourney which was scheduled to start in the evening yesterday would be the first step towards resumption of sports in the country despite a rise in the number of Covid 19 positive cases.

“Successful staging of the LPL tournament will pave the way for other sports to resume under new normal conditions. The sports minister too is looking at the possibilities of starting other sports events after the successful conclusion of the LPL,” said Ekanayake in an interview with The Island.

“The Covid 19 is unlikely to leave us soon. Experts say that this will stay for a couple of years. In such a scenario responsibility is on us to prepare ways to resume sports,” said Ekanayake.

“Even some countries which are worst affected by the pandemic have resumed sports under new normal. Sometimes there is confusion regarding health guidelines. But if we plan properly sports can resume,” opined Ekanayake.

“Many international sports events scheduled for next year will happen as scheduled. We cannot hold back. We are going to take part in these championships. The postponed Olympics is happening later next year. So are other international events,” said Ekanayake.

Ekanayake said that his institution was looking forward to support sports associations conduct their competitions. Sri Lanka Athletics is one of the hardest hit sports and the track and field governing body has scheduled the National Championship to December after the cancellations of many top level competitions throughout the year.

Ekanayake has expressed his views on resuming track and field sports on previous occasions as well. He has cited track and field sports as a low risk sports and has the ability to resume despite the pandemic.

Sri Lanka’s sportsmen and women are scheduled to take part in a number of international events in 2021 and 2022. Resumption of local competitions including national championships is going to benefit them.

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Diego Maradona – Argentina’s flawed football icon

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Dazzling, infamous, extraordinary, genius, outrageous. Diego Maradona. A flawed football icon.

One of the game’s most gifted players, the Argentine boasted a rare combination of flair, flamboyance, vision and speed which mesmerised fans.

He also outraged supporters with his controversial ‘Hand of God’ goal and plunged into a mire of drug abuse and personal crises off the pitch.

Born 60 years ago in a Buenos Aires shanty town, Diego Armando Maradona escaped the poverty of his youth to become a football superstar considered by some to be even greater than Brazil’s Pele.

The Argentine, who scored 259 goals in 491 matches, pipped his South American rival in a poll to determine the greatest player of the 20th Century, before Fifa changed the voting rules so both players were honoured.

Maradona showed prodigious ability from a young age, leading Los Cebollitas youth team to a 136-game unbeaten streak and going on to make his international debut aged just 16 years and 120 days.

Short and stocky, at just 5ft 5in, he was not your typical athlete.

But his silky skills, agility, vision, ball control, dribbling and passing more than compensated for lack of pace and occasional weight problems.

He may have been a whizz at running rings round hostile defenders but he found it harder to dodge trouble.

Maradona’s 34 goals in 91 appearances for Argentina tell only part of the story of his rollercoaster international career.

He led his country to victory at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and a place in the final four years later.

In the quarter-final of the earlier tournament, there was a foretaste of the controversy that would later engulf his life.

The match against England already had an extra friction, with the Falklands War between the two countries having taken place only four years beforehand. That on-field edge was to become even more intense.

With 51 minutes gone and the game goalless, Maradona jumped with opposing goalkeeper Peter Shilton and scored by punching the ball into the net.

He later said the goal came thanks to “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”.

Four minutes later, he scored what has been described as the ‘goal of the century’ – collecting the ball in his own half before embarking on a bewitching, mazy run that left several players trailing before he rounded Shilton to score.

“You have to say that is magnificent. There is no doubt about that goal. That was just pure football genius,” said BBC commentator Barry Davies.

England pulled one back but Argentina went through, with Maradona saying it was “much more than winning a match, it was about knocking out the English”.

Maradona broke the world transfer record twice – leaving Boca Juniors in his home country for Spanish side Barcelona for £3m in 1982 and joining Italian club Napoli two years later for £5m.

There were more than 80,000 fans in the Stadio San Paolo when he arrived by helicopter. A new hero.

He played the best club football of his career in Italy, feted by supporters as he inspired the side to their first league titles in 1987 and 1990 and the Uefa Cup in 1989.

A party to celebrate the first triumph lasted five days with hundreds of thousands on the streets, but Maradona was suffocated by the attention and expectation.

“This is a great city but I can hardly breathe. I want to be free to walk around. I’m a lad like any other,” he said.

He became inextricably linked to the Camorra crime syndicate, dragged down by a cocaine addiction and embroiled in a paternity suit.

After losing 1-0 to Germany in the final of Italia 90, a positive dope test the following year triggered a 15-month ban.

He returned and arrested his slide, appearing to get his act together to play in the 1994 World Cup in the USA.

But he alarmed viewers with a maniacal full-face goal celebration into a camera and was withdrawn midway through the tournament after he was found to have taken the banned substance ephedrin. (BBC Sport)

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