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‘We can turn the tables on England. This series is 50-50’ – Mahela Jayawardene

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Jayawardene isn’t keen on taking up a permanent role in the Sri Lankan setup despite his status(Getty)

Sri Lanka are raring to go ahead of facing an under-prepared England for a two-Test series, and the hosts see an opportunity for an upset. 

England head into the series without Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes and with less than two days of match practice, while Sri Lanka are keen to bounce-back after a series defeat to South Africa. 

Sportsmail’s Nasser Hussain caught up with Sri Lanka legend and Mumbai Indians coach Mahela Jayawardene ahead of the series. 

 

NH:

I know Sri Lanka have asked you in the past, and you felt they hadn’t taken on board some of your proposals, but in the long term would you like to coach the national side?

MJ:

For me the biggest hurdle is to be involved full-time, whether it’s franchise cricket or a national team. I don’t see myself being a coach who’s going to be involved with one team for 12 months a year. That’s not enjoyable for me.

It’s got nothing to do with Sri Lanka Cricket as such, and I’ve always said I’m happy to contribute and help the team — as long as what I see is wrong has been corrected. It hasn’t happened over the years.

I don’t want to walk in and be a figure in a process where I know the system hasn’t allowed cricketers or the team to evolve.

NH:

The talent in Sri Lanka has always been remarkable. What is it like at the moment?

MJ:

The raw ingredients are there. It’s just that a lot of the guys struggle with the pathway after school. The domestic structure has so many teams, so the quality gets diluted pretty quickly, and people make wrong decisions.

Not all the coaches are good enough, so we lose a lot of talent in that process. It’s not a professional setup at that level, and a lot of the guys give up and do other things, like league cricket in Australia or England.

NH:

Is Test cricket still financially viable in Sri Lanka?

MJ:

We still have an appetite for Test cricket. Because of the history of Sri Lanka’s Test team, they all want to play cricket at that level. But if you don’t improve and evolve, five or 10 years down the line we will have guys who only want to play white-ball cricket.

The recent T20 Lankan Premier League was good. We’ve needed something like that for the last 10 years, to make the game at that level financially viable.

NH:

The Test team have just come back from South Africa with a lot of injuries. Where are they at the moment?

MJ:

I was pretty pleased with the way they started in South Africa, putting nearly 400 on the board at Centurion. But the bowlers broke down, and that was a real issue. Guys who played at the LPL still had niggles, and they went into the second Test quite depleted.

For the English tour, we’ve got Angelo Mathews coming back after the injury, and Dinesh Chandimal should be fit as well — two experienced guys in the middle order to support Dimuth Karunaratne at the top. It’s about that discipline in the longer format: how do you cope with pressure for four to five days?

NH:

Any promising players England fans might not have heard of?

MJ:

It’s unfortunate that Dhananjaya de Silva has a long-term injury, but Kusal Mendis is a talent, and has scored seven hundreds in his short Test career. He knows how to go big.

And Sri Lankan have found two all-rounders: Wanindu Hasaranga, the leg-spinner, who bats at seven, and seamer Dasun Shanaka, who bowled really well in South Africa.

NH:

Is Mickey Arthur the right man to coach them at the moment?

MJ:

Yeah, he’s one of those guys who’s quite methodical and regimental, but he’s a good coach — a players’ coach. We need to give Mickey some time with the team, because he’s proven himself with a lot of international teams.

NH:

And he tends to speak his mind. He did an interview the other day when he said ‘I don’t think the pitch at Galle will turn: I know it will turn.’ Are you expecting a bunsen burner at Galle?

MJ:

You know Galle: it’s going to slow down, and start turning. So those first two days are crucial, and after that it’s going to be a grind. It will be quite interesting to see how the second Test match is going to pan out, because you’re playing at the same venue.

They’ll definitely make sure Sri Lanka have that advantage of playing at Galle, but the England boys have played there many times.

NH:

Where do you see England at the moment, and in particular their playing of spin. Is that still a nemesis for them?

MJ:

I think it can be. It depends on the tempo they want to play. The modern England team plays at a different tempo, but you still need someone to grind out an innings — Cooky (Alastair Cook) has done that in the past. Someone has to do that now, whether it’s Rooty (Joe Root) or someone else.

The other guys are much more high-tempo players, so how you balance that is crucial. And which way do you go with the bowlers? You don’t have the pace of Jofra (Archer), so who’s going to take up that role on a slow wicket? Sometimes you need extra firepower to get something going.

NH:

As you say, there’s no Jofra, no Ben Stokes, and Moeen Ali is ill. Is this an opportunity for Sri Lanka, on a turner, to get payback for England’s 3-0 win there in 2018?

MJ:

Yeah, it is. Even though Sri Lanka didn’t do well in South Africa, they’ll see this as a very good opportunity.

The first two days will set the tone. But England have two good experienced bowlers in Broady (Stuart Broad) and Jimmy (Anderson), who understand what needs to be done in these conditions. They will fall back on them. It’ll be interesting to se if they pick both in the same Test.

NH:

How much did the 3-0 defeat hurt Sri Lanka, and how much is it feeding into their mindset now?

MJ:

It did hurt Sri Lanka a lot, although it feels like a lifetime ago now. They had opportunities in that series, but never grabbed them, and England had that experience to control sessions. They were dominant.

But these two Test matches are at Galle, whereas last time it was in three different places, and Sri Lanka have a much better record at Galle. It will suit the current group of players. I don’t think Sri Lanka will be thinking too much about last time around.

NH:

Do you worry about the mental and physical wellbeing of players when they’re spending so much time in bubbles?

MJ:

Yeah, that’s something you have to look at. We used to have three weeks’ R&R with our families between tours, but now they’re straight into another bubble.

That’s when player management is important. When you see guys who aren’t mentally fresh, you might have to let them go home for two or three weeks. Going bubble to bubble is always going to have an impact. If this runs through 2021, that’s going to be a long stretch for a lot of cricketers.

NH:

When I went to Sri Lanka, England were never favourites. Do you see this England as favourites?

MJ:

With Stokes missing, England don’t have that same experience in the top order, so I make it 50-50. I don’t think they’re going as favourites. I think Sri Lanka have something in them. (Daily Mail)

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Enjoy James Anderson’s skills for one last time

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 Rex Clementine at Galle Fort

Spinners dominate in Asia and fast bowlers have their work cut out in unresponsive and flat pitches. There are those of course who are crafty enough to overcome challenges and do their best to the team. James Anderson is one such. He was nicely setting up Sri Lankan batsmen on the opening day of the second Test in Galle that got underway on Friday.

With the new ball, he reduced Sri Lanka to seven for two– accounting for Kusal Perera (6) and Oshada Fernando (0) early in the innings.

Lahiru Thirimanne and Angelo Mathews ensured that there was not a repeat of the first Test – a collapse. Thirimanne was beginning to breathe easy. He added 69 runs for the third wicket with Angelo Mathews and Sri Lanka were 76 for lunch. In the second ball after lunch, Anderson struck again. His line and length were impeccable.

It was hot and humid in Galle. Anderson barely sent down a loose ball. Of his 19 overs on day one, ten were maiden. Such efficiency in Asia is rarely seen by a seamer. The likes of Sir Richard Hadlee, Wasim Akram and Mitchell Starc had done it before. Anderson is doing the job for England and that’s one reason why they have not lost a series in Sri Lanka since 2007.

Fast bowlers last a maximum of a decade and half. Rarely do they go beyond 15 years. Anderson has defied those numbers. Super fit at the age of 38, the Lancastrian is on his 19th year of international cricket and he may stretch it to two decades.

This is Anderson’s fifth tour to Sri Lanka. It is unlikely that he will visit the island again. So we must enjoy his art for one last time. He gets wickets with the new ball with his impeccable line and length and once the ball gets softer, he is deadlier reverse swinging the ball expertly.

Anderson is the world’s fourth highest wicket taker. The top three wicket takers are spinners and he is the leading fast bowler with 606 wickets so far. He has featured in a ‘small number’ of 158 Test matches.  No fast bowler has featured in that many games.

When our fast bowlers are breaking down frequently barely lasting a full series, they have a lot to learn from Anderson who has gone onto achieve some remarkable feats.

Let’s enjoy Anderson’s skills for one last time.

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Majestic Mathews overcomes Anderson threat  

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Angelo Mathews scored an unbeaten hundred to help Sri Lanka consolidate in the second Test against England in Galle yesterday

Rex Clementine at Galle Fort

It was a superb day of Test match cricket in Galle yesterday as Sri Lanka were made to fight tooth and nail to seize the initiative and square the two match series against England. James Anderson, fresh after being rested for the opening Test, returned in place of Stuart Broad and he was on the money, rarely bowling a loose ball.

It was a battle between the two teams’ most experienced players – Anderson and Mathews. The 38-year-old Lancastrian set it up all dismissing Kusal Perera (6) and Oshada Fernando (0) in the space of five deliveries. KJP attempted a wild stroke without moving his feet and was snapped up by a leaping Joe Root at first slip. Oshada dragged one onto the stumps setting the stage for Mathews to walk in with the side in trouble at seven for two

Sri Lanka were under pressure having been shot out for 135 runs in the first Test and the batsmen needed to apply themselves to avoid a repeat. With Anderson his tail up, this was hard work.

Mathews first ensured that he saw off the new ball and then cashed in with spinners getting no assistance whatsoever. Partnerships were crucial for Sri Lanka. The third wicket stand between Mathews and Thirimanne was worth 69 runs.

Sri Lanka appeared to have recovered at lunch having reached 76 for two. But with Anderson you can not afford to relax. Thirimanne did and paid the price – caught behind for 43 in the second ball after lunch.

Mark Wood bowled a couple of lively spells, not seen here since Mitchell Starc ran through the batting in 2016. His hostile bowling saw Dinesh Chandimal being hit on the head and Mathews nearly gloving one but the ball landed where there was no fielder.

Mathews added 117 runs for the fourth wicket with Chandimal, who posted his 20th Test half-century. Wood had his man finally when he trapped Chandimal leg before wicket, a decision the batsman contested unsuccessfully.

Anderson barely bowled a bad ball with 10 of his 19 overs being maidens. He got the ball to reverse swing as well but Sri Lanka did well not to give away any more wickets to him.

England took the new ball immediately after it was available. But Mathews and Niroshan Dickwella added  36 runs for the fifth wicket to ensure Sri Lanka finished on 229 for four at stumps.

 

 

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NSSF provides electronic target facility to national shooters at a provisional range

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The electronic target facility has been setup at a provisional facility owned by the President of NSSF, Shirantha Peries near Kohuwala.

Asian Online Shooting Championship 2021

The National Shooting Sport Federation (NSSF) of Sri Lanka has made arrangements to introduce electronic target facilities to national shooters as it gears up to form a strong team for the upcoming inaugural Asian Online Shooting Championship 2021, which will be held on January 29 and 30.

The electronic target facility has been setup at a provisional facility owned by the President of NSSF, Shirantha Peries near Kohuwala.

“We have been craving for a permanent national shooting range since 2015, but so far nothing has materialised in favour of the sport. There were requests made to several Sports Ministers who were in and out of office during this period, but the NSSF had to finally make a crucial decision to setup this temporary shooting range in early 2019. Now the electronic targets are placed here for the use of national shooters,” Pradeep Edirisinghe, the General Secretary of NSSF said in a statement.

The introduction of electronic targets has several objectives. It will come handy to shooters of the national squad to train prior to any important international meet, which have been not held globally since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

More importantly, the introduction of electronic targets will facilitate the upcoming inaugural Asian Online Shooting Championship 2021, which will be held on January 29 and 30. Currently members of the national shooting squad are engaged in a qualifier trial meet in the 10m Air Rifle and 10m Air Pistol individual events for men and women.

“The trials are a good lead up to the NSSF as this is the first time Sri Lanka is taking part in an online Asian competition. Unlike at our local competitions where the whole process is done manually, the outcome at electronic targets happens in real time. We can fully rely on the accuracy of the process, as during the competitions the Asian Shooting Federation will monitor the whole course from Kuwait,” Edirisinghe explained.

According to the guidelines issued by the Kuwait Shooting Federation, the organisers of the competition, three participants each per discipline from each country, will be given the opportunity to compete. In Air Rifle and Air Pistol for both Men and Women, three shooters each must qualify based on the minimum qualifying standards set by the organisers.

“In addition skeet and trap events will take place during the same period, but Sri Lanka will be able to take part only in the skeet because we are having the NSSF Skeet Open this weekend and the top three shooters will automatically qualify for that. Air Rifle and Air Pistol shooters from all countries must qualify,” said Edirisinghe.

The Asian Online competition will start at 10.00am local time in each country at their respective shooting ranges and updates will be monitored in real time by the organisers based in Kuwait. The respective countries taking part must provide facilities to shooters under strict health guidelines, and ISSF qualified independent judges in each country will officiate the matches, before submitting the approved report with results to Kuwait.

“We will begin shooting at these competitions starting from 10.00am as instructed at this temporary facility in Kohuwala and at the Clay Target Shooting Club of Colombo’s shotgun range facility in Payagala. We, as the NSSF must take the responsibility for an honest report and these results are totally based on mutual understanding,” he further explained.

The NSSF intends to continue this exercise during the coming months as international meets are yet to resume since early 2020, due to the pandemic and global travel restrictions. However the introduction of electronic targets to Sri Lanka is a welcome sign for NSSF, as it will have the ability to provide its shooters a facility they could only experience overseas.

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