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West Indies tour postponed after COVID positive cases

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by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s tour of West Indies has been postponed after Head Coach Mickey Arthur and top order batsman Lahiru Thirimanne tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday. All players, support staff and net bowlers who were set to begin training ahead of the West Indies tour went through PCR testings on Tuesday and both Thirimanne and Arthur were tested positive. Both individuals will be taken to a quarantine hotel identified by SLC today. All players who were their close contacts have been made to self quarantine.

While Thirimanne had attended the wedding of wicketkeeper batsman Sadeera Samarawickrama on Tuesday, Arthur was having a break after the Test series against England.

The fitness tests that were set to take place on Friday will be now postponed to next week. Sources said that there will be another PCR test on the 10th February and depending on the results of that, it will be decided when the players will go through the fitness tests.

There was quite a lot of interest among cricket fans after The Island reported on Tuesday that the players will go through a fitness test introduced by new trainer Grant Luden. Adopted by other international teams like Australia and India, this fitness test required players to finish a two kilometer run within eight minutes and 35 seconds. The players now have an extra few days to train to get over the line.

SLC will now negotiate with their counterparts in West Indies to push the tour to another date.

Sri Lanka were set to play two Tests, three ODIs and three T-20 Internationals in West Indies.

The players will now prepare for the bilateral series against Bangladesh that is set to take place in April.

SLC had put in place strict measures during the England series to ensure no player or member of the support staff tested positive for the virus. The series was played behind closed doors. However, board officials said that restrictions will be relaxed for the Bangladesh series.

SLC’s decision to reschedule the tour of West Indies comes a mere 24 hours after Australia called off their tour of South Africa due to a serious second wave and a new variant of the virus.



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Antigua; good, bad and the ugly

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By Rex Clementine

Antigua is one of the finest tourist attractions in the world with some 300 beaches to boast about. Although the Europeans pick Barbados as their favourite Caribbean destination, Antigua is equally good and slightly less expensive. Barbados only has a population of 250,000. Antigua is even less – 90,000 people. Barbados has produced the finest players from the Caribbean, from the Three Ws, Sir Garry Sobers, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and all the other stars. Antigua is less charming when it comes to cricketing talent but not bad when you consider Sir Viv Richards, Richie Richardson, Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose all emerged from this tiny island.

The Sri Lankan Cricket team is putting up at Pineapple Resort in Antigua not very far from Swetes where one Mrs. Hillie Ambrose ran out of the house and rang the street bells every time her son took a wicket in Test match cricket. The Sri Lankans played their inaugural Test match in the Caribbean in 1997 in Antigua. Mrs. Ambrose was a busy woman as she rang the bell eight times. This was fast bowling at its very best and Ambrose was named Man of the Match after finishing with eight wickets. The Sri Lankans had to put up with another menacing quick in Courtney Walsh, who left Hashan Tillekeratne with a broken arm.

That was at the old cricket ground – Recreation Ground at Antigua. It was a venue much loved by locals as some of the finest moments of their sporting history had come there. Located at the heart of the capital in St. John’s, the venue witnessed Brian Lara’s 375 and 400 not out, ten years apart. Only one thing didn’t change – the opposition. The West Indies used to love England attacks.

For the 2007 World Cup, cricket moved out of Recreation ground. The officials were saying that they were looking for a cricket only venue as at the old ground football and other sports had been played. But in reality, they seemed to be more worried about financial benefits a shift would bring.

The new ground has been named after Antigua’s famous sporting son – Sir Viv Richards.  The Sri Lankans will be based in Antigua for their entire stay in the Caribbean. While the ODIs and Tests will be played in Sir Viv Richards Stadium, the T-20 series will take place at Alan Stanford Stadium.

Alan Stanford at one point was a godsend to cricket. He signed a multimillion dollar deal with England and Wales Cricket Board for a series of T-20 games. ECB in 2008 thought Stanford was the best way to take on India’s IPL which had just started off.  In a publicity stunt, Stanford even flew to Lord’s in his private helicopter to sign the deal with England cricket bosses.

Stanford was based in Antigua but most of his businesses were in US. A few months after signing the ECB deal, he was charged by the FBI for financial fraud and currently he is serving a 110 year jail term. 

Some men who duped cricket’s guardians are in jail. Stanford is a case in point while others like Vijay Mallaya are having a hard time facing lengthy legal battles. Some others are still at large, particularly a few who frequent Colombo-7.  Their excesses are set to be exposed soon when COPE meets.

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Thewin, Pawan help Trinity as Gishan bags eight wickets  

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Under-19 cricket

by Reemus Fernando

 A laboured 44 runs by Thewin Amarasinghe in the first innings and an unbeaten 76 by Pawan Pathiraja helped Trinity avert defeat in the traditional Under-19 cricket encounter dominated by Royal at Reid Avenue on Friday. 

Royal declared their innings on the overnight score of 403 for two and spinner Gishan Balasooriya picked up five wickets to rattle the Trinity batting line up.  A painstaking 44 runs by Thewin Amarasinghe (in 155 balls) was the only highlight in Trinity’s first innings. 

Following on Pawan Pathiraja scored an unbeaten 76 (in 105 balls, 11x4s) as they reached 115 for six wickets when bad light forced an early end.  

Balasooriya was the pick of the bowlers as he collected a match bag of eight wickets. 

The match will be remebered for the record breaking partnership between Royal captain Ahan Wickramasinghe (210n.o.) and Sadeesha Rajapaksha (152n.o.). They broke the Royal record for the highest partnership held by Sumithra Waranakulasuriya and Ajith Dewasurendra when they put on an unbroken 362 runs stand for the third wicket against Trinity in 1981 which was won by Royal by an innings and 62 runs.   

Scores: 

Royal 403 for 2 in 98 overs

(Ahan Wickramasinghe 210n.o.,  Ashen Gamage 22, Sadeesha Rajapaksha 152n.o.)  

Trinity 133 all out in 62.3 overs

(Thewin Amarasinghe 44, Matheesha Pathirana 16, Ranuda Somaratne 16; Gishan Balasooriya 5/41, Kavindu Pathirathna 2/18) and 115 for 6 in 32 overs (Pawan Pathiraja 76n.o.; Prashan Kalhara 2/29, Gishan Balasooriya 3/44) 

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Dhananjaya returns for West Indies Tests  

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By Rex Clementine

Stylish Dhananjaya de Silva’s calm presence in the middle order had brought so much assurance to the Sri Lankan batting in recent times but he has been out of cricket for almost three months now after pulling a thigh muscle during the Boxing Day Test against South Africa at Centurion. De Silva was cruising on 79 when he attempted a run and pulled the muscle ruling him out of the series and the subsequent home Tests against England. His absence resulted in Sri Lanka struggling to balance the side.

The 29-year-old has been named in the 17 member squad that also includes Lahiru Thirimanne, who tested positive for COVID-19. Roshen Silva, Vishwa Fernando and Lasith Embuldeniya also have been named in the Test squad. All five players will fly to Antigua on Sunday via Doha and New York.

The selectors were contemplating of retaining an 18th player for the two match series. Lahiru Kumara had been named in the squad but he had to be withdrawn after testing positive for COVID. Sources said that either Nuwan Pradeep or Dilshan Maudhsanka could be retained as the additional player. However, no final decision had been made yet.

The players will have to go through 72 hours of quarantine in Antigua before being allowed to resume training.

All-rounder Dasun Shanaka will also travel to the Caribbean on Sunday but he will be taking an entirely different route – literally four flights. He will travel to Dubai from Colombo and will get connecting flights to Paris and St. Martin before reaching Antigua.

Shanaka was unable to get a US visa in time and was not able to be present in Antigua to lead the side. The all-rounder had lost his passport containing a valid US visa and the US High Commission in Colombo was investigating whether his previous visa had been used by someone else.

Sri Lanka will play three ODIs in Antigua prior to the two match Test series. All five games will be played at Sir Viv Richards Stadium. The T-20 series is being played at Alan Stanford Stadium, named after the Antiguan businessman who is currently serving a 110 year jail term in the United States for financial fraud.

Sri Lanka squad for West Indies Tests:

Dimuth Karunaratne (Captain), Niroshan Dickwella,  Angelo Mathews, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dinesh Chandimal, Dasun Shanaka, Dushmantha Chameera, Asitha Fernando, Ramesh Mendis, Pathum Nissanka, Oshada Fernando, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Lasith Embuldeniya, Vishwa Fernando, Roshen Silva and Suranga Lakmal.

 

 

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