by Rajitha Ratwatte
The 100th All Black vs Springbok test match was played in Townsville to a sold-out stadium of 25,000 spectators. The referee from the UK Luke Peirce. The All Blacks started in style with Codie Taylor in the number two jersey making a great break off a long passage of play from the kick-off and sending Will Jordan over line mid-right. Jordie Barret converted 7–0 to the Kiwis in the first three minutes of the game. Two minutes later the Springboks triggered off what was going to be their game plan throughout the game with a high spiralling kick into the opposition 22 resulting in George Bridge being unable to collect clean and Sbu Nkosi (no 14) capitalising on the mistake and dotting down mid-right. Handre Pollard was unable to convert, and the score read 7–5 inside the first six minutes. That was it as far as running rugby and try-scoring went, as is to be expected when the South Africans’ call the shots and play to their preferences. The game was slowed down deliberately, and the referee probably used to this style of play from his Northern hemisphere background either chose not to react or simply didn’t do anything about the medical staff coming on almost after every single set-piece. The blood bin seemed to be a thing of the past and this combined with extremely slow forming up for lineouts was exactly how the ‘Boks wanted it to be.
The rest of the half consisted of a series of penalties mostly against the Kiwis for discernible and sometimes unfathomable reasons. The AB’s ball-handling left much to be desired and the ‘Bok forwards pack definitely had the edge in both the set pieces and in loose play. A yellow card dished out to the South African try-scorer almost on half time for what should in the opinion of many, been a penalty try as well the only notable feature in a very scrappy and largely forgettable half. The lead changed twice, and the Kiwis were unable to capitalize in being a man up for six minutes in the first half. The halftime score read 13–11 to the Blacks.
The second half saw the South African go into the lead on penalties again 13–14 until the 56th minute when the ABs finally took a kickable penalty having turned down two earlier and went ahead by 16–14. The Boks’ kicked one more 16–17 and the Blacks retaliated 19–17. The lead had changed six times in the game so far and the Black bench came on with Quentin Tupaea was able to force a turnover penalty in the closing minutes of the game and Jordie Barret stepped up and into the history books by slotting the kick from the extreme left of the field and around 40 meters out. A slim victory 19-17 but all you can expect when you allow the Springboks to play their brand of rugby!
This victory ensures a win in this year’s rugby championship to the All Blacks with a game to spare and retention of the freedom cup which is awarded for the series against South Africa. The Kiwis definitely missed some of their stars who had chosen to stay at home for personal family reasons and it is hoped that the likes of Mo’uanga, Smith, and Whitelock join the team for the forthcoming European tours.
When a team that has been holding on to the world champion of rugby union title for two years depending on a game plan that consists of high kicks and relying on the mistakes of the opposition and the vagaries of the referee to win, it does not bode well for the game. Rugby union may soon follow in the footsteps of Test cricket, into oblivion as a popular spectator sport.
The second game of the double header was the Australian Wallabies hosting the Argentinean Pumas. A definitely improved Australian team never looked in trouble against the Pumas and even on the few occasions that the Pumas looked dangerous their discipline let them down. The Australians owe a lot to their Pacifica players led by Taniela Tupou in the front row, Valetini at number eight and backs Samu Karevi and Marika Korombeiti, who have brought a new and exciting dimension to their game.
The final score was 27–8 to the Australians. Three goals (Korombeiti, Karevi and Kalloway) and two penalty conversions to one try from the Argentinian skipper Julian Motoya and a penalty.
Gateway felicitates coach for making Sri Lanka proud
Pradeep Nishantha, Assistant Head of Sports of Gateway College Colombo was felicitated by the school for his remarkable contribution in producing two medal winners at the recently concluded Paralympic Games in Japan.
The national anthem was played for the very first time at an Olympics when Dinesh Priyantha Herath who was trained by Pradeep Nishantha won a gold medal with a new world record. Pradeep has been employed at Gateway since 2005 and he has been responsible for producing many national athletes from Gateway.
Gateway students are blessed to be coached and guided by professionals of the highest caliber. Thilaka Jinadasa, the Team Leader – Sports development for the entire group represented Sri Lanka in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.
Among Gateway’s team of coaches are a number of top Sri Lankan coaches. Tharindu Fernando, who was recently appointed National Basketball Coach for the Under 23 Sri Lankan side is among them.
Dialog and SLC release T20 World Cup song ‘Ape Kollo’
The national cricket team’s sponsor and Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata, together with Sri Lanka Cricket, recently released ‘Ape Kollo’ the T20 World Cup song in support of the Team on their T20 World Cup campaign which will commence on the 18th of October 2021 in the United Arab Emirates.
The song will be sung by a stellar line-up of artistes and Dialog brand ambassadors including, Bathiya and Santhush, Umaria, Yohani, Sanka Dineth, Sajitha, Sanuka, Madhuvy and guest performer, Roy Jackson. With lyrics written by Triad, the Sri Lanka Cricket T20 World Cup song is an initiative powered by Dialog Axiata connecting the wishes of every Sri Lankan.
Dr. Jayantha Dharmadasa, Vice President of Sri Lanka Cricket said, “I would like to thank Dialog Axiata for materializing the T20 World Cup song into existence. This tribute will be an immense morale boost for players and fans alike. The team over the past few months have been playing tourneys and trial games which have been instrumental in selecting the best combination for the T20 World Cup in UAE.”
Sri Lanka will qualify, but can they reach semis?
by Rex Clementine
The cricket fans of Sri Lanka are truly amazing. They know pretty well that the chances of the team reaching the semi-finals in UAE is as low as that of Maithripala Sirisena winning a future Presidential election, but they keep believing that their team will deliver. It is only fair that the players come up with a decent show, unlike Maithripala.
If the IPL is any indication, there aren’t going to be too many high scoring games over the next four weeks and spin is going to play a huge part. That will certainly be a good indication for Sri Lanka’s bowlers.
Their batsmen, however, it remains to be seen what lessons they have learnt on sweeping. Grant Flower seemed to be having little tricks up his sleeve on the advantage of the sweep, both the conventional, paddle and reverse. Hopefully, now that Sri Lanka have a fine sweeper in their coaching staff in Mahela Jayawardene, the issue has been discussed at length.
Lack of smart options against spin has been one reason for Sri Lanka’s decline in the shorter formats of the game. Ours was a team where the sweep was the batsmen’s bread and butter and it’s quite perplexing how the current lot have forgotten to sweep and the coaching staff have failed to address the issue.
Avishka Fernando has been tremendous to watch. He has always been an exciting player and such a shame that he failed a fitness test in January and was banished from the team hotel. He was so close to making his Test debut against England and failing the fitness test was a bitter pill to swallow. But glad that the selectors and the coaching staff had the conviction to do it. They have spared the rod and spoilt too many young children. Avishka has bounced back; leaner, fitter, stronger and hungrier. IPL teams will be watching and the gut feeling is we are talking of a future billionaire in this space.
There is some school of thought that Avishka should bat at number four. He has come up with some consistent performances in that position this week. It’s true that he is Aravinda’s heir apparent, but Sri Lanka has to make the most of the Power Plays and Avishka should open batting with Kusal Perera to make most of the field restrictions. You sense that you have enough fire power in Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga and Chamika Karunaratne to take care of the death overs.
Oppositions will focus a lot on Hasaranga’s leg spin as he has had quite a bit of success in the lasts 12 months and ended up earning a contract in the IPL. World Cup is a superb occasion for him to stamp his authority as one of world’s leading wrist spinners.
Maheesh Theekshana, the new kid, has a bit of surprise element in him and could trouble teams that have not seen him much as he proved during his debut against Proteas last month. It will be interesting to see how teams that do not play spin that well handle him.
The last minute decision to include Akila Dananjaya while axing Praveena Jayawickrama hasn’t gone down too well with some supporters. But it’s a smart move. There’s no denying of the fact that Akila has looked a pale shadow of his former self since remodeling his action and in recent months has looked awful. But then, Sri Lanka have to qualify. The team is thin on experience after our selectors chased away half a dozen seniors and Akila has a surprise element about him and that could come in handy; particularly in the qualifying round.
The spin trio is not Sri Lanka’s only strength. Their main weapon is pace with Dushmantha Chameera picking up wickets with the new ball consistently and he will be their key weapon. Such a shame that the team will miss the services of Nuwan Pradeep, a clever bowler in death overs.
All hope is not lost for Sri Lanka though. One good thing is that they are not playing any Asian teams. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are all in Group ‘B’. Sri Lanka will have Australia, England, West Indies, South Africa and one more qualifier and if their spin fires, they could spring a few surprises. Can they go onto book a semi-final berth?
In T-20 cricket anything can happen. So don’t just rule out the Sri Lankan team. The same can be said of our voters. Don’t rule out Maithripala.
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