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Williamson’s 35-ball 61 makes New Zealand favourites to top Group 1

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Kane Williamson returned to form at just the right time, cracking 61 off 35 balls, and helped ensure that New Zealand all but confirmed a place in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup. They crossed the line comfortably against Ireland in what was virtually a must-win match, boosting what was already a high net run rate. Their 35-run win lifted their NRR to 2.113, comfortably ahead of England (0.547) and Australia (-0.304), who are both vying to finish equal on points with New Zealand.

Ireland had their moments in the game – they limited their opponents to only 12 runs off the last two overs courtesy a hat-trick from Josh Little, and openers Andy Balbirnie and Paul Stirling put on 68 off the first eight overs of their chase of 186 – but their challenge fizzled away against a skillful bowling attack. New Zealand’s effort with the ball was led by spin twins Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi, whose accurate changes of pace teased and foxed the Ireland batters in the middle overs. But much before that, Williamson had responded to his critics, finishing with a strike rate of 174.28 despite a typically quiet start. Devon Conway struggled to get going on a pitch that seemed to be on the slower side. At the halfway stage of the innings, he had managed only 19 off 28 balls, which included 14 dots. Nothing he tried – making room, driving down the ground, lofting over the infield, and even nudging the ball around – seemed to click. But his opening partner Finn Allen seemed to be batting on another pitch. Having scored six runs off his first eight balls, he pounced but the moment Ireland introduced spin, tucking into Gareth Delany in the fourth over.

 He hit three boundaries off the legspinner, going over mid-off, drilling a drive down the ground, and lofting over cover. He hit Little for another four in the next over before hitting a six and a four back-to-back off Mark Adair in the final over of the powerplay. And just when it seemed he would take the game away from Ireland, he fell for 32 off 18, driving the next ball at a catchable height to mid-off. The innings began in typical Williamson fashion: he got to 15 off as many balls, with one boundary. But things started to change from the 11th over, when he attacked Fionn Hand, going over the bowler’s head for four and then swinging a pull over the fine leg boundary. Williamson got brief support from Glenn Phillips, whose cameo of 17 from nine balls helped build on the momentum, but the New Zealand captain took it upon himself to ensure his side ended with a competitive total. In a throwback to last year’s T20 World Cup final where he had lifted New Zealand after a slow start, he reached his fifty like he had in Dubai, with a slog-sweep for six. From 30 off 23 balls, he raised his tempo to reach his fifty off 32 balls – again, the same number of balls as in the 2021 final. The 18th over saw Williamson slog-sweep Barry McCarthy for six, hack him for four over short third, and again swing him over deep midwicket for six, before he became the first of three back-to-back wickets to fall to Little in the penultimate over.

 Left-arm seamer Little continued to be the bright spark in a largely disappointing campaign for Ireland’s bowlers. New Zealand were 174 for 3 with 11 balls remaining, and threatened to push past 200 when Little bagged his hat-trick, the second of this tournament after Karthik Meiyappan’s effort for UAE against Sri Lanka in the first round. Little banged one short at Williamson, who pulled only to find fine leg. Next ball, Little got a bit of luck going his way when a length ball kept a touch low to beat James Neesham’s attempted leg-side swing and trap him in front. With nothing to lose, Neesham reviewed, but it was out of hope rather than belief that the lbw decision could be reversed. The hat-trick came when Little angled one into Santner, who missed a flick and reviewed the ensuing lbw decision, only for replays to confirm that the ball was on course to crash into middle stump. Little ended the tournament with 11 wickets, and became only the second bowler from Ireland to bag a hat-trick in T20Is after Curtis Campher’s four off four balls against Netherlands at last year’s T20 World Cup.

Brief scores:

New Zealand 185/6 in 20 overs (Kane Williamson 61, Finn Allen 32; Joshua Little 3-22) beat Ireland 150/9 in 20 overs (Paul Stirling 37, Andrew Balbirnie 30; Lockie Ferguson 3-22, Mitchell Santner 2-26, Ish Sodhi 2-31) by 35 runs

(Cricinfo)



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Lashmika, Rusanda guide St. Peter’s to final

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Under 19 Division I Tier ‘B’ Semi-Final

by Reemus Fernando

A vital knock of 96 runs by Rusanda Gamage and a six-wicket haul by Lashmika Perera powered St. Peter’s to convincing 105 runs victory over Mahinda in the Under 19 Division I Tier ‘B’ semi-final played at Thurstan College ground on Tuesday.

Chasing a target of 262 runs to win Mahinda lost wickets at regular intervals to be bowed out for 156 runs with nine overs remaining in their innings.

Introduced to the bowling attack as the seventh bowler, spinner Lashmika Perera rattled the batting line up with a six-wickethaul. After being 106 for three wickets at one stage, Mahinda collapsed dramatically only to see the last wicket pair of Arosha Udayanga and Kaveen Rukshan delaying the inevitable for ten overs.

They added 37 runs for the last wicket before Perera trapped Rukshan lbw for 23 runs to take his sixth wicket. His figures read 6-0-19-6.

Earlier batting first, Gamage was the key for St. Peter’s as he top scored with 96 runs. Gamage held their batting together till late facing as many as 125 balls before being stumped off the bowling of Tharusha Dilshan. Dilshan with a four-wicket haul was the pick of the bowlers for Mahinda.

Gamage also had the support of Sanshay Gunathilaka with whom he added a 100 runs partnership, while Shannan Rodrigo made a quick-fireknock of 49 runs inclusive of three sixes.

St. Peter’s will now meet Thurstan

in the Tier ‘B’ final.

Scores:

St. Peter’s

261 for 9 in 50 overs (Vishen Helambage 26, Rusanda Gamage 96, Sanshay Gunathilaka 23, Shannan Rodrigo 49, Kavika Jayasundara 19; Tharusha Dilshan 4/47)

Mahinda

156 all out in 41 overs (Dinura Kalupahana 36, Dhanuja Induwara 20, Ranmina Hettiarachchi 22, Kaveen Rukshan 23; Lashmika Perera 6/19)

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Sri Lanka’s direct World Cup qualifying chances fading away

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It remains to be seen whether Sri Lanka bring in spin-bowling all-rounder Dunith Wellalage for today’s must-win game.

Rex Clementine at Pallekele

Following Sunday’s torrential rain here at Pallekele, Sri Lanka’s hopes of winning the three-match ODI series against Afghanistan vanished and the hosts now can only hope of squaring the series by winning today’s final game. Afghanistan had won the opening encounter by 60 runs after Sri Lanka’s middle order failed to show up and although the second game looked to be in their hands after Afghanistan were reduced to a modest 228, rain squashed Sri Lanka’s hopes.

What’s a bigger headache for Sri Lanka is that their hope of qualifying directly for next year’s World Cup in India is fading away fast. Afghanistan secured automatic qualification for the sport’s showpiece event following Sunday’s result as both teams shared the ten points available from the game. They are currently placed seventh with 115 points while Sri Lanka are languishing at tenth place with 67 points and four games left.

Three of those games are in New Zealand and Sri Lanka need to win three of the remaining four games to have any hopes of qualifying directly. That will be a tough ask against a New Zealand side in their backyard.

In case Sri Lanka don’t make it, they will have to play a qualifying round involving West Indies, Ireland, Netherlands, Zimbabwe and five other teams that come through from a lower league. The top two teams in this ten-nation tournament will then progress to the World Cup.

It remains to be seen whether Sri Lanka bring in spin-bowling all-rounder Dunith Wellalage for today’s must-win game. The hosts had been backing seam-bowling all-rounder Dhananjaya Lakshan for the first two games.

The wicket looks dry, and Afghanistan could back left-arm wrist spinner Noor Ahmad for today’s clash. The Chinaman bowler is no stranger to Sri Lanka having featured in the Lanka Premier League.

Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka and Kasun Rajitha, who travelled home from Kandy for their engagements and wedding on Monday returned to Kandy the same day and were at training at Pallekele yesterday.

Sri Lanka:

(Probable XI) Dasun Shanaka (Captain), Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dhananjaya Lakshan or Dunith Wellalage, Maheesh Theekshana, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara..

Afghanistan:

(Probable XI) Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Hashmatullah Shahidi (Captain), Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Yamin Ahmadzai or Noor Ahmad, Fazalhaq Farooqi.

Umpires:

Nitin Menon (India) and Lyndon Hannibal (SL)

Third Umpire:

Ravindra Wimalasiri (SL)

Match Referee:

Ranjan Madugalle

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Straight bats and brickbats

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Rex Clementine at Pallekele

People who never in their lives played with a straight bat want us to embrace ethics. Sportsmen all over the world are taught to maintain ethical behaviour although there have been few exceptions.

Australians play sport so tough that they hate losing. They are friendly people but they suffer from what people call ‘white line fever’. That means once they cross the boundary rope, they are a different beast. Certain eastern European countries are accused of providing dope to their athletes in a bid to win medals at showpiece events like the Olympics. At home, we have the classic example of Fr. Trevor Martin of St. Peter’s who adopted a win at any cost culture that prompted some to comment that Fr. Le Goc, a French Missionary and the founder Rector of St. Peter’s, must be spinning in his grave.

Sports teach you more things than winning. It teaches you to remain grounded. It inculcates the virtues of patience and perseverance. It helps you to build an attitude of hanging in there. It reminds you to be gracious in defeat and humble in victory. These are lessons that will stand you in good stead in life where you meet success and failures to a good share.

Those who have not played the sport in the right way when they were young are the ones who play spoil sport when they grow up. For example, we have a person who thought that carrying the captain’s bag would earn him a place in the side rather than talent alone. Eventually, he ended up playing more games than the wickets he took. Now he is talking of ethics in sport.

The same person plotted a bloodless coup to bring down Ashantha de Mel, who in his twin role as Manager cum Chairman of Selectors had to leave sooner than he was supposed to.

Then having ousted de Mel, the straight bat sought political intervention to get to the powerful position. General Shavendra Silva who had the final say in nominating people to sports bodies vehemently opposed. However, there was too much political pressure to ignore Mr. Straight Bat.

You may not have agreed with Ashantha all the time, but he had one virtue that is to explain his decisions and his expectations. When his methods didn’t work, he was the first one to owe up to his mistakes.

De Mel had little idea that men in his own committee were leaking information. Now the same men who adopted underarm tactics to seize power are preaching about straight bats.

The only thing they know in life and sports are brickbats and if they have got no skeletons to hide let them come openly and explain their decisions. Their flawed policies may have cost Sri Lanka automatic qualification for the next year’s World Cup. Let them be held accountable.

The same people who boast about the Asia Cup win and being ranked third in the Test championship have conveniently forgotten that under their watch Sri Lanka lost Mohali and Bangalore Tests inside three days. A nation’s reputation was ruined because they didn’t follow the simple rule that an injured player needs to return home without fiddling around dating apps. Having compromised on discipline and fitness, now they are washing their hands off without taking responsibility. Of course, you can talk discipline only with people who have discipline in their lifestyles. Not the ones who assault board officials who are your father’s age. Certainly not from those who cut acres of pristine forest land for banana cultivation or defraud government institutions by going against the tender process.

Cricket more than any other sport, reminds us of fair play and being above board. When people without an iota of self-respect are at the helm what more can we expect.

The same individual ran a campaign against the administration a few years ago with a newly formed body called Cricketers’ Association. He couldn’t win a cricket election so he came through an interim committee promising to look after the retired cricketers, a pension scheme for players, decent salaries for players and much more. Once he got power, all his pledges were forgotten and instead he was at daggers’ drawn with the players themselves.

The Cricketers’ Association was used as cat’s paw to gain power. Once they got the power the body ceased to exist. There’s no active cricketers’ association at present and many are the senior cricketers who have got to go around with the begging bowl to look after their medication and other needs.

Biting off the hand that once fed them is nothing new to these new rich. Their memories of Tichborne Lane have faded fast.

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