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SSC Test review

Sri Lanka really meant business

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
The way Sri Lanka plays these days shows a marked professional outlook to their cricket. They certainly mean business from the very first ball of a Test match. This was quite evident in the first Test at the SSC where Sri Lanka completed a comprehensive innings and 232 runs victory inside four days over Bangladesh.
That win would have come inside three days had the umpires judged the light properly and given Captain Mahela Jayawardene a fair answer. Instead they led Jayawardene to believe that the light was good enough for him to bring on his fastest bowler Lasith Malinga and after just three balls decided to offer the light to the batsmen who gladly accepted it. At that stage 10.3 overs still remained to be bowled for the day. As Jayawardene recalled: “That was a disappointment. If there was the slightest indication that it was not ideal, I wouldn’t have brought Malinga.”

Thankfully it was only the third day and there was two more days left. Just imagine the scenario had it happened on the fourth day and, the final day of the Test was washed out by bad weather. There would have been hell to pay.
Sri Lanka required just 22 balls on the fourth morning to capture the remaining five Bangladesh second innings wickets and wrap up the Test quite comfortably.

The way the Bangladesh batting crumbled in the latter half of their innings showed that they were still nowhere close to playing out a five-day Test. Their top five batsmen thwarted the Lankan bowlers to a point but just as when things were beginning to look good for Bangladesh their inexperience at this level showed.

They had begun well with an opening partnership of 86 and progressed to 227-3. Rajin Saleh who had defied the bowling for almost four hours was deceived by Dilshan’s off-break which found him edge a straightforward catch to slip. Then Mohammad Ashraful in his first outing as captain clearly showed that he was still in the process of learning the ropes. With impending bad light he tried to reverse sweep the world’s best off-spinner Muralitharan when the order of the day was for patience. He eventually fell to Muralitharan when he lofted a catch to long on undoing all the hard work he had done for 140 minutes. Three balls later play ended for the day for bad light. “I wouldn’t have played those irresponsible shots if I had a little bit of experience. I will learn with every game,” Ashraful was to tell later.

The second and third days provide the best batting conditions at the SSC. So Bangladesh’s second innings total of 254 did not justify what the pitch offered them. It clearly showed their batsmen were not up to the mark even in conditions favouring them. The pitch was so placid that had the Bangladesh batsmen showed more application they would have easily averted an innings thrashing.

In that light credit should go to the Lankan bowlers for persisting on an unresponsive pitch and under oppressive heat to bowl Bangladesh out.
Muralitharan was outstanding. With nine wickets in the match he took the match award yet again beating his team mates who had performed equally well to be deserving contenders.

Jayawardene justified Muralitharan getting the award of another worthy contender wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene by saying: “The way Murali created opportunities especially on the first day taking five wickets actually changed the whole game for us. From that moment onwards we knew the game was in our hands unless we made some silly mistakes. That obviously was the fact that Murali may have been selected for the award.”

“A lot of guys do the hard work but at the end of the day the man of the match award doesn’t matter much. The important thing is that we played some really good cricket. We won the first Test of a three-match series and looking forward to the rest of it,” said Jayawardene.
In addition to scoring his maiden Test hundred Prasanna Jayawardene also kept wickets well to snare six victims behind the stumps. With Chaminda Vaas who also scored his maiden Test century, Jayawardene added a record 223 (unbroken) for the seventh wicket.

Then there was Michael Vandort who always delivers when asked, but looks at his future rather expectantly not knowing when he will be dropped next. Recalled to the side quite unexpectedly when Upul Tharanga cracked his heel at practice, Vandort once again answered the call in style with a century, just as he had done in England last year at Edgbaston.

The inexperienced Bangladesh batting line-up was all at sea not only against Muralitharan’s wily spin but with the unorthodox bowling action of pacie Lasith Malinga, whom many of them must have faced for the first time, barring the World Cup. Malinga creates problems even for batsmen who have faced him a number of times before and it was a sorry procession one saw on the fourth morning as he scythed through the Bangladesh bottom half taking three of the five wickets for 12 runs in a matter of 15 deliveries.

In a Test the first innings is of vital importance. If you fail to put enough runs on the board on the first attempt you will always find yourself struggling and chasing the other team. That’s what happened to Bangladesh at the SSC. Even though their coach Shaun Williams stated that had they won the toss they would have anyway batted first it clearly showed that he was ignorant to the history of the SSC pitch. There was moisture underneath although the top surface gave the impression that it was a perfect batting track. SSC being Jayawardene’s home terrain he knew exactly what he was doing when he won the toss and invited Bangladesh to bat first. The rest is now history.

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NDC to conduct minor district cricket sixes

The minor districts cricket sixes 2007 organised and conducted by the National Development Centre of Sri Lanka Cricket (NDC) will be held at the Rangiri Dambulla international cricket stadium on July 7 and 8.
The participating districts are: Amparai, Anuradhapura, Badulla, Batticaloa, Hambantota, Jaffna, Kegalle, Moneragala, Nuwara Eliya, Polonnaruwa, Ratnapura, Trincomalee and Vavuniya.
Matches will be played in coloured clothing and the prize monies are as follows: Champions - Rs. 25000, SLC President’s trophy and medals; Runner-up - Rs. 15000, SLC President’s trophy and medals; Best Batsman - Rs. 5000 and trophy; Best Bowler - Rs. 5000 and trophy; Man-of-the-Tournament - Rs. 5000 and trophy; Man-of- the-Final - Rs. 5000 and trophy; Best Fielder - Rs. 2500 and trophy, and Highest Number of Sixes - Rs. 2500 and trophy.
Minister Janaka Bandara Tennekoon will be the chief guest at the opening ceremony and Minister Gamini Lokuge the chief guest at the awards ceremony. The guest of honour will be Sri Lanka Cricket chairman Jayantha Dharmadasa.

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Place emphasis on Test cricket

I was delighted to read the valued contents of the well written sports article under the headline: ‘Don’t devalue Test cricket’ by Sa’adi Thawfeeq in your esteemed weekly journal dated June 17, 2007. I also appreciate former Sri Lankan cricket skipper and present chief match referee of the ICC, Ranjan Madugalle’s praiseworthy opinion and suggestions expressed in the interest of cricket development. I am highly impressed by his following useful lines that are food for thought that deserves due consideration by the authorities of the SLC.
“We should concentrate on improving the quality of cricket rather than the quantity of cricket. We must also ensure that Test cricket which is your icon product should not be compromised in terms of standards. Test cricket is really the jewel in your crown.
“Whatever we do we must ensure that every Test match that one plays is competed for by the best and you see the high standards of cricket being played. That is something as a cricketer and an administrator and a lover of the game I’d like to see.
“I would like to see the quality of administration improving quicker than what it is in quite a few Test playing countries. It is incumbent on the part of the people who run the game to ensure they are the custodians of the game in that country. They should run it in that spirit.”

S. T. Arasu
Dehiwela

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Readers are invited to express their views on sports topics of current interest.

Letters should be confined to not more than 400 words and should contain the name and address of the writer. Names may be withheld if the writer prefers to be anonymous and use a pseudo name instead. But the full name and address should accompany all letters.

Sports letters maybe sent to:
The Sports Editor,
The Nation on Sunday,
742, Maradana Road, Colombo 10
or
emailed to: sports@nation.lk

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Questionable cricket selections

The selection of the Sri Lankan ‘A’ team for the Bangladesh series has raised many an eyebrow among cricket fans. What cricket fans cannot comprehend is the inclusion of Samaraweera and Mubarak. They have been persisted with over and over again. There seems to be favouritism shown by the Board with regard to these two players. Mubarak is the most lethargic and pathetic cricketer we have seen. In a comedy of errors Samaraweera has been appointed captain of the ‘A’ team despite his selection as a player being questionable.
The stepmotherly treatment meted out to Avishka Gunawardene, Ranga Dias, Gayan Wijekoon and Sajeewa Weerakoon cannot be condoned. Furthermore, their performances in the domestic season have proved their capabilities. What is ironical is that the Sports Minister seems to have no clue as to what is going on and is a mere puppet who gives into the whims and fancies of the selectors. Apart from De Mel, Shabbir Asgerally and Amal Silva are not worth their salt and should be replaced with more professional selectors. All this does not augur well for the most popular game in the country that unites a divided nation.
Roshantha Fernando
Nawala

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Galle Test venue change disrupts England cricket fans’ tour plans

In 2003 I visited your country for the first time and discovered for myself what a beautiful country you have, populated by some of the friendliest and helpful people I have ever met. I came mainly for the cricket, but managed to do many of the “must do” tourist activities. I have been looking forward to returning ever since.
When your country was devastated by the Tsunami in 2004 a host of others and I willingly gave time and money to aid your stricken country.

Several months ago the itinerary for the upcoming England tour was announced. Only having two weeks holiday at my disposal and following the initial announcement of the tour itinerary I booked and paid for flights, a week’s accommodation in Beruwela and a second week in Hikkaduwa in order to go to Galle and see the first test. My party is four strong.
Imagine my shock and surprise when the news came that SLC had changed the itinerary and switched the Galle and Kandy Tests.
I cannot reschedule and am now going to be stuck in Hikkaduwa whilst my beloved England Team is hundreds of miles away in Kandy!

I cannot change my accommodation without losing a substantial amount of money and in any case my party does not want to go to Kandy.
I find it hard to believe that if the stadium can be made ready for 18th December 2007 it could not be made ready for the 1st? Surely in construction terms 17 days is nothing? Extra workers could easily finish the job if there was a will to do so.
I feel badly let down by the officials of the SLC. I know I am not the only person in this position.
I intend to complain to the ICC and this will be the last time I visit, or indeed recommend your country to friends and colleagues.

What is the local view? Surely the hoteliers in the resorts around Galle will be devastated. Are they not complaining?! Even if the Test match does go ahead on 18th December at Galle, many potential cricket tourists will not come because the test is so close to Christmas. A lot of people I know were, like me and my party, just coming for one Test match, and coming because it was in Galle.
I would be grateful if you let me know the strength of feeling in your country about this decision. Is it possible to put pressure on the SLC to revert to the original itinerary?
Hope to hear from you soon.
Andrew Thompson
Birmingham
England

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