A series Sri Lanka should never have lost

Sa’adi Thawfeeq reporting from England

LONDON, Saturday - The recently concluded Test series between Sri Lanka and England is one that Sri Lanka should never have lost if not for that one session of madness when they collapsed like a pack of cards to be shot out for a paltry 82 in 24.4 overs to hand the first Test played at Cardiff to England by an innings.
That one result proved decisive as the second Test at Lord’s and the third at the Rose Bowl Southampton both ended in draws with the weather interfering in all three matches.
Sri Lanka could have easily come out of this series with their heads held high with a nil-all draw which would have done their confidence immense good and dented high riding England’s chances of becoming the best Test team by displacing India from the top of the ICC Test rankings.
To some extent by drawing the third Test, Sri Lanka have somewhat stalled England’s progress towards achieving that goal. A 2-0 result would have been very much in England’s favour, but now they must really whitewash India if they are to get to the top which at present is unlikely to happen.
Sri Lanka went into the England series as underdogs and they remained so at the end of it. The 1-0 result is not a true reflection of Sri Lanka’s present strength. This is the first Test series they have played without their match-winner for more than a decade Muthiah Muralitharan who has retired from cricket. The chinks in the bowling armour were exposed to the full by England when they ran up totals of 496/5 decl, 486 and 377/8 decl in the three Tests. There is no doubt that Sri Lanka after the exit of Chaminda Vaas, Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga don’t have the bowlers who can run through a side twice and take 20 wickets for them to win a Test match. Until such time that someone comes along Sri Lanka is going to struggle to win Test matches even at home.
Right throughout the series they were always on the back foot and were never in a position to force a win in any of the three Tests. It was a case of survival and in the first two Tests the batting was not upto expectations in the second innings.
To Sri Lanka’s credit it must be said that they managed to produce a centurion in each of the three Tests. Wicket-keeper/batsman Prasanna Jayawardene distinguished himself as the best in the business today with a fighting century at Cardiff and followed it up with useful contributions in the rest of the series to be named Sri Lanka’s Man of the Series which he richly deserved coupled with his immaculate wicket-keeping.
In the second Test at Lord’s skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan entered the record books with a monumental knock of 193 that surpassed the previous highest score by a Sri Lankan at the Mecca of cricket - former Sri Lanka opener Sidath Wettimuny’s long standing record of 190 scored in 1984.
The third and final Test at Southampton saw acting captain Kumar Sangakkara eventually making his maiden Test hundred in England in what could be his last tour to Old Blighty. With tours coming in five-year intervals Sri Lanka’s next visit to England would be around 2016. Sangakkara’s knock could not have come at a better time than when Sri Lanka was trying to draw the final Test and it was a truly captain’s innings to frustrate England’s attempt at trying to repeat their Cardiff triumph.
In young Suranga Lakmal Sri Lanka has found a potential fast bowler for the future provided he keeps himself fit and injury free. Pity that another young quick Nuwan Pradeep had to return home early after treading on the ball and injuring his knee soon after bowling Sri Lanka to victory in their practice match against England Lions.
The only left-arm fast bowler in the side Chanaka Welegedara also impressed making a comeback to the national team capturing as many wickets as Lakmal – 7. Sri Lanka stuck with left-arm spinner Rangana Herath for the entire series ahead of Ajantha Mendis (who made only one appearance) and Suraj Randiv, but he couldn’t produce anything outstanding to cause any ripples in the England camp.
Sri Lanka’s strength was their batting, and it took their top order some time to adjust from one-day cricket to the more conventional five-day game. By the time the batsmen had adjusted the series for Sri Lanka was over.
England must be disappointed they couldn’t win more than one Test despite all the hype that went before the start of the series following their winter’s Ashes triumph Down Under. The weather in some way frustrated their attempts and did not do them any justice.
Opener Alastair Cook and Ian Bell were their main run scorers each with two centuries apiece. Jonathan Trott began with a double century but made only 64 runs in a further three innings. Kevin Pietersen must be disappointed not to have scored a century in the series, but Eoin Morgan and wicket-keeper Matt Prior certainly gave the England line up that extra edge in the batting.
Their seam attack spearheaded by the imposing figure of Chris Tremlett, named England’s Man of the Series for his 15 wickets posed a lot of problems to the Lankan batsmen with the ball being delivered at disconcerting heights which the players brought up on subcontinent pitches were not quite used to countering. Tremlett stood head and shoulders above the rest of the England bowlers excepting Graeme Swann who posed a different kind of threat with his teasing off-breaks that brought him a dozen Lankan scalps at a very impressive average of 23.58.


Zahira OBRA conducts rugby nursery c’ships

Text & Pix by Ruzaik Farook

Zahira Old Boys Rugby Association - (ZOBRA) conducted the annual Inter ZOBRA Rugby Nursery Championship 2011 for the second successive year at the college grounds recently. Four teams namely Cheetahs, Jaguars, Panthers and Pumas tussled for honours.
Jaguars clinched the coveted championship and Hasif Haleem of Jaguars was adjudged the best player. Sri Lanka Freedom Party Colombo District organiser and distinguished old boy of Zahira College, Fawzan Anver graced the occasion as the chief guest and distributed awards.
The Zahira Rugby Nursery (ZRN) is a programme inaugurated by ZOBRA with the objective of grooming youngsters at their tender ages to become highly skilled in the sport.
The inaugural ZRN was launched on April 2010 with a colourful ceremony and participation of members of the board of governors, principal, teachers, old boys. well-wishers, parents and students.


Milo sponsors schools rugby for 19th year

Nestle Sri Lanka spoke of their continued generous support for the popular Sri Lanka Schools Milo Rugby Tournaments for the 19th successive year at a press conference held at the CR & FC, Longden Place, Colombo on 21 Tuesday.
Milo tournaments 2011
Under-18 Div. 1 Ten-a-side on June 24 – 25 at CR & FC Colombo.
Under-18 Div. II Ten-a-side on July 9 – 10 at Badulla and Galle.
Under-14 Div. 1 Ten-a-side on August 6 – 7 at Colombo.
Under-14 Div. II Ten-a-side on August 13 – 14 in Sabaragamuwa.
Under-16 Div. 1 Twelve-a-side on August 27 – 28 at Kandy.
Under-16 Div. II Twelve-a-side on September 3 – 4 at Kurunegala
Under-12 Nine-a-side Rugby Carnival on October 15 – 16 in Colombo.
Inter-school Girl’s Rugby Tournament on October 22 – 23 in Sabaragamuwa.