Dimuth Karunaratne, Sri Lanka’s relatively new captain, doesn’t ride players hard, doesn’t tear them down for taking aggressive options, and when criticism is required, he ensures it’s constructive. Perhaps this is all a bit sappy, but it is the feedback from several members of this Sri Lanka dressing room.
Thisara Perera spoke of Karunaratne being “like a brother” during the World Cup campaign. Acting coach Rumesh Ratnayake spoke of the calmness Karunaratne spreads through the dressing room. And now, ahead of the second Test against New Zealand, Niroshan Dickwella has given Sri Lanka’s fifth Test captain in three years an endorsement of his own.
Dickwella had been Karunaratne’s deputy during the Test series victory in South Africa. And although no vice-captain has been officially named for this series, with Dickwella’s own place in the XI not assured ahead of the first Test, he spoke about the unique qualities Karunaratne has brought to the role.
“Dimuth is a very different kind of captain,” he said. “His way of managing players is different, and every captain has their own style. I’ve played a lot with Dimuth and what he does is give the player the freedom to go and express themselves 100% in the match.
“What Dimuth says is go and do what you want to do, and what you feel you can do. If we make a mistake, he’ll pull us aside and say this happened, why don’t we fix that mistake for next time? He talks a lot about being confident about your abilities. And he gives you that confidence.”
Sri Lanka have so far won each of the three Tests they have played under Karunaratne, but they arrive now at a venue at which they have struggled. Sri Lanka have lost five of their seven most recent Tests at the P Sara Oval, including their last match to New Zealand here, in 2012. The pitch, Dickwella said, should favour fast bowlers and batsmen more than the Galle surface, on which neither team crossed 300. Sri Lanka’s victory in Galle was ultimately comfortable, but the team remains wary of a New Zealand resurgence, particularly at a venue that often provides good bounce for seam bowlers.
“It’s a big challenge. Having won one game, we have a big responsibility to win the series. We have the confidence, but we need to keep making good decisions at crunch moments,” Dickwella said. “Close-in fielders, including me, have missed some chances in Galle, but those were difficult chances – you don’t have even seconds to react. But still, we spoke about that. We’re happy to improve on those areas.
“In the batting, we were 142 for 2 and then collapsed to 168 for 7 in the first-innings, so we have to improve on that as well. When it comes to bowling, when one bowler is bowling well, from one end, we need to build a partnership from the other end as well.”
Australia women set to further fine-tune their T20I batting order
Australia women are likely to experiment with their batting order in the T20Is against Sri Lanka later this month as they further fine-tune planning ahead of defending the T20 World Cup title next year.
Having completed a comprehensive 3-0 victory over West Indies in Barbados, they have now won 19 of their last 21 T20Is dating back to March 2018.
They were not given much of a challenge by a depleted West Indies side, securing back-to-back nine-wicket wins following a six-wicket victory to start the series.
Alyssa Healy was the leading run-scorer in the series and is locked in at the top of the order, but coach Matthew Mott said there were still various combinations to be tried ahead of the T20 World Cup which starts at the end of February although did not see them moving much outside this group of players.
Beth Mooney made 4 and 8 in the first two T20s before finishing with an unbeaten 24 while Ellyse Perry came in at No. 3 ahead of captain Meg Lanning to knock off the target in the final outing.
Australia play Sri Lanka in three matches in Sydney, starting at the end of September, and then have a tri-series with England and India ahead of the World Cup.
“Our batting has been really good, thought we got better with each game, Mott said. “Our first chase wasn’t our best but the last two we did it in style. But we’ve still got some tinkering to do, think we’ll tinker a bit in the T20s against Sri Lanka with that batting order and get the right formula leading into the World Cup.
“I think [the squad] will be pretty close to what we’ve got here. The only changes will be in batting orders. We’ve got a strong nucleus of players who we have earmarked to take a lead into the World Cup. Back home there’s a WNCL round which is a good opportunity for the players to put their hand up and show what they can do, but pretty sure we’ll be close to this 14.”
Mott was impressed with the performance of legspinner Georgia Wareham in the final T20I against West Indies as she claimed 3 for 14 and was also pleased with the point-of-difference provided by pace bowler Tayla Vlaeminck even though she was wicketless.
“We are really happy with the way the bowling until is going, there has been some great changes there, even seeing Megan Schutt trying some new things – coming round the wicket to the left-handers – and thought Georgia Wareham bowled incredibly well and spun the ball, so that’s good for her confidence.
“[Tayla’s] bounce is really potent, fires the team up each time she comes in. You can see the batters are getting hurried up so even if she’s not taking wickets she’s changing the way the batters are moving their feet, putting pressure on at the other end.”
The T20I series against Sri Lanka starts on September 29 at North Sydney Oval with all three matches played at that venue before three ODIs take place in Brisbane from October 5.
Match Preview – Afghanistan vs Zimbabwe, Bangladesh Twenty20 Tri-Series 2019, 5th Match
This game is the first of two dead rubbers in this tri-series, but try telling that to Hamilton Masakadza. This will be his last international match and, having contributed for so long to Zimbabwe cricket, a win over a side that has totally dominated them in T20Is will make for a sweet exit.
Afghanistan, on the other hand, will once again rely on their heavy hitters and their spin attack to stop Zimbabwe, a formula that has worked on each of the eight occasions the teams have met in this format. In this series, Asghar Afghan, Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi have scored most of the runs but Afghanistan will also hope to see Hazratullah Zazai recover from a batting slump. Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who impressed on his debut earlier in the tri-series, would look to bounce back from the first-ball duck in the second game.
Among their bowlers, Mujeeb Ur Rahman stopped Bangladesh in their tracks with his maiden four-wicket haul in the previous game, also his T20I best. Fareed Ahmad, the left-arm quick, also looked impressive, although medium-pacer Karim Janat hasn’t been among the wickets.
Zimbabwe haven’t had as many impressive individual performances. Richmond Mutumbami did justice to his call-up against Bangladesh on Wednesday with a half-century but his efforts did not have an impact on the result. Ryan Burl, who made a quickfire fifty in the first game against Bangladesh, has struggled for consistency, as has Regis Chakabva. And the side’s senior batsmen, including Masakadza, haven’t scored enough to put pressure on the opposition.
They have some variety in their bowling attack but apart from Kyle Jarvis, the others haven’t quite stepped up. Neville Madziva, Ainsley Ndlovu and Sean Williams will look to do a better job with the ball.
Afghanistan WWWWW (Last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Like his team, Hamilton Masakadza, too, has had a rough time in the tournament, scoring only 62 in three innings so far. In his final match, a big knock from the Zimbabwe captain could well have a big impact on the morale of the side.
With two matches to go before the final, this would be the right time for Hazratullah Zazai to get back among the runs. The opener hasn’t scored a fifty in his last 14 international innings, after his 67 against Ireland in March this year
Having played their first two matches in the series with an unchanged XI, Afghanistan now have the luxury of two matches to test out their bench strength. Fast bowlers Dawlat Zadran and Naveen-ul-Haq, seaming allrounder Fazal Niazai and wicketkeeper Shafiqullah and left-arm spinner Shahidullah and Sharafuddin Ashraf are their options should they rest a few key players.
Afghanistan (probable): 1 Hazratullah Zazai, 2 Rahmanullah Gurbaz, 3 Najeeb Tarakai, 4 Asghar Afghan, 5 Najibullah Zadran, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Gulbadin Naib, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Karim Janat, 10 Fareed Ahmad, 11 Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Richmond Mutumbami’s fifty should keep him in the side but Zimbabwe might consider recalling quick bowler Tendai Chatara and allrounder Tony Munyonga to bolster the bowling.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Brendan Taylor (wk), 2 Hamilton Masakadza (capt), 3 Sean Williams, 4 Regis Chakabva, 5 Tinotenda Mutombodzi, 6 Ryan Burl, 7 Richmond Mutumbami, 8 Neville Madziva, 9 Kyle Jarvis, 10 Ainsley Ndlovu, 11 Chris Mpofu
Pitch and conditions
In the match between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury pitch offered runs to batsmen, who were ready to take time to assess the situation. There’s chance of a late shower on Friday evening.
Stats and trivia
Masakadza will retire having played the most T20Is for Zimbabwe. He has missed only four of Zimbabwe’s 69 T20Is, all in 2015. He is also their highest run-getter in the format, with the most 50-plus scores and the most boundaries.
Mohammad Nabi’s unbeaten 84 in Afghanistan’s previous game against Bangladesh is the third-highest score by a No. 6 batsman in all T20Is.
Recent Match Report – Yorkshire vs Kent, County Championship Division One, 2nd Innings
Kent 482 for 8 dec (Stevens 237, Billings 138, Olivier 5-108) and 337 for 7 dec (Billings 122*, Robinson 97) beat Yorkshire 269 (Fisher 47*, Milnes 5-87) and 117 (Stevens 5-20) by 433 runs
Darren Stevens claimed a five-wicket haul as Kent put the finishing touches on a record-breaking 433-run victory over Yorkshire at Headingley and kept alive their hopes of finishing third on the County Championship Division One table.
Yorkshire, chasing a target of 551 – a world record had they achieved it – started day four in tatters at 44 for 6, and they were bowled out for 117 shortly before lunch.
It was Kent’s biggest victory in terms of runs in their first-class history and Yorkshire’s heaviest runs defeat. It was also the fourth-heaviest in the history of the County Championship.
Kent claimed a maximum 24 points from their fifth win of the season and moved up to fourth on the table, two points behind third-placd Hampshire. The two sides meet for a final-round clash at Canterbury next week.
Yorkshire’s fourth defeat of the campaign yielded five points and saw them slip from third at the start of the week to fifth. They are 10 points behind Hampshire, having suffered their second successive defeat, and end the season against Warwickshire at Edgbaston. All final-round fixtures start on Monday.
Stevens, with four wickets overnight, claimed his fifth in the second over of the morning when he had Tim Bresnan caught behind. In claiming his 50th Championship wicket of the season. Felllow Kent seamers Matt Milnes and Harry Podmore also reached the 50-wicket mark for the season in Yorkshire’s first innings.
Top-scorer Jonny Tattersall and Matthew Fisher held Kent up by sharing 35 inside 17 overs before Podmore had the latter brilliantly caught behind one-handed diving to his right by Ollie Robinson as Yorkshire fell to 81 for 8. Another spell of defiance came as Tattersall and Duanne Olivier united to put on 35 runs before Daniel Bell-Drummond bowled the latter.
That wicket came as lunch was extended in an attempt to finish the game, and it was when Bell-Drummond had Tattersall caught at second slip for 41 in the next over.
A number of notable records were posted in this match.
Stevens’ 237 on the first day helped him become only the fifth player in history to score a double hundred and take 10 wickets in first-class cricket beyond the age of 43 after Stevens took 10 wickets in last week’s win at Nottinghamshire. W.G. Grace is on that list, as is former Kent allrounder Frank Woolley, who achieved the feat in the 1930s.
Stevens, aged 43 years and 142 days, is the second-oldest player to score 200 and take five wickets in an innings in a first-class match. Grace is the oldest having done it for Gloucestershire in 1895 aged 46 years and 303 days. Here, Stevens finished with 5 for 20 from 18 overs in the second innings and claimed match figures of 7 for 70 from 38.
“I’ve just seen that (stat on W.G. Grace), only because Mitch (Claydon) was taking the mickey saying we look pretty similar,” Stevens said. “I was very tired this morning, and I was praying for that early wicket. Luckily it came. To be fair, I was pretty done in after that spell last night, 13 overs. But the early wicket got me going.
“I can’t really put it into words. If you’d have asked me at the start of the season, I would have said that I’ll have a decent year, but not like this.
“It was a bit frustrating early season with a few catches going down, and it didn’t really happen with the bat. Then, the last part of the summer has been pretty special. A lot of hard work’s gone in, and it’s starting to pay off now.”
Stevens shared 346 with captain Sam Billings in the first innings to help Kent recover from 39 for 5 to 482 for 8 declared, their partnership being the highest for the sixth wicket at Headingley.
Billings hit 138 and 122 not out, becoming the first man to score two hundreds in a Championship game at Headingley and the first Kent player to post two hundreds in the same fixture since Martin van Jaarsveld did it in 2008.
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