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.”
Recent Match Report – Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe Only Test 2020
Lunch Zimbabwe 114 for 5 (Raza 33*, Nayeem 3-44) and 265 trail Bangladesh 560 for 6 dec (Rahim 203*, Mominul 132) by 181 runs
Bangladesh’s march to victory continued with a couple of vital wickets on the fourth morning in Mirpur. It was the spinners that struck first, with Taijul Islam opening a route into the middle order with a wicket in the sixth over of the morning before Nayeem Hasan struck the big blow, removing Brendan Taylor in his first over of the day. After a brief rally, the run-out of Craig Ervine further sunk Zimbabwe and they went to lunch at 114 for 5, still 181 runs shy of making Bangladesh bat again.
With men crowding the bat and pressure from the off, Islam didn’t take long to get the better of Kevin Kasuza. Coming around the stumps, and making liberal use of the arm ball, he suckered the right-hand batsman into playing inside an orthodox delivery that gripped on the surface, taking the shoulder of the bat and landing in the lap of Mohammad Mithun at second slip.
Taylor appeared much more at ease against the left-arm spinner, stepping out to loft him cleanly over the long-off boundary, but it was similar positivity that got him into trouble against Nayeem. Taylor missed a reverse sweep to the offspinner’s second delivery of the day, and then perished attempting an aggressive regulation sweep shortly afterwards. Aiming for the midwicket boundary, Taylor instead watched in dismay as a looping top-edge was easily caught by Islam, running in from deep backward square.
Despite the dismissals, the Zimbabwe batsmen kept playing their shots. Sikandar Raza whipped Nayeem through square leg with a one-handed sweep early in his innings, while Ervine was even more proactive. Having cruised into the 20s with a pair of boundaries on either side of the pitch in Nayeem’s third over of the morning, he stepped out to hit the same bowler over long-on and repeatedly demonstrated that he wasn’t afraid to use his feet to the slower bowlers.
At the other end, Raza paddled Islam to the fine-leg boundary, and then raised the fifty stand by powering him well over long-on for his first six, the runs having flowed at close to five an over. Ervine, meanwhile, was into the 40s at virtually a run a ball but Nayeem kept probing, and might have removed Zimbabwe’s captain had Liton Das been able to complete a stumping opportunity 15 minutes before the lunch interval. Drawn out of his crease, Ervine was beaten by the turn and bounce, but so was Das, the ball rearing up to hit him on the shoulder.
The error wasn’t a costly one. Moments before lunch, Raza tapped Islam towards point and the batting pair chanced a quick single. But Mominul Haque was onto the ball in a flash, hurling in a direct hit to catch Ervine short of his ground: the first time Ervine has been run out in this format.
With a light drizzle starting to fall, Raza survived until lunch alongside Timycen Maruma, but three wickets in the session significantly advanced Bangladesh’s cause.
Neil Wagner set to return leaving New Zealand a tough selection call
Neil Wagner is almost certain to be back in New Zealand’s bowling attack for the second Test against India, which begins in Christchurch on Saturday. Wagner missed the first Test in Wellington on paternity leave, but he will return to the squad on Wednesday, replacing Matt Henry.
The debut performance of Kyle Jamieson, who stood in for Wagner in Wellington and shone with both ball and bat, has left New Zealand in a bit of a dilemma over who to play and who to leave out in Christchurch, but coach Gary Stead indicated Wagner would feature.
“Yeah, that’s always good selection dilemmas to have,” Stead said on Tuesday. “Neil Wagner will come back and he’s been a force in our team for a long time, and obviously Kyle Jamieson made the most of his debut, and the way he played, I thought, was outstanding as well, did a really good job for us.”
Then Stead was asked if there was any thought to continuing with Jamieson and giving Wagner more time to spend with his wife and baby daughter.
“You always think about those things, but I think Neil Wagner, it was pretty hard missing one Test let alone two Tests, so no, he’ll be back with us without a doubt.”
Hagley Oval is a venue that has traditionally favoured seam bowlers, so there is a chance New Zealand might go in with both Wagner and Jamieson in a four-man pace attack alongside the new-ball pair of Trent Boult and Tim Southee.
“I think we always consider those things,” Stead said. “We’ll go down there, look at the wicket, we’re still three or four days out at this stage, so don’t want to make any assumptions before we get down there, but generally the wicket we play on at Hagley has a wee bit in it as well.
“We’ve seen in the past, guys like Colin de Grandhomme can be very very useful in those conditions as well – think back to his debut against Pakistan, then it was useful conditions for him – but whoever we go with, we know we need to put in a performance like we did in this game, because, as I said, India will get better.”
Another factor that could make New Zealand think of four quicks was the limited role played by the left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel in Wellington, where he bowled only six overs across India’s two innings. But Stead said Patel may have played a bigger role if the match – New Zealand wrapped up their 10-wicket win inside the first session of day four – had stretched on for longer.
“You look at it, and again, if the Test went the full distance, or even deep into the fourth day, you’d think that Ajaz would have taken a much bigger part than what he did, but it wasn’t to be because our seam bowlers were so good in this Test match, and again, that’s a really pleasing thing.”
Recent Match Report – Australia Women vs Sri Lanka Women, ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, 5th Match, Group A
Australia 5 for 123 (Haynes 60, Lanning 41*, Prabodhani 2-17, Siriwardene 2-20) beat Sri Lanka 6 for 122 (Atapattu 50, Sanjeewani 25, Carey 2-18, Strano 2-23) by five wickets
Australia are not playing well at all. Australia are still in the T20 World Cup. These two truths were undeniable at the end of a white-knuckle encounter with Sri Lanka at the WACA Ground, which on several occasions looked like being the day in which Meg Lanning’s No. 1-ranked side were eliminated at the first available opportunity.
Sri Lanka, having also lost their opening fixture, had never beaten Australia in a T20I but got closer than most anybody expected. Putting up a sound total and defending it desperately has been a more than useful strategy so far in this tournament, and at 3 for 10, the hosts were in all sorts of trouble thanks to the swing of Udeshika Prabodhani.
Lanning and Rachael Haynes put together a partnership, however, and they were given what turned out to be much-needed assistance by both the umpires – not ruling Lanning caught behind when she was on 15 – and the Sri Lankans, who dropped both Australia’s captain and deputy when the game could easily have swung back their way. In the end Australia scrambled to victory with three balls to spare. They are still in the tournament, but they have plenty of improving to do.
Atapattu brings the class
Having never lost to Sri Lanka in 16 matches across formats, Australia had to be wary of Chamari Atapattu after her glorious 103 in an ODI in Brisbane in October. Megan Schutt broke through early, having found some of her trademark new-ball swing away from the left-hand opener Hasini Perera, but otherwise Lanning’s team could not find a way to confound Atapattu before she had given Sri Lanka a serviceable start in conditions that, in considerable breeze and on a fresh, fastish pitch, had plenty to offer the bowlers.
Critically, Atapattu gained some handy support from Nos. 3, 4 and 5 as Umesha Thimashini, Anushka Sanjeewani and Nilakshi de Silva all contributed. Their innings were at varying degrees of fluency, Thimashini most striking in her cover drives off Ellyse Perry, but they ensured that once Atapattu departed, caught at extra cover the ball after she was very nearly run out, the Sri Lankan effort was not to peter out entirely.
Strano’s costly 19th over
Retained in the team after being a surprise choice for the opener against India, Molly Strano did not share the new ball this time but still had a key role bowling in the middle of the innings and then returning at the death. Her dismissals of Sanjeewani and Ama Kanchana in the same over were moments in which it felt as though Australia were taking control of proceedings, but in her final over of the innings, Strano erred full and then short.
This allowed de Silva to drive and pull a pair of priceless fours, making the 19th over of the innings the most expensive of all at a cost of 12. In a low-scoring and pressure-filled game, these runs were vital for Sri Lanka and troubling for the Australians, pushing their required rate in the chase beyond a run-a-ball.
Prabodhani does a Vaas
It is more than 20 years since Chaminda Vaas set-up Sri Lanka’s first ever Test victory over Australia by swinging the new ball around corners in Kandy. There was something similarly memorable about the way Prabodhani curled the white ball into the stumps of Alyssa Healy and Ashleigh Gardner at the start of Australia’s chase, raising the anxiety of the hosts.
Both Healy and Gardner are in the top order to go on the attack, and as such their gates are more open to the inswinger than some others. But it was still a transfixing sight to see the new ball curling back through their somewhat crooked defences in the midst of a new-ball spell from Prabodhani. She was to bowl her full allotment of overs in the one spell, by which time Australia were a wobbly 3 for 27, with Shashikala Siriwardene turning the ball sharply at the other end.
Haynes, Lanning scramble home with help
Facing an equation that was dialled up from manageable to tricky, and a moving ball, Lanning and Haynes benefited from plenty of good fortune even as they showed more solid defences than Healy and Gardner. Lanning was facing her second ball when she played and missed and Sri Lanka reviewed for caught behind – revealing that the bat had brushed the wicketkeeper’s gloves rather than the ball. On 15, Lanning was caught behind cutting, but this time given not out, and then she was to be dropped by Sanjeewani when on 33.
Haynes, who took on a more aggressive posture in the partnership, was most vitally dropped on 26 just as the required rate had begun to spiral away from Australia. Duly revived, she was able to connect with the big leg-side shots off left-arm spin that have become something of a trademark, taking 18 runs off the 16th over to pull back the asking rate from 8.8 an over to a far more manageable 6.5 in one fell swoop. From there, Australia wobbled further, but got over the line. Lanning’s clenched fist after diving for the winning run said it all.
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