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Archive for the ‘sri lanka’ Category

The build-up to India’s Test series with Sri Lanka has been somewhat overshadowed by the continuing coverage of Sachin Tendulkar’s 20th year in international cricket, but with top spot in the ICC Test Rankings up for grabs, the contest has much to offer.

Sri Lanka’s record in India suggests that the tourists will face a tough task. The bulk of responsibility for scoring runs is likely to fall on the usual suspects, who have in the past made huge scores on benign pitches but struggled in difficult conditions. As for the bowlers, only Murali has a strong track record in India, so the others will need to step up if the side are to succeed. Herath should edge out Mendis for the second spin slot, although the latter’s magical showing against the same opposition last year may inspire his inclusion at some stage.

For the hosts, Zaheer Khan’s return (along with Sreesanth) should revitalise the pace attack, whilst a chief concern could be adjusting back to Test cricket after more than six months of limited-overs matches. The lack of Test matches has been picked up on by the man of the hour, and many of the players in the side may take some time to realign their approaches.

This is a key series for India in their mission to become the best side in the world, and a series victory for the home side will be widely expected.

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It may feel like Ajantha Mendis has been around for ever (he’s already had a dramatic arrival on the international scene, followed by a relative fall from grace and then a minor resurgence), but it’s only about 15 months since he took 6-13 in the Asia Cup final. In that time, he is yet to bowl England’s batsmen, who nervously await in tomorrow’s Champions Trophy match.

Mendis bamboozled Graeme Smith with his first ball of Tuesday’s curtain-raiser, ending up with 3-30. With England struggling with the bat throughout the latter part of the summer, he may get a similar return tomorrow. Even if it doesn’t turn, Andrew Strauss’ stomach might.

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  • South Africa have always been the nearly men of 50-over cricket, but they did win the Champions Trophy back in 1998, since when they have developed a reputation as big tournament bottlers. This is South Africa’s best chance in years to win some ICC silverware, as well as to cast off the ‘chokers‘ tag.
  • Sri Lanka could be dark horses, with Dilshan‘s firepower matched by the steadying hands of veterans Jayasuriya, Jayawardene and captain Sangakkara. The return of Murali and the recent form of the pace attack will worry opposing batsmen, but the side will need to take a step up to taste glory.
  • England, having been humiliated in the ODI series against Australia, and without their two best limited overs players in Flintoff and Pietersen, will do well to win a match. The batsmen seem to fail whenever the bowlers succeed and vice versa, so expectations, it’s fair to say, will be easy to live up (or down) to.

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India, having very briefly ascended to the top of the ICC ODI rankings after yesterday’s victory over New Zealand, came crashing back down to earth as they were crushed by Sri Lanka in Colombo, with the home side being bowled out for a mere 168, 140 runs short of their target for victory.

Sri Lanka had made over 300 mainly thanks to the efforts of ‘Uncle’ Sanath Jayasuriya (98 from 79 balls) and Thilina Kandamby (91 not out from 73 balls). India’s reply was the victim of Angelo Mathews’ best-ever haul of 6-20.

If the battle for Test supremacy is hotting up between several countries, so too is the competition to be the best at 50-over cricket, even if the format itself is under threat from supporter indifference.

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Sri Lanka’s 2-0 series win over New Zealand now means that, if things don’t work out for South Africa against South Africa B England this winter, Kumar Sangakkara’s side could potentially end the year as the world’s top-ranked team if they win the series in India. If India were to win the series 2-0, then they would take the top spot.

India’s home record against Sri Lanka is impressive, with the tourists never having won a Test, but the side which is likely to tour will be very strong indeed. The emergence of Rangana Herath as a genuine spin threat in the series against the Black Caps means that there’s less dependence on Murali to constantly take wickets (which is handy, given Ajantha Mendis’ struggles), whilst the batting order has looked assured.

Thilan Samaraweera in particular has been making centuries with impressive regularity of late, and Dilshan’s elevation to opener seems to be a smart move. Could Sri Lanka be the world’s best? On their day, quite possibly.

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Now that Australia have slumped to fourth in the ICC rankings, what does the future hold for Test cricket?

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I’m not sure Tillakaratne Dilshan has fully grasped the concept of what an opening Test batsmen is supposed to do. Filling the role for the first time in the First Test against New Zealand, he ‘steadied the ship’ after Sri Lanka had lost two early wickets by hitting 92 from 72 balls, including the fastest ever Test fifty by a Sri Lankan.

It’s difficult to imagine many other Test openers reacting with in quite such an aggressive approach (certainly not any of England or New Zealand’s openers). Whilst it could be argued that Dilshan was playing high-risk cricket to a degree which is often unsuitable for the longer format, his positivity certainly turned the match in his side’s favour (from 16/2 to 134/3).

Who knows? Test Cricket may just need more crazy openers – what price Afridi to open for Pakistan?

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Away from the tension, hype and seagulls (yes, honestly, seagulls) of the build-up to the final Ashes Test, New Zealand and Sri Lanka are preparing for a Test series of their own.

For most of the tourists, Test cricket in Sri Lanka will be a new experience (only three members of the Black Caps’ squad have played a Test in Sri Lanka before). Their recent record is a cause for concern – a mere four Tests won in the last two-and-a-half years (with three of those coming against Bangladesh). None of the likely front-line bowlers have much experience of Sri Lankan conditions, which may prove costly. The likes of Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder will be taking a step into the unknown, and – on recent form – New Zealand’s top order is hardly likely to set them up with a comfortable platform to do so.

The hosts will be comfortable favourites, and will be looking to sneak the Number 2 spot in the ICC Test Rankings. Ajantha Mendis looks set to miss out given Rangana Herath‘s performances against Pakistan, whilst Murali returns to the side to worry New Zealand’s inexperienced batting line-up.

Anything other than a Sri Lankan series win would be a massive surprise.

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After the Test series, Sri Lanka’s first home series win against Pakistan, the two sides move on to ODIs with the tourists looking for revenge. In trying to get their own back, Pakistan will be boosted by the return of ICL exiles Naved-ul-Hasan and Imran Nazir (as well as Abdul Razzaq,back after sitting out the Tests).

After the relative success of both sides in the World Twenty20, the focus shifts to preparation for the World Cup in 2011, but both sides have chosen to focus on experience – whilst Pakistan welcome back their ICL players, Sri Lanka bring back the likes of Thilan Samaraweera. The hosts also enjoy the return of Lasith Malinga (although Dilhara Fernando is available as cover in case the slinger picks up an injury. Meanwhile, the pressure on Mendis to deliver against Pakistan, a side who have played him pretty well, continues to mount amid suggestions that his magic has worn off.

Pakistan will hope that their new opening partnership of Nazir and Kamran Akmal (or whatever other partnership they go for – the squad is as strong as it has been for ages) can deliver, whilst their bowling attack – led by Umar Gul – looks strong as usual. If Shahid Afridi can take his World Twenty20 form into the (slightly) longer form then the tourists have a real chance of victory, but inconsistency (as ever) may prove the largest obstacle to success for Pakistan.

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The Third Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, which starts tomorrow, will be Chaminda Vaas‘ last. The announcement of his retirement from Test cricket comes just a fortnight after he denied speculation that his Test career was coming to an end, and his recall to the Sri Lankan side for the first time since February gives him the chance to leave on a high, with his side looking for a clean sweep against Pakistan.

Vaas is probably Sri Lanka’s greatest ever fast bowler, having played more than 100 Tests and taken more than 350 wickets. Whilst he intends to play one-day and Twenty20 cricket for another two years, his absence from the Test side will be keenly felt. If you don’t believe me, watch his 5-61 against the West Indies in Guyana last year below.

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Yesterday’s recovery from Pakistan has proved to be somewhat of a dead cat bounce, as the tourists lost their last 9 wickets for just 35 runs (only the top three made it into double figures) to allow Sri Lanka to wrap up a historic win (and their first home series win against Pakistan) within three days.

Rangana Herath and Nuwan Kulasekara took 5-99 and 4-37 respectively for Sri Lanka as the hosts restricted Pakistan to a lead of just 170, before their batsmen reached 171/3 in less than 32 overs to wrap up a victory which seemed improbable 2 hours earlier.

For Pakistan, the brief moment of hope has once again faded, and the number of times that their batsmen were given out LBW is cause for concern. For Sri Lanka, there is encouragement that the absence of Murali need not preclude significant progress, and that the pace bowling attack is robust enough to cope without Vaas and Malinga.

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Pakistan’s strong record in Sri Lanka is taking a beating. After the tourists’ collapse from a strong position in the First Test, they have managed to concede a first-innings deficit within less than a day’s play in the Second Test.

Kulasekara, Thushara and Mendis all finished with impressive figures for Sri Lanka as Pakistan made a mere 90 runs, with only three Pakistani batsmen making it into double figures (Shoaib Malik did hang around for more than two hours, but made only 39 not out). All this after Younis Khan won the toss and elected to bat.

In reply, the hosts passed Pakistan’s total in just over 26 overs, and now have a strangehold on the series, no mean feat given the big names that are absent from their side.

For Pakistan, it’s difficult to see a way back, and questions are already being asked about team selection and the batting order.

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