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Sri Lanka v England, 2nd Test, Galle

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Jos Buttler has hailed Joe Root’s performances in the last two Tests in Sri Lanka as “a masterclass”, and believes that everyone in the England squad – not to mention those watching back home – can learn from his example after a superb display of technical and physical prowess in Galle.

Root was unluckily run out by a direct hit from short leg off the final ball of the third day’s play for 186, his second hundred in consecutive Tests after making a match-winning 228 in last week’s series opener at the same venue. And Buttler, who was England’s next-highest scorer with 55 in a fifth-wicket stand of 97, was confident that the captain’s example would rub off on his dressing room, as they build towards both the climax of this match, and the forthcoming four-Test series in India.

“It was a quite amazing innings,” Buttler said. “To back up his double-hundred in the first Test, both physically and mentally, and to show the application to go and do it again. Today it’s been a masterclass in batting against spin, and it has been a great education for all of us, watching from the sidelines. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching him and we’re gutted for him to get out in that fashion at the end of the day.”

Nevertheless, the gulf between Root’s performances in this series and the rest of the England batting line-up has been stark – aside from Buttler, only Dan Lawrence with 73 in the first Test has so far passed fifty, and in England’s first innings of this match, Lawrence was one of three top-order batsman to fall in single figures to the left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya – alongside the openers, Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley, who have made 28 runs in six innings between them.

But Buttler insisted that the work that all the players were putting in, plus the lessons that they could glean from watching a batsman such as Root at the top of his game, could still stand them in good stead for the rest of the winter.

“Not just young players but older players and people watching from home can learn a lot from watching Joe Root bat against spin,” he said. “The dressing room is right behind those guys, it’s only a couple of innings and starting against spin is a different proposition.

“They are putting in an immense amount of work in the nets and it’s important those guys continue to trust their game. Once you get through that initial period it does change and become more comfortable. We’ve seen in both sides, once you get in, there are runs to be had on these surfaces. Those boys are working hard and everyone is right behind them. I’m sure everything clicking is just around the corner.”

A focus on conditioning, Buttler added, had been a significant part of Root’s durability in the first two Tests – particularly given the sapping heat of Galle – and he praised the efforts of England’s nutritionist, Emma Gardner, who has been present in Sri Lanka to help the team with their preparations.

“Sri Lanka is as challenging conditions as we face,” Buttler said. “So, again, that just adds to the magnitude of the efforts of Rooty’s innings, really. For the eight days of cricket so far, he’s been pretty much on the field. It seems a lot hotter, a lot more draining, than the first game, which had rain breaks as well, so we have to not just praise the tactical and technical aspects of his game, but the physicality and concentration to apply himself for so long.

“Fuelling correctly is a big part of that,” Buttler added. “We are very lucky that Emma [Gardner], our nutritionist, is out here and she’s brilliant at getting the right information to people about what they need to eat and drink; what things they need to take on and when.

“That’s been a big part of the performance so far and a great help for everyone to have her here guiding that side of things. We know the effects it can have on performance.”

Asked if Root’s motivation had been redoubled by a relatively lean 2020, in which he failed to make a Test hundred for the first full year of his career, Buttler acknowledged that he had seemed especially determined during their brief warm-up phase in Hambantota.



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Channel Seven entitled to tiny rights discount, arbitrator finds, amid Cricket Australia dispute

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A strong season of ratings for the Australia-India series and BBL appears to have weakened the position of the free-to-air network

Seven West Media are entitled to a broadcast rights fee discount of as little as A$5 million from Cricket Australia due to changes in the schedule due to Covid-19, according to the independent arbitrator demanded by the free-to-air network.

In a draft outcome understood to have been delivered to the warring parties on Tuesday night, the arbitrator Justin Jameson, of Venture Consulting, concluded that Seven should get only a tiny portion of the A$70 million reduction the debt-laden network had been chasing. The figure would rise to around A$8 million if the rescheduled Test match between Australia and Afghanistan does not go ahead next summer prior to the Ashes.

While Jameson’s formal finding is still to be tabled, the heads-up was a source of some relief to CA, after an ugly and protracted campaign by Seven for massive cuts to their A$82 million-a-year share of the A$1.18 billion deal signed alongside Foxtel in April 2018.

Led by their chief executive James Warburton, Seven have mounted all manner of arguments for a greater discount, from complaints about the quality of the BBL to allegations of a vast conspiracy between CA, the BCCI and Foxtel to move this summer’s limited-overs fixtures from January to November.



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Hannah Darlington’s Australia call-up – ‘Everyday I’m pinching myself that this is happening’

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The pace bowler’s career already has strong links to New Zealand and it could be the scene of her international debut

New Zealand has already played a significant part in Hannah Darlington‘s cricket journey. Two years ago she toured with the Australia Under-19 squad and last season played for Otago in the Super Smash, her performances helping her secure a state contract with New South Wales.

Now it could be the scene of her international debut after being named in Australia’s squad for the ODI and T20I tour next month. Darlington, who has been a star of the last two WBBL seasons with Sydney Thunder, is one of two uncapped players on the trip alongside Darcie Brown, the Adelaide Strikers and South Australia quick, who was her roommate on the U-19 tour.

Darlington was named the female young cricketer of the year earlier this month after a WBBL campaign with the Thunder that brought 19 at 13.68 and economy rate of 6.19 for the champions. That followed 16 wickets in the previous season, although after that she was overlooked for New South Wales Breakers which is how she found herself back in New Zealand.

She took 13 wickets for Otago, with an economy rate of 5.75, and on returning to Australia was selected by NSW then during the off-season earned a full contract. This summer she was named vice-captain, although the plan for her to potentially lead the side when Alyssa Healy departed on tour will now have to shelved with her on the same flight.



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Sri Lanka’s Upul Tharanga retires from international cricket

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Former batsman ends his career with the fifth-most centuries for Sri Lanka in one-day cricket

Sri Lankan batsman Upul Tharanga has announced his retirement from international cricket at the age of 36.

Having made his debut in August 2005, Tharanga last turned out for Sri Lanka in an ODI in South Africa in March 2019. He played his final T20I in March the previous year and his last Test in August 2017.

Over the course of his career, Tharanga has captained Sri Lanka’s limited-overs sides several times, first taking up the role in November 2016 in an ODI series against Zimbabwe. Months later he would also take over the reigns of the T20I side for a tour of Australia. Unfortunately for Tharanga, his captaincy coincided with a lean period in Sri Lankan cricket, and he suffered the ignominy of captaining his side to three 5-0 whitewashes in 2017.

Tharanga’s failed captaincy stint somewhat soured what had been an overall impressive period with the national side. While his Test and T20I careers underwhelmed, his ODI record is among the best in Sri Lanka’s history. His 15 one-day hundreds are the fifth-most by a Sri Lankan batsman, while his performances in the 2011 World Cup played a major role in the run to the final. Opening the batting, his 395 runs in the tournament came at 56.42 and included two centuries.

Fans will also remember fondly his role in setting a then-world record for an opening partnership, plundering 286 runs off just 201 deliveries alongside side Sanath Jayasuriya against England at Leeds in 2006.

Tharanga finishes his career having played 31 Tests, 235 ODIs and 26 T20Is. His 1754 Test runs came at an average of 31.89 and included three centuries and eight fifties. It was in limited overs cricket though that Tharanga came into his own, scoring 6951 runs at 33.74 in ODIs, inclusive of 15 centuries and 37 fifties. While he had shown flourishes in the domestic T20 circuit, that form never really carried into his brief T20I career, in which he averaged 16.28.

“As the good old saying goes ‘all good things must come to an end’, I believe it is time for me to bid farewell to my International Cricket Career after over 15 years of giving the game my all,” Tharanga said in a statement.



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