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Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs West Indies 1st Test 2020/21

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West Indies 271 (Cornwall 61, Lakmal 5-47) and 34 for 1 (Brathwaite 8*, Bonner 15*) need another 341 runs to beat Sri Lanka 169 and 476 (Nissanka 103, Dickwella 96)

Pathum Nissanka‘s century on debut – the fourth Sri Lankan to achieve the feat, the first since Thilan Samaraweera in 2001, and the first to do so overseas – and an equally vital 96 from Niroshan Dickwella, crowned a dominant day for Sri Lanka, in which they seized command of the first Test, and put themselves in prime position to secure a first win in the format in over a year.

The pair’s 179-run stand for the sixth wicket, compiled over two sessions, helped set the West Indies a 375-run target, 34 of which the hosts had knocked off by stumps for the loss of just John Campbell. Kraigg Brathwaite and Nkrumah Bonner were at the crease on 8 and 15 respectively.

The day though belonged unequivocally to Nissanka, whose low-risk, high-impact innings, together with an unusually measured effort from Dickwella, had taken Sri Lanka from a precarious position at the start of the day – following Alzari Joseph’s early removal of Dhananjaya de Silva – to one of complete control.

That eventuality though would hardly have been at the forefront of the pair’s minds when they came together in the first over of the morning, with Sri Lanka’s lead still a fledgling 157. As the last two recognised batsmen, they would have known any misstep by either would expose a very long tail – the swiftness with which the innings folded following Nissanka’s dismissal more than justifying those concerns.

But if patience and application was the need of the hour, the duo produced that in spades. Nissanka’s 103 came off 252 deliveries, more or less encapsulating the safety-first approach he had woven into the very fabric of his innings; in fact, less than a fifth of his runs came in boundaries, while West Indies must be sick of the sight of his unwavering forward defence.

Indeed, rarely has a Test century contained such few noteworthy moments – though this is by no means a criticism. Sure, there was a fairly dismissive pull off Kyle Mayers, and then, earlier, a lovely punch through the covers off Kemar Roach, but for the most part this was an innings of dabs, prods, glides and drives (though none that reached the fence) – and crucially, almost no risk.

But after a first-innings capitulation that had seen many of Sri Lanka’s batsman fall, as much down to a lack of application as it was to probing lines employed by the West Indian bowlers, Nissanka’s innings was a refreshing change of pace.

At 22 years of age, and in foreign conditions, there is hardly likely to have been a more pleasing sight to Mickey Arthur and Grant Flower than the solidity showcased during his knock. In a way it was fitting that when he eventually did fall, it was on his own terms, going for a slog sweep in an attempt to up the scoring rate.

Arguably even more pleasing to the Lankan coaches might have been Dickwella’s innings. While his dismissal four runs short of maiden Test century will have undoubtedly been a mood-killer, the maturity and control up until then was definitely a side many thought they might never see of the man.

Now obviously his innings was not one without peril (what Dickwella innings is?) – he was dropped at gully, chopped the ball back onto his stumps without the bails being dislodged, and also survived a caught-behind appeal after West Indies had burned their reviews – but for the most part it was restrained.

He would only truly free his arms once the lead had ballooned beyond 300, though his innings was cut short before he could to do too much more damage, edging a slower ball from Roach back onto his stumps. By that point though it was already likely too late.

But the fact that the final five Sri Lankan wickets fell for just 38 runs will certainly leave the hosts wondering what might have been had a few pivotal moments gone their way. There’s also bound to be introspection surrounding the wisdom of some of their reviews – their last in particular, after Nissanka had got a clear edge on an lbw call, the most poorly conceived, and ultimately serving to reprieve Dickwella.

If any of those had gone the way of the hosts, we would likely be looking at a very different equation, but as it stands staving off defeat on the final day will be West Indies’ primary concern.



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Sri Lanka players agree to tour England without contracts

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SLC commits to making evaluation marks available to each player upon UK return

Sri Lanka’s men’s cricketers have agreed to tour England uncontracted, after Sri Lanka Cricket committed to revealing specifics about the player evaluations that form the basis of the board’s new proposed contract scheme.

The cricketers have long contended that the methodology by which they had been placed in various payment categories under the proposed scheme were not transparent. Now, SLC appears to have formally promised to make player evaluation marks available to each player when they return from the tour of England.

“This is the transparency the players had been requesting from the outset,” the players’ lawyer Nishan Premathiratne told ESPNcricinfo. “They will play this tour without signing any contract. They have signed a voluntary declaration, but there’s nothing there about player remuneration. They have always been committed to playing for Sri Lanka.”

However, ESPNcricinfo understands that the technical committee that devised the new contracts scheme had never been opposed to making the players’ individual evaluations available to each player. This is the first time SLC is officially committing to sharing that information with the players, though.



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Mushfiqur Rahim to opt out of playing the T20Is on the Zimbabwe tour

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Senior Bangladesh batter will be available for the one-off Test and the three ODIs

Mushfiqur Rahim has informed Bangladesh’s selectors that he wants to opt out of playing the T20Is against Zimbabwe next month. The BCB hasn’t approved his request yet but in recent months they have been understanding of the strain placed on players by bubble life.

Bangladesh are likely to be in Zimbabwe from June 29 to July 28. They will start off quarantining at a hotel, which could vary between five to seven days. Then they will play a one-off Test, three ODIs and three T20Is. July 23, 25 and 27 are likely to be the dates for the T20Is.

This is the first time that Rahim, who plays all three formats, has asked for a break for any reason other than injuries.

“Mushfiq has requested for a break during the T20Is, but he is available for the Test and ODIs. I think he may be tired after playing for so long, which is why he wants the leave. We will decide once he officially informs the cricket operations department,” chief selector Minhajul Abedin said.

Shortly after Bangladesh return home, they are scheduled to play five T20Is against Australia. New Zealand are supposed to arrive in September to play a T20I series, and England are slated for three T20Is and three ODIs in October. Then comes the T20 World Cup.

Rahim has been playing continuously, as well as abiding by Covid-19 protocols, since October last year. After the two domestic tournaments, Rahim played two Tests and three ODIs against West Indies at home, before touring New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Bangladesh played against Sri Lanka again in May, after which all the players went back into the Dhaka Premier League T20 bio-bubble, when the tournament started on May 31. Rahim plays for Abahani Limited.



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T20 Blast – Ben Stokes set for Blast comeback as white-ball players return to action

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Allrounder in line for first Durham appearance since 2018 after finger injury

Ben Stokes is set to play his first T20 Blast game for nearly three years next week when he makes his comeback from the finger injury he suffered in the IPL.
The early stages of the Blast, which begins on Wednesday, will see a number of England players including Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid make their first appearances in the competition for several years, and Stokes – who last played in Durham’s quarter-final defeat to Sussex in 2018 – is among them.

Stokes’ injury had initially been expected to keep him out of action for up to 12 weeks, or early July, but his recovery from surgery has been smooth. “I’m able to bowl, I’m able to get in the gym and I’m able to hit some balls again,” Stokes wrote in his Mirror column last week. “I’m at an exciting point of my recovery where full-on training is not that far away and then I can start thinking about playing in a match again.”

Details of Stokes’ comeback are yet to be confirmed by the ECB and he could target one of the back-to-back 2nd XI T20s against Lancashire on June 14, but Durham have four fixtures in the Blast from June 15-20 and he is likely to return in one of them.

England are due to name a squad for the limited-overs series against Sri Lanka later this week, with the group scheduled to meet up on June 19 ahead of the first T20I in Cardiff on June 23. Eoin Morgan suggested in March that he was expecting to be without England’s multi-format players during this summer’s white-ball series, but their unavailability for the ongoing New Zealand Tests following the IPL could yet see them named in this squad.

Players selected for the white-ball squads and not involved in the squad for the second New Zealand Test will be available to appear in up to six rounds of the Blast, depending on their respective teams’ fixture lists. That means Buttler and Stokes are both likely to play more games in the Blast than in the Hundred this summer, with England’s Test players set to play a maximum of three group games and the knockout stages in the new 100-ball competition.



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