Bhanuka Shines: News Reports on Second T 20 at Lahore

News Item in Daily News, 10 October 2019

Sri Lanka’s match-winner in their series clinching second T20I win against Pakistan at Lahore on Monday, Bhanuka Rajapaksa praised the coaches for helping the team beat the no. 1 ranked side in the world. ”Not an easy task to come to Pakistan and beat the No. 1 side but the confidence from the coaches helped a lot,” said Rajapaksa after winning the man of the match award for his exhilarating knock of 77 off 48 balls. “Beating the No. 1 side, I would take it any day. It means a lot to me,” he said.

A second string Sri Lanka side did what no other team from the island nation had managed to do before: beating Pakistan in a T20I series! Built on a rollicking half century Rajapaksa, who was just playing his second game for Sri Lanka, the tourists posted a total of 182/6 in their 20 overs.

In reply, Pakistan could only muster 147 in 19 overs as they fell to a 35-run defeat in the 2nd T20I of the 3-match series.

The 27-year-old Rajapaksa hit 6 sixes and 4 fours to put Sri Lanka on the path of a big total after last match’s hero Danushka Gunathilaka departed early for 15 off the bowling of Imad. Rajapaksa and Shehan Jayasuriya got together at the crease and the duo forged a scintillating 94-run partnership off just 62 balls to take the game away from Pakistan. Rajapaksa was particularly great to watch as he trusted his great hand-eye coordination to time the ball beautifully between gaps while not shying away from nailing the towering sixes either.

With one game to play, Sri Lanka’s 2-0 lead is unassailable, a remarkable turn-up considering the disparity between the sides’ in the MRF Tyres T20I Team Rankings. Pakistan’s experimental side hasn’t had the desired effect, while Sri Lanka’s second string have exceeded expectations, and will be hopeful of securing a clean sweep in the third T20I today.

Rex Clementine in Island, 10 October 2019

A new look Sri Lankan cricket team has come up with a fascinating show to clinch the T-20 series in Lahore with a game to spare. The fact that this is a second string Sri Lankan side makes the series win sweeter. More importantly Pakistan are ranked number one in T-20s while Sri Lanka have blown hot and cold in the shortest format of the game having slid to the bottom of the rankings forcing them to play a qualifying round ahead of next year’s T-20 World Cup in Australia.

There was much disappointment when ten senior players pulled out of the tour owing to security reasons. It has been indeed a blessing in disguise as the second choice players have come up with some scintillating efforts. The selectors will have a headache in selecting the squad for the three match T-20 series in Australia. One of those tough decisions they will have to take is who is going to lead the side down under.

Under Lasith Malinga, the team has suffered successive losses. It was evident that Lasith was unable to bring all key players of the side together and he was sacked as captain lead up to the World Cup early this year in England and Wales but miraculously held onto the T-20 captaincy. It has not been properly explained that if Lasith were not good enough to lead the side in the 50 over World Cup, how can he be leading the side in T-20s.

Under his charge, Sri Lanka weren’t able to overcome a second string New Zealand side at home.

This is after the selectors had given him all what he had asked for. Some prominent seniors were dropped from the side as the selectors backed Malinga’s horses. The results, however, were disastrous. Dasun Shanaka has not only captained the side well in Pakistan but he has the ability to bring all stakeholders of the sport together, a trait that Lasith lacks. There is of course a danger we are told. Lasith apparently had made it clear that he does not wish to continue play in case the captaincy is taken away from him! Lasith no doubt has been one of our main match winners in white ball cricket. However, it doesn’t allow him to dictate terms to his employers.

The team has struggled to make an impact under Lasith’s leadership and a change needs to take place to put the derailed unit called the national cricket team back on the track. Several players who had not received a proper run have come up with fine efforts in this series and some of the seniors will regret their decision not to tour Pakistan. The golden rule when you play professional team sport is not to take your place for granted.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa has been a revelation in Lahore. You don’t see many players giving Wahab Riaz the charge. Bhanuka had the courage to do it and helped Sri Lanka pull off a sensational series win. Kudos to selectors for giving him a break.

COMMENTS on Rex’s PIECE, by Editor, Cricketique

A = It is correct to say the side gelled and that the Selectors’ face a headache –a welcome one — in choosing the squad for Australia.

B = New Zealand has tremendous depth and belittling their squad is not a valid line of comment

C = Sri Lanka held their own in the last two matches at Pallekele and lost the second thrilling match because a splendid running catch on the boundary lines became a SIX when two fielders ran into each other. So,to blame Malinga is unfair … the more so in the light of his brilliant bowling during the series.

D = One of the disappointments during the Pallekele series was Dasun Shanaka — not only in his batting but because his ground fielding failures twice allowed the Kiwis an extra run — two runs that counted for much in a tight game. [and let me note that i am partial to Shanaka becasue of his demeanour and his cricketing skills].

General: Though I cannot recall every one of the precise moments, some catching failures resulted from the incorrect position of an outfielder haring away for a potential diving catch. The body must be at a 60-45 degree angle as one runs sideways or back [for a skier behind one’s position). I speak from foundations laid by catches that i have taken in my cricket-playing days for St. Aloysius, for Peradeniya University, Merton College, Chicago University and Flinders University. One of my best catches ever was running back from leg-slip when one of the Vithana bothers skied Senaka Chickera towards fine-leg and I beat Anton Rambukpota to the falling ball and dived for the catch..

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Filed under close finsihes, memorable moments, performance, player selections, Sri Lanka Cricket, T20 Cricket

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