What you missed this weekend: 6/21-6/23

Another week in this summer has flown by really quickly and with that, another weekend! Although domestically, there wasn’t much action on the field, the NBA and NHL leagues had their drafts for the next season. The MLB, a summer tradition, of course still continues and the US is currently involved in the Women’s FIFA World Cup and the Gold Cup. Speaking of the Americas, the group stages of the Copa America have nearly been concluded and some teams are either making their exits or pushing for a Semi-final spot in the Cricket World Cup as well. Let’s start off with some historic draft picks, first with the NBA.

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IMG_4921 by Dinur is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

NBA Draft

Bol drafted surprisingly low:

Oregon player Bol Bol was expected to be one of the top picks but didn’t get drafted until Miami Heat picked him up as the 44th overall. Concerns about his injuries were likely the key reason. He did miss the rest of the last season after November following an ankle injury, but Bol himself says, “My foot is 100 percent healed.” Following the pick, Bol was traded to the Denver Nuggets, who have a different approach, a more positive one, to the Bol situation. Tim Connelly, the President of Basketball Operations at the Denver Nuggets said, “It’s hard not to be excited,” when referring to Bol.

Timberwolves exchange Saric for number six pick:

The Minnesota Timberwolves exchanged their no. 11 pick and Dario Saric for a number six pick from the Phoenix Suns. The Minnesota President Gersson Rosas was working for some time to move the Timberwolves’ pick up higher and settled for sixth. If the Suns chose to keep Saric, he would be a good pick after he averaged 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds last season.

Hachimura becomes the first Japanese player drafted in the first round:

Only two Japanese players have ever been drafted before in NBA history, and Rui Hachimura became the first one to be drafted in the first round. The Washington Wizards drafted Hachimura as their ninth overall pick, citing his flexibility to play multiple positions and his key role in the Japanese national team, heading into the Olympics. Being a junior at Gonzaga, he averaged 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

NHL Draft

Record eight US players picked in the first round:

Starting with Jack Hughes to the New Jersey Devils, eight players in total from the US under-18 national team were selected in the first round. The previous record was four in 2000, 19 years ago. Typically, the draft is dominated by European players. Here is a list of the American players drafted and by which team:

  • Jack Hughes to New Jersey Devils, no. 1
  • Alex Turcotte to Los Angeles Kings, no. 5
  • Trevor Zegras to Anaheim Ducks, no. 9
  • Matthew Boldy to Minnesota Wild, no. 12
  • Spencer Knight to Florida Panthers, no. 13
  • Cam York to Philadelphia Flyers, no. 14
  • Caul Caufield to Montreal Canadiens, no. 15
  • John Beecher to Boston Bruins, no. 30

MLB

A warm welcome home for Pujols:

Although Albert Pujols’ current team, the Los Angeles Angels lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 2-4 on Saturday, the moment of the match came for the Angels when Pujols homered in the seventh innings in front of his former home crowd. The sold-out St. Louis crowd greeted Pujols with loud cheers and salutes, to which Pujols responded by returning from the dugout and tipping his hat.

FIFA Women’s World Cup

Germany crushes Nigeria 3-0 in Round of 16:

Both Germany and the US are currently undefeated and both Germany and the US are yet to concede a goal in the entire tournament! Alexandra Popp scored the opener in her 100th appearance for the country with a header in the 20th minute. Seven minutes later, Sara Daebritz netted in a penalty for the Germans. Both goals were given with the assistance of VAR, to the dismay of Nigeria. The third goal didn’t come until the 86th minute after Lea Schüller scored.

Norway sends Australia home after penalties:

After the game ended 1-1 at the end of the two-hour mark, Norway beat Australia on penalties 4-1. Before penalties, Australia fell a player short after Alanna Kennedy was sent off. Both sides did have plenty of chances missed though as Norway had 11 shots off target out of their 24, and Australia, despite having six percent more possession, registered only 8 shots, four on target.

England too good for Cameroon:

Just like Germany, England beat their Round of 16 opponents, Cameroon, 3-0. England’s first goal, which came in the 14th minute, was a rarity, coming from an indirect free kick (a free kick inside the keeper’s box in which defenders can defend the goal) after the Cameroon goalkeeper, Annette Ngo Ndom, picked up the ball after it hit her own teammate last. The Cameroon players ran into some trouble with VAR after Ajara Nchout’s goal was deemed offside and the players clearly objected in the dying minutes of the first half. Alex Greenwood got the third goal in for England at the 57th minute after receiving a pass from a corner kick and netting it in the low right corner.

France survives Brazil scare:

France played an intense game at home against Brazil where the game had ended 1-1 at the end of the 90th minute. Valérie Gauvin opened the scoring for the French in the 52nd minute before Thaisa scored an absolute beauty in the 63rd minute for Brazil. Thaisa’s goal was originally called offside but was overturned after a VAR review. The moment of the game came in the 106th minute when Amandine Henry scored in the bottom left corner after receiving a long free kick and France beat Brazil 2-1.

Copa América

Machís, Martínez send Venezuela through to Quarter-finals:

After struggling to find some goals in their opening two matches, Venezuela beat Bolivia 3-1 to advance to the Quarter-finals and finish second in their group. In the first few minutes, one could tell it was all over for Bolivia as Machís ran easily through the defense to meet a cross with his head in the second minute, which found the back of the net due to poor goalkeeping. Atlanta United’s Josef Martínez ended up scoring a header too in the 86th minute, right after Leonel Justiniano was able to pull one back for the Bolivians four minutes earlier.

Peru qualifies for knockout rounds despite Brazil thrashing:

In the final game of Group A, Brazil beat Peru 5-0, but Peru’s four points were enough to get them past the group stage. All five goalscorers for Brazil were different with Casemiro, Roberto Firmino with a no-look goal and Everton scoring in the first half, before Dani Alves netted and Willian scored in the last minute. Brazil finished first in the group with seven points.

Argentina beats Qatar to qualify for Quarter-finals:

Argentina needed to win to survive in this Copa América and they did just that. Lautaro Martínez scored in the fourth minute and Sergio Aguero made it 2-0 in the 86th. Argentina finished second in their group, leaving Paraguay in third at Qatar packing their bags at fourth.

Cricket World Cup:

England no longer favorites:

It seems that England has lost their title of favorites once Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunuratne handed the ball to veteran Lasith Malinga. On a slow Leeds pitch, Sri Lanka scored 232-9 after Angelo Matthews stepped up with his 85(115)*, and was hoping that would be enough to bowl England out. Surely enough, it was. Not only did Malinga pick up four wickets, but he also picked up the most crucial of them, getting both of the English openers along with Joe Root and Jos Buttler out. Spinner Dhananjaya de Silva helped clean up the lower order, grabbing the wickets of Moeen Ali, who miscued a shot to Isuru Udana at long mid-on, and having both Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid caught behind. Ben Stokes played a heroic effort, scoring 82*, but the game ended when Mark Wood edged Nuwan Pradeep behind on duck at the end of the 47th over. England is still in the top four, but they play Australia, India and New Zealand next while Sri Lanka’s semi-final hopes are still alive.

Afghanistan nearly causes World Cup’s greatest upset:

Six days after India beat Pakistan by 89 runs, one wouldn’t think Afghanistan would be too big of a problem for Virat Kohli’s India either. But Afghanistan’s spinners Mujeeb Ur-Rehman and Rashid Khan attacked the Indian batting extremely well, leaving them desperate at 224-8. Rohit Sharma, six days prior, scored 140 but was dismissed for just one after being bowled by Ur-Rehman. Kedhar Jadhav also played a handy 52 off 68, but India would’ve thought they fell short on runs. Man of the Match Mohammad Shami got the crucial wicket of Afghanistan opener Hazratullah Zazai, but Rahmat Shah and Mohammad Nabi held their ground, frustrating the Indian bowlers. After an over of six yorkers by Jasprit Bumrah, Afghanistan needed 12 from the last over but Shami completed a World Cup hattrick, taking the wickets of Nabi, who was caught by Pandya at long mid-on, and bowling both Aftab Alam and Ur-Rehman.

Brathwaite can make history but not re-create it:

Three years after Carlos Brathwaite hit four sixes against Stokes in the final over in Kolkata, Brathwaite was bound to do something similar against New Zealand in Manchester. The match started off West Indies’ way when Sheldon Cottrell found two wickets in the first over, trapping Martin Guptill LBW first ball and bowling Colin Munro. A 160-run partnership between New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor made things right before Taylor departed for 69 off of Chris Gayle’s bowling and Cottrell added a third wicket in Williamson being caught behind.

Gayle was brilliant in the next innings, scoring 87(84), but the Kiwis did pick two early wickets in Shai Hope and Nicholas Pooran. Trent Boult was brilliant for New Zealand, registering four wickets and three runs per over and securing a very important catch later on. After Gayle was dismissed in the 24th over, a middle-order collapse left West Indies’ fans worrying as West Indies were at 245-9 at the 45th over, Brathwaite on 60* at the time. With just one wicket left, Brathwaite hit five sixes to get him to his maiden One-Day International century and with just six runs needed to win from seven deliveries, Brathwaite went for six again, but Boult was sitting at the mid-wicket boundary, waiting for the catch. Brathwaite was left crying on his knees as New Zealand ended up winning by five runs.

Pakistan comes to light; South Africa in disarray:

Both sides needed a win in order to stay alive in the World Cup, but it looks like South Africa will be the one going home. Pakistan had a perfect start at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London with openers Imam Ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman involved in an 81-run partnership, before both batsmen were dismissed for 44. Babar Azam scored yet another half-century, but the most impressive batsman was Haris Sohail, who came in for Shoaib Malik, scoring 85 off just 59 to take Pakistan to 308-7.

South Africa, who have never chased a target above 300 in a World Cup before, was off to a bad start when Mohammad Amir got Hashim Amla out LBW with his very first delivery. Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis worked to recover with their 87-run partnership before Shadab Khan found the wicket of de Kock, who was caught at fine leg by Ul-Haq. From there, Pakistan continued to take regular wickets as Amir had a total of two and Khan and Wahab Riaz both had three wickets to their name. Andile Phelukwayo’s 46(32)* prevented Pakistan from bowling South Africa out, but Pakistan still won by 49 runs.

 

Cricket World Cup Round Five preview

After a weekend of exciting cricket, let’s change things up. Instead of reviewing what’s already happened, why not look forward and start asking some questions? But if want to catch up on what you may have missed this weekend, don’t worry, RahimAli Merchant and I have that ready for you. 

After Monday’s match between South Africa and the West Indies was abandoned due to rain at The Rose Bowl in Southampton, fans turn their heads towards Bristol, where South Asian sides Bangladesh take on Sri Lanka tomorrow. The following day, Pakistan will be looking to continue their winning form against Australia and on Thursday, first-place New Zealand clash with third-place India. Finally, on Friday, England travels to Southampton to meet the West Indies. 

Teams, of course, will have to change and adapt some of their strategies and also work with some important players being out. It’ll be interesting to see how these teams will face their upcoming challenges in the bid for a semi-finals spot. Also, read to see some predictions for these matches. 

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england v bangladesh, bristol by Synwell is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka @ Bristol on Tuesday, June 11:

Form: Bangladesh could be called favorites to win this match despite losing their last two. Although their batting has shined, it’s been the talented bowling which has failed the Bangladeshis so far. Bangladesh was two wickets short of beating New Zealand after setting the Black Caps a target of just 245 and conceded 386 vs England. But, Bangladesh does have a win against South Africa which will make opponents wary of them.

Sri Lanka has a batting lineup which could easily make Bangladesh suffer. If they work. Captain Dimuth Karunuratne has shown his skill so far in the tournament with a half-century against New Zealand, but Sri Lanka needs others like Angelo Matthews or Thisara Perera to step up and score if Sri Lanka is going to counter a hungry bowling attack like Bangladesh.

Key Players: Going into this match for Bangladesh, although Bangladesh fans will definitely want Shakib Al-Hasan to perform, Bangladesh’s best bowler, Mustafizur Rahman will be important. Bangladesh needs to put pressure on the Sri Lankan batsmen to win and no one better to do that than Rahman.

For Sri Lanka, like I said earlier, Perera needs to get going. When he starts to attack, it’s very difficult, almost impossible, to stop the flow of runs. If Perera can score 40 or more, Sri Lanka can set a target which they should be able to defend.

Question of the match: How many runs can Nuwan Pradeep and Lasith Malinga restrict Bangladesh to?

Prediction:

If Bangladesh bats first: Sri Lanka to win by four wickets

If Sri Lanka bats first: Bangladesh to win by three wickets.

Australia vs Pakistan @ Taunton on Wednesday, June 12:

Form: Although Australia is coming back from a loss against India and Pakistan are entering this match from a win against England, that isn’t the complete picture. Prior to, Australia was on a ten-match winning streak and Pakistan were on a ten-match losing streak. Therefore, both teams have the capability to win or lose.

Key players: Usman Khawaja was on fine form in his tours of the UAE & India, scoring a myriad of tons and half-tons, but since the World Cup started, the short ball has been his biggest fear. Khawaja’s been hit twice in the head from bouncers against the West Indies since the Australian team arrived in the British Isles, and the Pakistanis, especially Wahab Riaz, might know to use the short ball as a tactic against Khawaja. I suppose Australia can bat well overall, even if Khawaja’s poor form continues, but he can win Australia the match early on if he gets going.

For Pakistan, well, we’ve already mentioned his name, Riaz. Although he’s a bit expensive, against England, his fast, pacy, short balls picked up wickets at the right times. He can also bowl a nasty yorker which intimidates his opponents. Oh, and yeah, Riaz has beef with the Aussies going back to the 2015 World Cup after Riaz sledged Shane Watson in the Quarter-Finals.

Question of the match: Can Pakistan’s in-form batting survive Australia’s famed fast bowling?

Prediction:

If Australia bats first: Pakistan to win by five wickets.

If Pakistan bats first: Australia to win by four wickets.

India vs New Zealand @ Trent Bridge, Nottinghamshire on Thursday, June 13:

Form: This will be the biggest match of the week. Both teams have started the World Cup flawless, yet to lose a match. India beat a weakened South Africa, but more importantly, they put 352 past Australia. India’s batting is levels ahead of the other sides at the World Cup. Rohit Sharma stands on a century and a half-century in his two matches while Shikhar Dhawan also has a century to his name. The bowling attack is set up well too with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah trying the batsmen. The spinners know their roles too and take important middle overs wickets.

When it comes to New Zealand, their batting has been solid, though the opening could be of slight concern. However, more impressively is the fast bowling, as pacers took nine of New Zealand’s ten wickets against Afghanistan on Thursday. New Zealand’s fast bowlers will be the key to dismantling India.

Key players: At Trent Bridge, you will want a batsman who can strike the ball at a high strike rate. If there are any players on the Indian side which come into mind, it’s Hardik Pandya. Against Australia, he came in and smacked 48 off 27. Someone like Pandya in the side can give New Zealand a target too high to achieve.

For New Zealand, they will want to continue looking to their fast bowlers. Lockie Ferguson has taken the most wickets for his country so far with eight wickets in just three matches at an astonishing average of just 12.37. The last time these two sides met, in a warm-up match, India were bowled out for just 179, with New Zealand winning by six wickets.

Question of the match: How many wickets will Lockie Ferguson and co. be able to take against India?

Prediction: 

If India bat first: India to win by ten runs.

If New Zealand bats first: New Zealand to win by fifteen runs.

England vs the West Indies @ The Rose Bowl, Southampton on Friday, June 14:

Form: This goes for both teams: optimistic with some hiccups along the way. Both teams started in winning ways with England seeing past South Africa before losing to Pakistan and the West Indies beating Pakistan before losing to Australia (though you could argue poor umpiring costed the Windies the win). England, however, has had a chance to pick their form back up in Cardiff after beating Bangladesh by 106 runs, probably making them favorites in this match.

Key players: As per ex-England spinner Graeme Swann, England’s bowling hasn’t been strong enough. If the wicket is bowler friendly, like how the South Africa vs West Indies match should’ve been, then Chris Woakes will want some wickets, being the leader of the English bowling attack. For the West Indies, this man is on crazy form and this man can win the game for the Windies: Sheldon Cottrell. Against Australia, Cottrell had two wickets and catches each before pocketing two more wickets in the seven overs of play against South Africa.

Question of the match: Can the West Indies’ short bowling prevent England from crossing the 300-mark?

Prediction: 

If England bats first: England to win by 25 runs.

If the West Indies bats first: West Indies to win by 15 runs.

 

Cricket World Cup Round two recap

As if Round One had produced interesting results, Round Two has truly made this World Cup competitive. A depleted South Africa returned to The Oval in London to fall to ‘underdogs’ Bangladesh, Pakistan turned the tables around against favorites England and Sri Lanka won a wicket-fest against Afghanistan. Bangladesh can owe their victory to the performances to the likes of their middle order batting but their bowling also became crucial. Pakistan batted superbly yet their death bowling was a new face to the side. Finally, it’s hard to pick which bowler was the best on Eid’s Afghanistan-Sri Lanka encounter. Let’s see which players were winners and who were losers from Round Two’s matches. Also, stick to the end for my Australia-West Indies and Pakistan-Sri Lanka predictions.

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Bangladesh vs South Africa in HDR by rushdi13 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

South Africa vs Bangladesh

Winners: Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al-Hasan

When Bangladesh beat New Zealand in the 2017 Champions Trophy, there were to names to thank: Mahmadullah and Shakib Al-Hasan’s 224-run partnership. Two years later in England, Al-Hasan participated in another match-winning partnership, this time alongside Mushfiqur Rahim. Both players achieved half-centuries in their 142-run partnership with Al-Hasan’s half-century being his fourth within five matches.

 Winner: Mahmadullah

Mahmadullah was still able to add runs with the bat as Bangladesh achieved their highest ever One Day International (ODI) total of 330. By the end of the 50 overs, Madmadullah was on 46(33)*, being a no. nine batsman. His innings was composed of three fours and a six.

Winner: Mustafizur Rahman

Of course against a loaded batting lineup like that of South Africa’s, Bangladesh had to bowl well, and they did. Though all the bowlers bowled well for Bangladesh, the pick of the bowlers had to be Mustafizur Rahman, who picked up three wickets for 67. He first removed David Miller, being caught by Mehidy Hasan on 38, then bowled JP Duminy out for 45. His final wicket was that of Chris Morris’ who had scored just ten.

 

England vs Pakistan

Winner: Mohammad Hafeez

It was a shame that veteran Mohammad Hafeez couldn’t reach his century, but his 84(62) earned him Man of the Match. Hafeez proved he can be an attacking batsman which Pakistan needs at times with his eight fours and two sixes. His innings helped Pakistan to a daunting total of 348-8 at Trent Bridge in Nottinghamshire.

Winner: Chris Woakes

Just as how Chris Woakes bowled excellently throughout the ODI series against Pakistan prior to the World Cup, Woakes again came in handy for England with his three wickets, removing the Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik and Wahab Riaz, along with securing four catches. Yes, he was a bit expensive, going for 81 runs, but come on, it’s Trent Bridge. Woakes also managed an impressive maiden in Pakistan’s innings.

Winner: Moeen Ali

While Moeen Ali has been struggling with the bat, it’s his skills with the ball that’s been keeping him in the side. England utilized spin well on a flat Trent Bridge surface as Ali picked up three wickets. And three very crucial ones they were: Imam Ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam.

Loser: Jofra Archer

Jofra Archer and his quick short balls were probably the highest of Pakistan’s worries coming into this match, but Pakistan stood up to Archer and tackled him well. Archer failed to pick up a wicket and went for 79 runs in his ten overs.

Loser: Adil Rashid

Yeah, good thing he only bowled five overs, otherwise, Pakistan’s total would’ve only been even worse for England. Pakistan knew they had to attack spin and who better to do that than the ‘Professor’ Hafeez? He went after one of the world’s best leg-spinner in Adil Rashid and Rashid’s five overs gave away 43 runs.

Winner: Joe Root

Commentator and ex-England cricketer Nasser Hussain labeled Joe Root as “England’s best batsman” and it’s hard to prove him wrong. Root came in after England’s openers fell early and made a statement with his 15th ODI hundred. Root came in when England was 60-2 and departed when England had made it to 248-5. England was at their best when he and Jos Buttler were involved in a 130-run partnership together.

Winner: Jos Buttler

“The game isn’t over until you get Jos Buttler out,” said Hussain on commentary. And that turned out to be exactly true. Everything was in England’s favor until Mohammad Amir dismissed Buttler the ball after he made his century. But until Buttler returned to the pavilion, Buttler was going at a strike rate of 135.53, scoring 103 off 76. In that short time frame, Buttler put nine fours and two sixes past Pakistan.

“The game isn’t over until you get Jos Buttler out.” 

-Nasser Hussain

Winner: Wahab Riaz

Not only has Riaz performed well, cementing his place in the Pakistan team, but he was also the best of Pakistan’s bowlers on Monday. Riaz bowled well in both the opening ten overs and in the death when it really mattered. In this ninth over, Riaz dismissed Jonny Bairstow for 32(31) and then got Ali and Woakes back-to-back in the 48th over.

 

Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan

Winner: Mohammed Nabi

Honestly, this match had Sri Lanka written all over it until Mohammed Nabi came on to bowl. His off-spinning tactics battered Sri Lanka as he took three wickets, all within one over. Earlier, Nabi had already removed the captain, Dimuth Karunuratne, but then ripped through Lahiru Thrimanne 25(34), Kusal Mendis 2(2) and Angelo Matthews 0(2).

Winner: Nuwan Pradeep

In the last few years, Nuwan Pradeep has established himself as the leader of the Sri Lankan bowling attack, being a regular wicket-taker. His four wickets against Afghanistan was what prevented Sri Lanka from losing their second match. Pradeep’s 3.44 economy was also just as impressive as his wickets’ tally.

Winner: Lasith Malinga

Fun fact: before this match against the Afghanis, in the last 22 matches for Sri Lanka in which Lasith Malinga has played, 21 of them have been lost. But Malinga proved that he can still bowl a bloody good yorker. He picked up three wickets for 39 runs, with the last two being yorker lengths. The final wicket of Hamid Hassan was the nail in the coffin for Afghanistan.

 

Stay tuned for our Round Three recap this weekend! Along with India opening up against South Africa and Bangladesh fighting New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka both face each other in good form and West Indies will look to tackle Australia head-on.

 

Round Three predictions:

Australia vs West Indies @ Trent Bridge in Nottinghamshire on Thursday, June 6:

If Australia bats first: West Indies to win by four wickets.

If West Indies bats first: Australia to win by five wickets.

 

Pakistan vs Sri Lanka @ Bristol on Friday, June 7:

If Pakistan bats first: Pakistan to win by 35 runs,

If Sri Lanka bats first: Pakistan to win by two wickets.

 

Cricket World Cup Round One Recap

The first four matches of the Cricket World Cup happened across three days and fans were treated to some interesting matches. On Thursday, England wiped out South Africa by beating them by 103 runs. The following day was a shocker. Pakistan slumped from 74-4 to 105 all out against the West Indies’ short deliveries and the Windies won comfortably, losing three wickets to fast-bowler Mohammad Amir. Two matches followed on Saturday, both being rather one-sided. New Zealand beat Sri Lanka by ten wickets after bowling the Sri Lankans out for just 136 and Australia lost only three wickets in their pursuit of Afghanistan’s 207. There were some stand-out performances from each side, swaying the results. Let’s take a look at which players performed the best throughout the weekend.

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P1074661 by Anthony Hawkins is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

England vs South Africa

Winner: Ben Stokes

When Andile Phelukwayo lofted the ball to deep square leg, it seemed like no fielder was present as South Africa would’ve been rewarded a six, but out of nowhere came Ben Stokes who jumps backward and grabs the ball with just one hand. “OH, YOU CAN’T DO THAT! YOU JUST CANNOT DO THAT BEN STOKES! THAT MAY BE ONE OF THE BEST CATCHES IN THE HISTORY OF THE GAME!” said Nasser Hussain on commentary at the moment of the catch.

Along with that catch, what awarded Stokes Man of the Match was his total two catches, bowling figures of 2-12 and his innings of 89(79). All that in just one match? I know. Unreal.

Winner: Jofra Archer

Even though South Africa’s batting should’ve been capable of chasing down England’s 311-8, England can thank Jofra Archer that they didn’t. Playing his fourth ODI for England, Archer seems to have a liking of The Oval in London as he performed well twice there. In the World Cup’s opening match, Archer picked up the wickets of Aiden Markram, captain Faf du Plessis and half-centurion Rassie van de Dussen, while only giving away 27 runs in his seven overs.

Loser: Jonny Bairstow

Imagine. The first over of the World Cup, nerves are running rampant. You’re at the non-striker’s end and off of the first delivery, your partner plays the ball for a single and you have to face the second ball of the tournament. And you edge it, the keeper catches it. Well, your stay at the crease was rather short. Poor Jonny Bairstow edged Imran Tahir for a golden duck and had to depart on the second ball of the World Cup.

West Indies vs Pakistan

Winner: Oshane Thomas

Once West Indies fast-bowler Oshane Thomas learned that Andre Russell’s short ball was the way to attack Pakistan, he did just that. Thomas stepped up to the crease and rather being fearless, he planted fear in the eyes of the Pakistanis. His four wickets for 27 runs in 5.4 overs skittled Pakistan for 105, handing the West Indies the match.

Winner: Mohammad Amir

Pakistan literally had only one positive to take from this match: the return of Mohammad Amir. Since the Champions Trophy final vs India in 2017, Amir had taken just two wickets in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) before the encounter against the West Indies. However, he came back to pick up Pakistan’s three only wickets, that of Chris Gayle, Shai Hope and Darren Bravo.

New Zealand vs Sri Lanka

Winner: Dimuth Karunuratne

I’m sorry to say but very few would’ve expected Sri Lanka to do good. And they didn’t. But despite being bowled out for just 136, Sri Lanka’s only shining light was Dimuth Karunuratne, who scored 52(84)* on his captaincy debut.

Winners: Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson

Eight of Sri Lanka’s ten wickets fell to pace bowling with Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson collecting six of those wickets. Both picked up three with Henry bowling with an economy of 4.14 and Ferguson bowling impressively, giving away just 3.47 runs per over.

Australia vs Afghanistan

Loser: Mohammad Shahzad

Wicket-keeper and opening batsman Mohammad Shahzad was on fine form last year, especially in the Asia Cup. But since arriving in England, Afghanistan has failed to find stability up top through Shahzad. In their opening match of the World Cup against Australia, Shahzad was dismissed in the first over for duck after being bowled by none other than Mitchell Starc.

Winner: Rahmat Shah

When Afghanistan was 5-2 and the new batsmen were struggling to adapt to Australia’s bounce, Rahmat Shah stayed at the crease and fought a defensive battle. His fearless batting in the face of the short balls took Shah to 43(60), composed of six fours.

Winner: David Warner

Since David Warner and Steve Smith returned from being banned to the Australian sides, while Smith has hit several half-centuries, appearing as if he never left the side, Warner has struggled to score well. But that changed against Afghanistan as Warner led the Aussies to a winning start by his well-played 89(114)*.

 

In Round Two’s recap, which will come out in the following days, we’ll see how Bangladesh faired in their opener against South Africa, if Pakistan can turn things around against England and if Sri Lanka can find victory at last against Afghanistan. Meanwhile, here are my predictions for the latter two: England vs Pakistan and Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan:

England vs Pakistan

If England bats first: England to win by 110 runs.

If Pakistan bats first: England to win by six wickets.

Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan

If Sri Lanka bats first: Sri Lanka to win by 20 runs.

If Afghanistan bats first: Sri Lanka to win by two wickets.

Cricket World Cup preview part three: West Indies, Sri Lanka and India

Just one day left before the biggest cricketing festival of the year starts and one more preview to do! The World Cup kicks off tomorrow with England opening up against South Africa and you can check out our preview of those two teams along with Australia here. West Indies will play Pakistan first on Friday, May 31 in Nottinghamshire, Sri Lanka will have to face New Zealand the following day in Cardiff and India are pitted against South Africa in Southampton on Wednesday, June 5. You can check out yesterday’s preview of Pakistan and New Zealand along with Afghanistan and Bangladesh here. Also, at the end of this article, I’ll reveal my predictions for Round One’s games. 

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P1074751 by Anthony Hawkins is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

West Indies

Last World Cup: After their group stage was a roller-coaster ride, West Indies were thrashed by New Zealand in the quarter-finals, who scored 393-6, beating the Windies by 143 runs thanks to Martin Guptill’s 237(163)*. In the group stages, they lost to Ireland and India by four wickets, to South Africa by 257 runs, who scored 408-5 against them. However, there were some positives. The Windies dismantled Pakistan, beating them by 150 runs. At one point in that match, Pakistan went from 1-4 to 25-5 and Jerome Taylor bowled 3-15 in his seven overs. The West Indies also beat Zimbabwe by 73 runs with Chris Gayle scoring 215(147) in the Windies’ 372-2.

World Cup best: No matter how good this West Indian side can be, none will ever come close to that of the ’70s. In 1975 and 1979, Clive Lloyd lifted the World Cup trophy twice, both in England.

Strong point: After seeing the West Indies put 421 past New Zealand in a warm-up game, it’s clearly the batting. This time around, West Indies have a confident batting lineup with Chris Gayle, Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer. In his last eight innings, Hope has scored three centuries and two half-centuries, providing the Windies security in the middle.

Weak point: Although the pace bowling can be expensive at times, they are usually reliable. But as of late, the lack of a match-winning spinner may cost the West Indies. Without Sunil Narine in the side and Davendra Bishoo struggling to find form, captain Jason Holder will have to place faith in off-spinner Ashley Nurse.

Player to watch: Hope. His scores speak for themselves and his One-Day International (ODI) average of 51 is on par with the likes of Virat Kohli and Babar Azam.

Prediction: Their batting will win them some matches, their bowling will lose them some. They can beat any opponent on their day, but being dark horses, a guess in the ballpark would be a ninth-placed finish for me.

 

Sri Lanka

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Mahela Fielding by Kesara Rathnayake is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Last World Cup: It was the last World Cup of famed Sri Lankan duo Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena but they didn’t make it any further than Pakistan or the West Indies, losing to South Africa in the quarter-finals. Sri Lanka beat South Asian rivals Afghanistan and Bangladesh in the group stages, but their most impressive win was against England, in which they chased 310 with just losing one wicket.

World Cup best: The sight of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto handing the World Cup trophy to Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya in Lahore in 1996 will remain evergreen for cricketing fans. It was their first World Cup and they went on to beat Australia in the finals. Since ’96, Sri Lanka came close by placing runners-up in 2011 in India.

Strong point: Even though they have struggled to perform as of late, Sri Lanka is known to be a good batting side. The experience in the Sri Lankan team resides with the batting in names such as Angelo Matthews or Thisara Perera. In 2017, they successfully beat India in the Champions Trophy in 2017 after chasing down 322 after losing just three wickets.

Weak point: Oof…where do I start? Lasith Malinga’s getting old and the other fast bowlers are rather inexperienced. The spinners are unconfident. But the worst part of it all is the fielding. Sri Lankan fielding in recent times can feel like a joke. You can expect to place a bet on Sri Lanka dropping some crucial catches in the coming weeks.

Player to watch: The captain, Dimuth Karunuratne. Forget about his limited captaining experience, he’s only played 18 ODIs for Sri Lanka and has been made captain. His average is only 20.53 and in 18 innings, he’s only found two 50+ scores. Karunaratne is going to have to step up to the occasion and provide Sri Lanka a way to win, especially after his side lost both of their warm-up matches to South Africa and Australia.

Prediction: Even Afghanistan is capable of defeating this depleted Sri Lankan side. They’re going to need a miracle to win even a single match. The competition’s on a whole other level. It looks like Sri Lanka might end up having to settle for tenth place.

 

India

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Dharma Chandru Cric Ph (6) by Chubby Chandru is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Last World Cup: Although India played some good cricket in 2015, Australia, who went on to be champions, proved to be too strong for them as India were knocked out in the Semi-finals.

World Cup best: Not sure which side would be scarier to face: Kapil Dev’s India which won the World Cup in 1983 or MS Dhoni’s India which won in 2011.

Strong point: Unlike Sri Lanka, where it was difficult to pinpoint which problem was the worst, with India, it’s hard to pinpoint which part of the team is the best. But I’m going to go with what will win India the World Cup if they do: spin. Indian spinners are thriving and now captain Kohli has to choose between three successful spinners to play: Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav or Kedar Jadhav.

Weak point: Although the middle order’s been a worry for some time, India’s openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan struggled to perform in India’s warm-up games against New Zealand and Bangladesh. India has cover in the middle order now after KL Rahul’s century against Bangladesh at Cardiff, along with Kohli, Dhoni, Hardik Pandya and Jadeja.

Player to watch: Yadav. He’s young, he’s hungry and he’s a wicket-taker. His 87 wickets at an average of just 21.74 in ODIs is exciting to see and he will definitely cause India’s opponents trouble.

Prediction: This India side is good enough to win the World Cup, but I think they’ll finish second, losing to hosts England in the Finals.

 

All ten teams are ready to start their World Cup campaigns, starting tomorrow, May 30 at The Oval  in London. India get a bit of a break as their next match is still a week away, but the rest of the other teams have matches within this upcoming week. This World Cup will be one of the most competitive in history as anyone has a fair shot at winning. Hopefully, that competitiveness will translate into matches and fans will be surely entertained.

 

Round one predictions:

England vs South Africa @ The Oval, London on Thursday, May 30:

If England bats first: England to win by 30 runs.

If South Africa bats first: England to win by six wickets.

 

Pakistan vs the West Indies @ Trent Bridge, Nottinghamshire on Friday, May 31:

If Pakistan bats first: Pakistan to win by 45 runs.

If the West Indies bats first: West Indies to win by 55 runs.

 

New Zealand vs Sri Lanka @ Sophia Gardens, Cardiff on Saturday, June 1:

If New Zealand bats first: New Zealand to win by 80 runs.

If Sri Lanka bats first: New Zealand to win by four wickets.

 

Afghanistan vs Australia @ The Ageas Bowl, Bristol on Saturday, June 1:

If Afghanistan bats first: Australia to win by seven wickets.

If Australia bats first: Australia to win by 25 runs.

 

End of the term test cricket report cards

What a year of cricket it’s been, across all the formats, but especially test cricket! From the Ashes to India’s tight tour of England to all the Boxing Day action, this year witnessed some great test matches, before the ODI World Cup steals the show next year. Australia won the Ashes, Afghanistan and Ireland made their test debuts and India tops the rankings heading into 2019. I thought about what would happen if I were to review seven of the now twelve test teams as if I were a teacher, handing out grades on a report card. Well, without further ado, here we go, starting with the hosts, England.

Trent Bridge Test Match: out for 97” by John Sutton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

England

Grade: B+

Bright spots: England’s not usually known for their spin department, as the country’s pitches usually produce pacers, but this year, England knew spin was the key to success. At home, a surprise inclusion of leg-spinner Adil Rashid ended up being the decisive factor as England beat red-hot India 4-1! Away in Sri Lanka, England whitewashed the host thanks to the spin trio of Rashid, Moeen Ali and Jack Leach. England ended the year on a high note in Sri Lanka and will likely work on spin heading into their next tests against the West Indies.

Areas to improve: Now without Sir Alastair Cook at the top, England are working on a more stable opening pair. Against Sri Lanka, England tried Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings together, both finding success in high scores individually, but rather failing to put up a key large partnership. England’s performances against Sri Lanka and India place them high on the grading scale, but a 4-0 loss to Australia in the Ashes is hard to forget!

 

2018.01.05.17.43.25-Usman Khawaja & Steve Smith” by www.davidmolloyphotography.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Australia

Grade: C

Bright spots: At home, Australia has played some really excellent cricket. They’ve played two series at home this year, the first being a powerful 4-0 Ashes win against England, and the second ongoing against India, which they are losing 1-2. In both of these series, their wins have come from when the Aussies have batted well. In this year, Australia has found two starts: Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon. Cummins has taken 44 wickets in 16 innings, while Lyon continues to be the best of modern spinners with 335 career wickets to his name. However, despite his wickets, Cummins will be best remembered for the 63(114) he put up in the Boxing Day test against India.

Areas to improve: Although Australia can win when they bat well, their batting overall this year has been atrocious. The bans of captain Steve Smith, vice-captain and opener David Warner and opener Cameron Bancroft hit Australia hard. Having to already immediately replace the opening pair, the middle order rarely did their job of anchoring, resulting in series losses in South Africa and Pakistan.

 

New Zealand

Grade: A

Bright spots: New Zealand played a rather low number of tests this year, but they sure made the most of them. The Kiwis won all three of the test series they played in, two at home against England and Sri Lanka and one away against Pakistan, in which New Zealand got their first ever series win in the United Arab Emirates. The reason behind this success, in my opinion, goes to the smart batting. Ross Taylor and captain Kane Williamson were the key players, with others like Henry Nicholls pitching in. This year, the New Zealanders put up massive totals such as 427-8d against England and 585-4 against Sri Lanka.

Areas to improve: The bowling’s done their job as well, with Trent Boult being the pick of the pacers and Ajaz Patel becoming useful with his spin. Perhaps New Zealand will want to take their pace a step further, as Neil Wagner has not been the best partner of Boult, only collecting three wickets against Pakistan compared to Boult’s seven. Will Somerville looks like a good partner for Boult after he took four wickets in his first innings in the third test against Pakistan.

 

Pakistan

Grade: F

Bright spots: As usual, the fast bowling. When Mohammad Amir seemed to go out of form, right-arm bowler Mohammad Abbas stole the show. The 28-year old, in just 12 tests, has taken 61 wickets at an average of just 17! It’s even been known that in London, Abbas asked England’s top wicket-taker, James Anderson, how to improve his bowling, and Anderson simply responded with praise after his 8-64 at Lord’s in Pakistan’s first test against England.

Areas to improve: Somehow, Pakistan failed to win all their series except one, which was a one-off test against debutants Ireland. The amount of batting collapses feels unfortunately infinite, with the fourth innings being especially atrocious. Although the middle order can usually do their job in the first innings, the second innings is dismal, as seen in Pakistan’s losses to New Zealand, South Africa and England. In the first test against New Zealand, Pakistan went from 130-3 to 171 all out, falling short by four runs. Such poor batting is nearly unheard of in international cricket, and one name sticks out: captain/wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed, who scored a total of just 337 runs at an average of 24. If Pakistan doesn’t fix their middle order soon, Pakistan may lose Ahmed from the team as well.

 

Virat Kohli” by Dun.can is licensed under CC BY 2.0

India

Grade: B-

Bright spots: India’s a bit of an interesting one. They’ve played some really good cricket this year, which has led them to the top of the ICC Rankings. The fast bowling has impressed on the test level, the spin’s been good and the batting has been clearly majestic. King Kohli continues to rack up centuries, but the batsmen with the breakthrough year, in my opinion, has to be Cheteshwar Pujara. This year, he’s had three half-centuries and three centuries, including his 132(355)* against England at Southampton. What’s more impressive about Pujara, is his ability to bat patiently with a lack of impulsiveness, which is exactly what a successful batsman needs in modern test cricket.

Areas to improve: Surprisingly, India tends to fall short sometimes. Despite putting up good performances, they did struggle to get the job done and fell to England 4-1. In that series, both sides had the batsmen, both sides had the pacers. But England’s spin was more dominant than that of India’s. Don’t get me wrong. India has quality spinners in the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, with Kuldeep Yadav around the corner, but India will need to turn them into wicket-taking options to pose threats across matches rather than in just a match.

 

Sri Lanka

Grade: C

Bright spots: Sri Lanka has had the most amount of test cricket on their plates, which gave them a fair share of both wins and losses. Their wins were quite impressive: a series drawn away in the West Indies, a series win away in Bangladesh and a series win at home against South Africa. In all three, spin was the key. As Rangana Herath’s retirement loomed, Dilruwan Perera stepped up with his half-century of wickets this year.

Areas to improve: The fast bowling is weak and they’re suffering from just two pacers in New Zealand right now. We already know Sri Lankans know how to spin, but spin alone cannot win matches. Despite the series wins, Sri Lanka has suffered heavy defeats against New Zealand and England.

 

South Africa

Grade: B-

Bright spots: South Africa’s fast bowlers are stepping up. In this last test against Pakistan, Deyl Steyn became South Africa’s top wicket-taker with 422 test wickets as his partner Kasigo Rabado collected six. South Africa also has a third excellent pace bowler in Dan Olivier they can use, who took a surprising eleven wickets against Pakistan.

Areas to improve: Although normally a good batsman and on his way to legendary status, opener Hashim Amla didn’t have the best of years, though he did show signs of patching his form against Pakistan. It’s very unlikely to see him not in the test side in 2019, but it would be a major help to South Africa if he can work on his consistency and not be dismissed early.

What you may have missed this weekend: Cricket & Soccer

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IMG_2706” by Robert Drummond is licensed under CC0 1.0

Cricket

Australia Win Fourth Women’s World T20:

The Australian Women’s Cricket Team continued their display of domination against rivals England in the finals of the Women’s World T20 on Saturday night in the West Indies. After England beat a Mithali Raj-less India by a stunning eight wickets, the English found themselves on the receiving end in the finals, losing to Australia by eight wickets. In what became a massive failure of events for England, Danielle Wyatt and Captain Heather Knight became the backbones with scores of 43(37) and 25(28) each, but as everyone else failed to score more than six, England were forced to deal with a mere score of 105. England’s usual majestic bowling became heartless at the hands of the Australian batting attack, as Australia raced to 106 from just 15.1 overs, handing the trophy to the dominant Australians.

Virat Kohli’s 61* Prevents Series Loss in Australia:

While the Australian Women’s Team found star-studded luck in the West Indies, the men’s team weren’t so lucky in their T20 against India back home in Sydney. Despite valiant efforts D’arcy Short, Captain Aaron Finch, Alex Carey and Marcus Stoinis in the first innings, spinners Kuldeep Yadav’s 1-19 at an economy rate of 4.75 and Krunal Pandya’s 4-36 at 9 runs per over restricted the Aussies to just 164-6. However, the chase wasn’t all too easy for the Indians, who took till the final over in order to complete their chase, thanks to economical bowling from returning veteran Mitchell Starc, leg-spinner Adam Zampa, Glenn Maxwell and Andrew Tye, all of whom each picked up a wicket. Despite this, the star for India this time around was Captain Virat Kohli, who scored 61(41)*, involving four fours and two sixes as India won the third T20I and tied the three-match series 1-1.

Adil Rashid on the Brink of Delivering England Series Win:

England has usually struggled away from home, but this time around, in Sri Lanka, they have turned their weakness into their strength. After a Jonny Bairstow century on return and a sublime half-century from Ben Stokes, Sri Lanka fell short by 96 in response to England’s 336. In Sri Lanka’s response of 240, leg-spinner Adil Rashid picked up a career-best of five wickets for forty-nine runs after 13.5 overs, all five of his dismissals being decisive catches, four of which proudly came from opening batsman Keaton Jennings. Looking for a large lead, Jos Buttler contributed with a quickfire 64(79) at a strike-rate of 81.01. After setting the hosts a tough target of 327, Sri Lanka lost four wickets in their opening 17 overs for just 53 runs thanks to Moeen Ali, Jack Leach, and Ben Stokes. Going into Day Four on Monday, Sri Lanka still need another 274 runs with six wickets in hand.

Patient Haris Sohail and Babar Azam’s Maiden Ton Diminishes New Zealand:

On a slow pitch in Dubai, Pakistan, who decided to bat first after winning the toss, diminished the quality of the New Zealand bowling attack within two days, 167 overs. Despite a slow run rate of 2.5, Pakistan fired their way to 418-5d with Azhar Ali finding form in his 81(187) and centuries on Day Two from young batsmen Haris Sohail and Babar Azam. Sohail, who obtained his second test century in the same city as his first, batted for over nine hours, lasting 421 deliveries, batting at a strike rate of 34.91. The only wicket for New Zealand on Day Two was that of Sohail’s after he was caught behind off of Trent Boult’s in-swinger. After this, Babar Azam fought hard for his maiden test century, which was delivered off 215 balls. After seventeen tests, nearly two years, and multiple innings ending in the “nervous nineties”, Azam won a much-deserved century, which was received by the chanting of “Pakistan Zindabad!” (Long live Pakistan!) by the groups of young school students present at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

Pakistan then declared for 418-5 with Azam on 127(263)* and Captain/Wicket-Keeper Sarfaraz Ahmed contributing a handy and quick 30(45)*. Pakistan gave New Zealand nine overs to bat, hoping to pick up a necessary early wicket, but Jeet Raval and Tom Latham held their ground before the umpires stopped play short due to bad light. Going into Day Three on Monday, New Zealand trail by 394 runs with ten wickets at their disposal.

 

Soccer

South America in a Mess Over Copa Libertadores Final:

For the first time in “La historia de la Copa Libertadores” (The history of the Copa Libertadores), arch Argentinian rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate were set to play each other in the finals, but are yet to with the match being postponed twice. The tension between the two teams in this rivalry leads to events which have prevented Boca Juniors from taking the field yet after Boca Juniors players were injured in an attack on the team bus by River Plate fans. The inability of the players to play has to lead to the final being suspended twice now, however it was reported that after the attack, representatives from FIFA (Federación Internacional de Fútbol Asociación) tried “to force” Boca Juniors players to play the match.

Cristiano Ronaldo Sets New Juventus Record:

After shockingly leaving Spanish football monarchs Real Madrid for Italian giants Juventus, Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo has already begun to set records within just months of moving. The world-class player became the quickest ever Juventus players to ten goals in all competitions, performing the feat in just sixteen matches, as he scored in Juventus’ 2-0 win over SPAL.

Thibaut Courtois’ Nightmare in Spain:

After signing a record-breaking deal from Chelsea to Real Madrid, Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has had the worst of starts in La Liga. Following Real Madrid’s unexpected 3-0 loss to Eibar, the Spanish giants sit at a low sixth place in the table, behind Espanyol. Real Madrid has lost five matches so far in La Liga and has conceded nineteen goals compared to twenty scored. Perhaps Real Madrid should try to cash in on the Belgian in January and resort back to keeping Costa Rican Keylor Navas in goal.

Atlanta United Nearly Seal a Spot in MLS Cup Finals:

Although the second leg of the MLS Conference Finals has not been played yet, Atlanta United will go to bed tonight dreaming of playing in the Cup Finals. They managed to astonishingly beat New York Red Bulls 3-0 in Atlanta in the first of two matches, thanks to none other than Josef Martínez, Fabian Escobar and substitute Tito Villalba. The only way Atlanta will not play in that Cup Finals is if New York Red Bulls wins 4-0 in ninety minutes on Thursday or if they win in either extra-time or penalties after winning 3-0 in ninety minutes.

Trying to Understand the Failures of Sri Lankan Cricket

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The Rose Bowl, Southhampton” by Badger Swan is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

By Aman Huda

Four years ago, in 2014, Sri Lanka, arguably the strongest and most dangerous T20 side in the world, beat favorites India in a low scoring final in Dhaka in the 2014 World T20. Two years prior to that, Sri Lanka had already proved their T20 dominance by making the finals of the World T20 in 2012 in their home country. Go back one year, they proved their worth in the one-day format by reaching the semi-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup. Within this time period, Sri Lanka held treasure to two of the greatest batsmen of the modern game, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena. Their bowling line-up was just as skillful with the likes of pacers such as Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulesekara, and test heroes and legendary spinners Murali Muralitharan and Rangana Herath.

However, recently, Sri Lankan cricket has been taken as a joke. Their records in the last few years away from home are filled with batting collapses, grades of poor fielding, and line-ups with rather unskilled bowlers. In the last few years, they’ve failed to make the finals of the Nidhas T20 Trophy at home, lost 2-1 and 3-0 in limited overs series away in India, lost a One-Day series 5-0 and a T20I series 3-0 to Pakistan, lost 3-2 in a One-Day series to Zimbabwe, and the list can continue. Their record in test cricket is actually much better, registering series wins against the likes of Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, South Africa, and Pakistan, and drawing 1-1 away in the West Indies.

So what’s causing this major shift between limited-overs cricket and test cricket for Sri Lanka? Well the first major thing to note is that the Sri Lankan batsmen have relatively stayed the same in all the formats. There’s only a handful of batsmen which only play one of the formats and not all three for Sri Lanka. Therefore, the problem for Sri Lanka is not the skill of the batsmen, but rather their mentalities.

In test cricket, the batsmen have practically unlimited time to learn the bowlers, understand the conditions and the ball movement, find which shots suit them best, and go on to publish larger scores than they would in the limited overs formats.

The problem coming into the shorter format is that the batsmen come under pressure to perform quicker, score runs quicker, thus leading to mistakes and the faster fall of wickets. This can be reflected by the team’s total scores in One-Day cricket, including 244-8 (50 overs) and 193 (34.3 overs) vs South Africa, 157 (32.2 overs) vs Bangladesh, 278 (48.1 overs) vs Zimbabwe, and an average of 176 runs across five matches against Pakistan back in October of 2018.

In home matches, the batting massively improves, but when away, the team cannot always rely on possible excellent bowling to save them, and need to learn to be more confident when playing shots, finding the gaps better, and at least trying to find more singles rather than surviving dot balls.

Speaking of the bowling, unlike the batting lineups, the bowling lineups are actually quite different in the limited overs formats from the test formats. After the likes of Murali Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga have past their primes, the limited-overs sides have been struggling to find experienced bowlers and have had to rely on young and inexperienced bowlers. However, in the test format, seamers like Nuwan Kulesekara and spinners such as Rangana Herath continue to excel in the game. Now once these bowlers pass their prime, it will be interesting to see how Sri Lanka copes with it.

Overall, Sri Lankan players do have the skill to excel, but they have trouble translating it into limited overs cricket. At home, Sri Lanka can dominate in any format, but away, in limited overs cricket, the batsmen feel kind of lost and struggle to find their true game. However, the Sri Lankan cricket board need to continue to work on and improve the youth domestic system, as once the current Sri Lankan players pass their prime, they wouldn’t want to have to field an inexperienced side again.