Royal trounce S. Thomas' to regain Mustangs Trophy
By Marlon Fernandopulle
Royal regained the Mustangs Trophy when they trounced S. Thomas' by 81 runs in a day night game at the R Premadasa Stadium yesterday. Chasing 216 to win S. Thomas' were bundled out for 135 in the 43rd over with their last batsman Colombage not taking the field.

The Thomian reply was no match to the Royal total of 215 for 8 as they struggled to put up a fight. Despite making a head start and being 51 for 1 wickets, the Mount Lavinia team succumbed to some outstanding fielding and tidy bowling by the Royalists. Royal accounted for four run - outs as the Thomians lost their way under lights.

Earlier in the day a sparkling 87 from D.N.Dias helped Royal to hit up a challenging 216 for 8 wickets in 50 overs. Winning the toss and batting first Royal were in a spot after they lost two wickets with only five runs on the board. But a determined 80 run stand for the 3rd wicket between D N Dias (87) and J Jayaweera (40) helped Royal out of the woods. Dias was further associated in a 45-run stand for the fourth wicket with Wijeratne (15) as Royal looked set to put up an imposing total after reaching a formidable 161 for 4 wickets at one stage.

The Royalists capitalised on some sloppy fielding and wayward bowling to accumulate over 90 runs in the last 15 overs to take the Royalist beyond the 200 run mark. However the Thomians came back in the late stage as they picked up wickets at regular intervals and restricted Royal to 216 for 8 wickets in 50 overs. Dias top scored for the Royal with a compact 87 off 124 deliveries which included 8 boundaries. For the Mount Lavinia lads opening bowler Rodrigo was the pick of the bowlers claiming 3 for 38 .

A ray of hope and then disaster
Let us not forget that in the previous seven World Cup tournaments, Sri Lanka bowed out in the preliminary round six times. On the one occasion they reached the semi- finals, they went all the way to lift the cup.

Although the team's performance was not totally convincing and consistent they must be congratulated on reaching the last four. Barring Australia and India to some extent the other top teams have played in fits and starts. South Africa, Pakistan and New Zealand should have figured more prominently. They have individual players and team capability to have performed much better than they did.

Sri Lanka, after a prosperous start of three wins out of three slipped and slided to reach the semi-finals. It could be said that they played to expectations in terms of team results. Their big wins were against New Zealand and West Indies. The rain affected South African game was as good as won. Two defeats were suffered at the hands of the Australians and Indians. They are teams in form and played better on the day. The black mark was the defeat against Kenya. No excuses can be given for that loss. In this the most prized cricket tournament, every game is a must win. The Australians have shown the way.

The first session of Sri Lanka's game against the Aussies saw the advantage see saw with both teams battling to wrest the initiative. There was no doubt that the world's most attacking and destructive opening batting pair were going to fire all cylinders against the quicker bowlers. Sri Lanka should have been brave to gamble by bowling Aravinda de Silva first up. Why wait for five overs when the scoring rate was in excess of seven per over? Pulasthi Guneratne should have been pushed into two and three over spells in the middle of the innings.

Once the initial breakthrough was got and spin started to play its part the scenario changed. Chaminda Vaas was also no second to any other. He displayed that throughout the tournament.

When the issue could have been sealed Sangakkara missed that stump offered by Symonds. No one can imagine whether the Aussies would have crumbled or whether another player would have stood out to be counted. One thing that would have been certain is that it would have decimated the top order batting. It is not easy for lower order batsman to survive and score runs on their own. Given the hand of a top order batsman they can contribute to bring the score to respectability.

That is what happened and it was never an easy target to get to 212. The nature of the pitch made batting difficult both against pace and spin bowling. It was not a pitch worthy of hosting a World Cup semi final. It did not have the reputation of being a pitch suitable of producing enough runs, much required to provide the drama of one day cricket. A poor venue selection by the organizer.

Marvan Atapattu was dismissed by a delivery of utmost pace. A bat not enough to defend such thunderbolts! The rest succumbed to the lack of technique, lack of guts and not clear batting. Eight batsmen were played in the team to counter the lethal Australian bowling. All very impressive on paper, but a failure out in the middle.

Tough as the ask was to get 212 it was one slim opportunity which required a committed batting effort. It was not to be. The team survived to reach this stage on some lone, brave efforts from Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu and Aravinda de Silva. The batsmen failed to deliver. That was the story of Sri Lanka's World Cup mission.

Indian coach to boost tennis
The Sri Lanka Tennis Association (SLTA) has taken a major step to uplift tennis in the outstation. They have hired a top coach from India to take charge of the seven training centres in the provinces. A two contract has been signed between Calcutta based Sayandev Chakravartchy and the SLTA and he is due to assume duties on the first week of May.

Coach Sayandev's appointment was on the recommendation of former Indian star player Suresh Menon who is also the ITF Development Officer in the Asian region. Thirty four year old Sayandev is a product of of the renowned Jaidip Mukerjee Coaching Centre in Calcutta. Jaidip has an outstanding career behind him being a former Davis Cup player and a former Indian captain and a semi finalist at the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

Sayandev is a Level 2 ITF coach and a Level 1 ITF tutor who is an expert and a specialist in the development of rural talent which is not the same as training players in the city. The new coach in assuming duties will spend one month in each of the seven centres in Kandy, Bandarawela, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Negombo, Panadura and Kurunegala. He will also train the local coaches apart from coaching the players.

Suresh Subramaniam the president of the SLTA was of the view that there is immense potential in the provinces and the players from these players should be given the proper backing hence they decided to take this step. The CEO of the SLTA Boshan Dayaratne said that the recently concluded mini tennis programme was a tremendous success and we want to improve the quality and we have drawn up more programmes to uplift the game in Sri Lanka.

The programme which is a Rs. Two million project is being sponsored by Aggreko with the company's project manager John Judge handing over the package as a parting gift before taking up duties in Switzerland.-MSA

Lanka women clinch series
KINGSTOWN - Sri Lanka clinched their six-match limited-overs women's cricket series against West Indies when they won the fourth game by nine runs at Arnos Vale on Thursday.

The Sri Lankans, electing to bat, scored 147 from 48.3 overs and restricted the Caribbean women to 138 in 50 overs for a winning 4-0 lead in the series.The remaining games, five and six, will be played today and tomorrow and the West Indies team's technical advisor Gus Logie believes his side could upset the visitors if they are more patient against the spinners and reduce the number of extras they concede.

"Extras are a big problem for us every time we lose a game, we look back at the extras and realise how much it cost us. Also, we need to be a bit more patient against the spinners. We tend to look too much for the big hits", former Test batsman Logie said yesterday.

Hiruka Fernanso (35) and Indika Kankanamalge (31 not out) led the Sri Lanka batting as they suffered four run outs and were restricted to their lowest total in the series though aided by 37 extras, including 33 wides. Left arm spinner Shane de Silva was the most successful West Indies bowler with three for 17 off 5.3 overs.

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