Watch out for 'Hurricane' Alex
CH travel to battle Kandy today in a tough battle of attrition
By Bernie Wijesekera
Alex a dazzling wing three-quarter, who runs 100m in 11.7 secs. from Western Samoa is a bundle of energy.

Fit and strong he was seen training with the CH team under Grahame Raux. This year CH has two other foreign players besides Alex - flanker Vinijoji and Rakata a Fijian Sevens national player who is a penetrative centre three-quarter.

Last weekend the Maitland Crescent Club led by scrum-half Milinda Jayasinghe scored a rousing win over CR and will take on defending champions Kandy S.C. today (Sunday June 15) at Nittawela. It should turn out to be a battle of attrition. Both teams are unbeaten, along with battle-scarred Army. CH who are virtually fielding an under-24 side is very fit and has a mobile pack.

Jude Dimitri, the manager of the team said in an interview with The Sunday Times that quite a number of outstanding schoolboys who played last year are in the side. No.8, Dushantha Lewke, flanker Nilanka Wijesekera and a host of young hopefuls.

They are a disciplined lot and play for the right reasons and enjoy playing open, hard and clean rugby for everyone to enjoy. Jude, a former national player said, both Kandy and CH are competitive teams. It should turn out to be a keen contest with no quarter given and none asked for.

Foreign trioAlex, the most aggressive among the foreign trio was interviewed by this scribe. He said, he has gained a lot of experience whilst playing here.

It has helped him to learn a lot, besides rugby, the island's culture and meet the friendly people in Sri Lanka. "This is an experience to me", he said. He has played in the Super 12 team for the Hurricanes. "There is a lot of rugby among the young players. They have picked the latest style of rugby. In turn I've learnt much from them. The last game against CR and FC produced good rugby - both teams enjoyed to the hilt", said Alex.

Continuing Alex said," CH has a lot of rugby history behind them and they continue to play the game in the same vein. The players and officials are very understanding and they are making our stay here more comfortable and one to remember".

From here onwards the matches in the Caltex League are going to be very competitive and exciting. The referees have to play a decisive role with competent linesmen to assist. The players must play to the whistle and refrain from playing dirty.

CH will have Bertie Jayasekera playing as an additional flanker and in the last line Dinuk Wijeratne. Besides an experienced halves combination - Jayasinghe and Nalin Dissanayake.

Former Peterson player, Anthony despite being on crutches due to an injury is the assistant manager. He is still on the ball looking into the needs of the players.

An ideal tonic
The game certainly is a great leveler. West Indies were fancied to beat Sri Lanka in the one day series. They had a superb finish to the encounters against Australia by winning the last three games. It was not just the winning, they won playing good cricket.

On the other hand Sri Lanka failed to reach the tri-nation final at home, leaving it to Pakistan and New Zealand to battle for the major honours. It did not take long for the roles to be reversed and the recent losers to emerge triumphant. At present, Sri Lanka, South Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies, New Zealand, England are of similar strength.

The outcome when two of these sides meet is hard to predict. They all have individually brilliant players in their ranks. When they come good often the complexion of a game is altered. Playing conditions also play a great role. The Sri Lankans would have started well knowing this and it was a matter of playing well on the day - in fact better than an opposition equal in strength.

All three pitches posed no problems to the visitors. There was no excessive pace or steep bounce. Generally the pitches were batsmen friendly, although off the slower bowlers stroke making was not easy. The bastmen had to wait and play calculated shots. The spinners got some turn - so the Sri Lankans were quite at home. In addition, the tropical weather conditions suited them to the hilt, to display their talents.

Much credit must go to the bowling pair, Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan. They sent down some unplayable deliveries in the opening game. This coupled with accuracy caused the downfall of the Windies. Defending a fairly modest target of 201, Sri Lanka needed to pick-up wickets. Vaas set the wheel in motion, Nissanka cottoned on and Muralitharan dealt the death blow.

Mention must be made of Kumar Dharmasena, the utility player whose innings in the middle helped his team to reach the two hundred mark. With all the experience he has behind him Dharmasena is very useful in the one-day version of the game. When conditions suit his style of play, then, his "work-horse" approach to the game pays dividends.

It is hard to beat a team on a roll. Like a rolling stone it gathers momentum. Watching this game on cable TV meant burning the midnight oil, into the wee hours of the morning. It was worth the while as Upul Chandana displayed a heroic batting effort.

To win that game one top order batsman had to play a very big innings. Not just play a big innings but score at a rapid rate too. The established top order tried. They all got starts but fell short before even reaching a half-century.

Bowling is a main concern for the West Indies. They are thin in both pace and spin departments. Merv Dillon who started off well now seems to be feeling the pressure of having to play both attacking and defensive roles. Many medium, quick bowlers have been tried, but either injury or for the lack of ability they have been discarded. No spinner has been able to establish a position either. It is indeed a worry situation for the once mighty West Indians.

Upul Chandana made it his day. He has played over a century of one day internationals. It all fell into place for him. Whatever stroke he decided to execute was the correct choice. The movement of feet, the striking of the ball, were precise. It was just what Sri Lanka needed. What began as a mere adventure ended in a victory and with it the series was sealed.

It was the ideal tonic or a defeat could have meant a nose-dive in confidence. Now the bubbling Sri Lankan outfit can challenge their opponents in the test series on an even footing.

Singer to sponsor Mercantile Premier League and k.o.
Singer Sri Lanka will sponsor the MCA Premier Challenge trophy for the 10th consecutive year. There will be two segments; knock out and the other, the league basis with all the matches will be played at the NCC and Moors grounds.

The five teams are HNB, John Keells, Sampath Bank, Janashakthi Group and Seylan Bank. With the semi-finals on July 5th and the finals on July 12th the cream of the national players will be back from the West Indies by this date.

In the League round the top two teams will be declared as Leaque champions and runner-up. The first four teams will play in the Knock out tournament thereafter. Singer first sponsored way back in 1994. The following are the past winners.

1994 - ACW Insurance; 1995 - Sampath Bank & Nawaloka Goups (Joint Champs); 1996 - Hatton National Bank; 1997 - Seylan Bank; 1998-2000 Hatton National Bank; 2001 Seylan Bank (League); 2001 - Hatton National Bank (Knock Out); 2002 - Hatton National Bank (League & Knock Out).

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