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Sri Lanka 133 for 6 (Kusal Perera 37*, Steyn 2-24, Philander 2-32) trail South Africa 235 (de Kock 80, Bavuma 47, Vishwa 4-62) by 102 runs

South Africa’s fast bowlers tipped the balance back in their favour by picking up with three wickets inside the first hour and five by lunch. Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Duanne Olivier picked up a wicket apiece in the session, while Vernon Philander struck twice before Kusal Perera and Dhananjaya de Silva came together to add 43 for the sixth wicket. At the stroke of lunch, Dhananjaya fell to a cunningly-laid trap for the pull and Sri Lanka went to the interval at 133 for 6, still 102 runs adrift.

While Dhananjaya and Kusal Perera restored a little control in the second hour, the first had belonged almost entirely to the bowlers. Already faced with the daunting challenge of fronting up to South Africa’s quicks with the ball wobbling around, Sri Lanka made things harder for themselves.

Within the first thirty minutes of play, they had already declined to take a review that would have saved debutant Oshada Fernando when he was given out lbw to Steyn. Replays proved the ball would’ve missed leg stump. Having failed to use one when they could’ve been saved, they burnt one when Dimuth Karunaratne was given out and replays only served to confirm the umpire’s call.

Those two strikes early on ramped up the pressure on a brittle middle order, but the Kusals – Mendis and Perera – responded with some authoritative strokeplay. Kusal Mendis was off the mark with a fluid on drive, and even had the gumption to lift Steyn in the air over mid off, but was eventually undone by Philander’s persistent line in the channel outside off. Jabbing at a length delivery with hard hands, Mendis sent an edge low towards the slips, where Faf du Plessis stooped low to hold the catch – his 50th in Tests.

Olivier’s introduction quickly brought Niroshan Dickwella’s end, the left hander checking a pull at a short ball halfway through the shot to swirl a top edge out to Steyn at third man. But at the other end, Kusal Perera refused to allow the dismissals to slow his tempo. Having taken back to back boundaries off Philander, he crunched Rabada on the up through cover and then lifted the same bowler for six over deep square leg to race into the 20s.

Sri Lanka’s 100 came up shortly afterwards, and Dhananjaya followed Kusal Perera’s lead in taking the attack to the bowlers. He was a little fortunate to get away with a top-edged pull off Rabada that carried all the way over the fine leg boundary, but some iffy strokes were interspersed with confident ones.

Dhananjaya was into the 20s himself with a thick edge through gully that was immediately followed by an imperious pull off Rabada, but moments before lunch his propensity to get after the bowling brought his downfall.

With Olivier placed at fine leg, Dhananjaya aimed a wild swipe at a shortish delivery from Rabada. The trap was laid, and on the penultimate ball of the session, de Silva leapt right into it. While Perera and de Silva were together, Sri Lanka looked like at least achieving parity in the first innings, but the late strike has put South Africa ahead going into the second session of the day.



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Recent Match Report – Islamabad United vs Peshawar Zalmi, Pakistan Super League, 11th Match

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Islamabad United 158 for 9 (Bell 54, Delport 29, Sameen Gul 3-29) beat Peshawar Zalmi 146 all out (Pollard 51, Sami 3-22, Musa 3-25) by 12 runs

How the game played out

As has been the case every year, Islamabad United started this season slowly, winning just one of three games. However, this season has begun to emulate the others just as closely as the tournament progresses, with the defending champions putting in a vastly improved performance, holding their nerve to seal a 12-run win. The game ended with their captain Mohammad Sami knocking off the final three Peshawar batsmen off successive balls, claiming his maiden PSL hat-trick and ensuring his side finished with a flourish.

All of their best efforts looked like they might be derailed during a brief four-over spell of monstrous hitting by Kieron Pollard. With 92 required off 39 balls and the match meandering to its inevitable conclusion, Pollard roused the dispirited ranks of Peshawar fans in Sharjah with a blistering 22-ball 51. But crucially, support from the other end was lacking, and once he holed out to deep cover, the valiant efforts of Darren Sammy and Wahab Riaz couldn’t quite make up for a first ten overs where their side had fallen well behind the pace.

They had been chasing 159, a total Islamabad were only able to put up thanks to Ian Bell, playing his first PSL match of the season. As much of the rest of the order fell away, he remained at the crease until the penultimate delivery, his 54 playing a large part in knitting the innings together, and ensuring Islamabad had just enough runs in the end.

Turning point

By 13 overs, Islamabad were shuffling along at 88 for three, not quite able to get in the big hits in the face of tight Peshawar bowling. But a loose over from Umaid Asif saw Cameron Delport smite a six back over the bowler and Bell a boundary, fetching 16. From there, Peshawar lost their discipline somewhat; it was the start of a spell in which Islamabad plundered 56 off five overs. It was ground ceded they wouldn’t be able to make up.

Star of the day

Mohammad Sami may have come away with a hat-trick, but his wickets had been set up by the efforts earlier on of Islamabad’s emerging player Mohammad Musa. Less than half Sami’s age at 18, the fresh faced Musa was entrusted with the third over, with Imam-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal batting in the Powerplay. Pace, accuracy, composure and lethality combined, culminating in the wicket of Kamran Akmal – another man twice his age. He would add the wickets of Dawid Malan and Darren Sammy to a collection that may very soon begin to burgeon.

The big miss

At some point, you may risk blasphemy and begin to wonder about Darren Sammy’s role in the Peshawar line-up. He doesn’t bowl anymore, and for some reason, comes in to bat at number seven. He still strikes at over 150, so he might as well bat higher up, but today, the bigger issue was he failed to give his Caribbean teammate much support in terms of run rate reduction. He never could find the middle of the bat as Pollard, and later even Wahab Riaz, took on the senior role in the partnership. When Sammy did hole out, it was to a waist-high full shot he has buttered his bread with by smashing for six. It cost his side today, but as the tournament progresses, the specific role Sammy takes on may begin to come under wider scrutiny; there is no hiding place in this format.

Where the teams stand

The narrow defeat means Peshawar have split their four games, winning and losing two apiece. The same applies to Islamabad United, with the two sides placed third and fourth on the table respectively.



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‘Would personally hate to give them two points’ – Tendulkar

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What players, coaches and other voices from the cricket world have said about India potentially boycotting their World Cup meeting with Pakistan

Ravi Shastri, India head coach (to Times Now)

“It’s entirely left to the BCCI and the government. They know exactly what is happening and they will take a call. We will go by what they decide. If the government says it’s that sensitive you do not need to play the World Cup, I will go by my government.

Sarfaraz Ahmed, Pakistan captain (to cricketpakistan.com.pk)

“The India and Pakistan match should be played as per schedule as there are millions of people who want to watch this game. I just don’t think cricket should be targeted for political gains. It is disappointing to see cricket being targeted after the Pulwama incident. I don’t recall Pakistan ever mixing sports with politics.”

Sunil Gavaskar, former India captain (to India Today)

“Who wins in that case if India decide not to play against Pakistan in the World Cup? And I am not even looking ahead to semifinals and finals. Who wins? Pakistan wins. They get two points.

“India has every time so far beaten them in the World Cup, so we are actually conceding two points when we could, by beating Pakistan (in the group stage), actually make sure that they don’t qualify for the knockout. I know emotions are running high, but that needs to be looked at with a little more depth.

“They can try but it will not happen (ICC boycott of Pakistan). It will not happen because the other member countries have to accept that. I can’t see other member countries accepting that. So while India can certainly go ahead and try to do that, I don’t think it is likely to happen because the other countries might say “look, it is an internal issue between two countries so please don’t involve us.””

Sachin Tendulkar, former India captain (on Twitter)

“India has always come up trumps against Pakistan in the World Cup. Time to beat them once again. Would personally hate to give them two points and help them in the tournament. Having said that, for me India always comes first, so whatever my country decides, I will back that decision with all my heart.”

Yuzvendra Chahal, India legspinner (to ANI)

“It’s not in our hands. If BCCI says, we will play, if they say no then we won’t. I think it is high time we need to take firm action. I am not saying all people there (Pakistan) are at fault but those who are responsible should be acted against.”

Sourav Ganguly, former India captain (on India TV)

“This is a 10-team World Cup and every team plays every team and I feel if India doesn’t play a match in the World Cup, it won’t be an issue. ICC can’t go on with a World Cup without India and I feel it will be really difficult for ICC to go on with a World Cup without India. But, you also have to see if India have the power to stop ICC from doing such a thing.”

Harbhajan Singh, former India offspinner (to India Today)

“India should not play Pakistan in the World Cup. India are powerful enough to win the World Cup without having to play Pakistan. One mistake will not correct the other one. Since we played in 1999 does not mean we should go ahead and do it again. We need to stand with our government and our soldiers. This is the time to talk and have a discussion which is far, far bigger than the World Cup. World Cup is not everything. Our country comes first, our soldiers come first and our government comes first. Cricket is not our first priority, our priority is our nation.”

Javed Miandad, former Pakistan captain (to Dawn

“I felt bad after hearing about our pictures being removed from their (Indian) stadiums. Now this talk of boycotting the World Cup. I think India need to understand they can face consequences of such an action. I don’t understand the mindset. Do they really think they (India) can get away without playing the World Cup match?”





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Benkenstein unhappy with South Africa’s complacency

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South Africa were “complacent” heading into this Sri Lanka series. This is not the opinion of reporters, fans, or commentators, but that of the team’s own batting coach Dale Benkenstein, after he watched his team collapse to 128 all out on the second day in Port Elizabeth.

Right through the series, South Africa have been modest with the bat, recording a highest-score of 259 across four completed innings. No South Africa batsman has hit a hundred, and only Faf du Plessis, Aiden Markram and Quinton de Kock have managed half-centuries.

“We came in a little bit complacent,” Benkenstain said. “We addressed that, but it’s still very important to have the right attitude coming into a series. We say all the right things, but when you go in thinking we’ll probably have enough to beat the Sri Lankan side, I think it’s a dangerous place to be. We had two days in between series. It’s a full-on summer so you don’t have time to prepare. You can’t change what is really inside you.”

Benkenstein praised the Sri Lanka attack, whom he said had bowled with skill, and whom South Africa have repeatedly said they have been surprised by. But although Benkenstein thought some of South Africa’s dismissals were the result of good opposition bowling, there were plenty that weren’t he said.

“We have not been at our best – after a pretty disappointing first game as well – against a side that we did not know a lot about. There wasn’t a lot of footage with which to analyse them. You have to give credit to the Sri Lankan bowlers. They’ve shown good skill, but we’ve given them soft wickets at crucial times. I keep thinking that it will be sorted out in the next innings.

“We’ve been pretty strong mentally, we came up against some very good bowling attacks and we scored enough runs to win those series. So I can’t really put my finger on what’s gone wrong now, but it’s been a long, full-on summer and the guys are only human, there may be a slight lack of energy.”

On what will almost certainly be the final day of the series, on Saturday, South Africa are now in a position where they must take eight wickets (possibly only seven, if the injured Lasith Embuldeniya does not bat). They haver 137 runs to defend.

“The game is still on the line and if we can have a good hour first thing tomorrow morning (Saturday) then we could make it hard for them to get the runs. There’s a little bit still there in the pitch and we have good bowlers. Sri Lanka have fought hard and put us under pressure, but overall the cricket has not been good, especially the batting – from both teams.”



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