Monday, April 3, 2017

Getting better, but haven't reached our desired level: Mashrafe

Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza has said that people shouldn't read too much into the hosts' dreadful record at R. Premadasa Stadium ahead of first of two Twenty20 International on Tuesday. Sri Lanka have lost ten of their 11 T20Is played at the venue with their only win coming in the World Twenty20 semi-final against Pakistan in 2012.

"When we played the ODI series decider against England in Chittagong last year, we lost despite having a good record there. So these things don't really matter much," Mashrafe said on Monday (April 3).

Sri Lanka are a confident unit having recorded series wins in Australia and South Africa in the last three months. "They are playing in Sri Lanka, so they know the conditions very well. I think they played really well against Australia and South Africa so it is not going to be easy. We are mentally getting ready to fight them," Mashrafe added.

Bangladesh have only played one T20 series since the World Twenty20 last year in India, being whitewashed 3-0 in that series against New Zealand.

"We will try to play with our best tomorrow. We are playing a different format, in which our recent performance hasn't been that great. We are hoping to play to our potential.

"We couldn't finish well in the World T20 last year. We are getting better but we haven't reached our desired level. Most of the other teams are doing better than us in T20s. We need some impact players. The more our younger players play T20s, we will become a better side in this format," Mashrafe went on to say.

Sri Lanka's T20 side is quite different from their one-day outfit with some experienced players in this format returning to the side. "They have some impact players like Chamara Kapugedara, Lasith Malinga and Dilshan Munaweera. They can turn around the game. This team won in Australia and South Africa. Winning in South Africa is very hard for Asian teams, so their team is doing well in this format. They are confident. It won't be easy for us if we don't play at our best."

Mashrafe said that Bangladesh should take inspiration from their come-from-behind victory in the second Test in Colombo. "Even if we are not favourites, it doesn't mean we can't win or play well. Sri Lanka crushed Australia 3-0, but we beat them despite being 1-0 down. So even if Sri Lanka are favourites having won in Australia and South Africa, we can compete and win.

"We have a lot of impact players but they have to settle down first. We have Sabbir Rahman, Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mustafizur Rahman, Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim. They have to combine to play well, which is important," Mashrafe elaborated.

Pakistan jump to fourth spot in T20I rankings

Pakistan climbed to the fourth spot in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Twenty20 International (T20I) team rankings after their 3-1 win over West Indies in the four-match series, the world governing body announced on Monday (April 3).

The visitors climbed two positions and now have 116 points while the World T20 champions slipped to the sixth spot and have 112 points. New Zealand continue to lead the table while India hold the second spot with 124 points. South Africa complete the Top 3 while while England hold the fifth spot.

Pakistan won the first two T20Is before Evin Lewis smashed 91 to keep West Indies afloat with a seven-wicket win in the third match. The visitors then bounced back to seal the series after a seven-wicket win in the last game.

The two teams will now play three One-Day Internationals and three Tests.

Sri Lanka look to maintain impressive run in T20s

Sri Lanka are perhaps going through their toughest phase in cricket since being granted full member status of the International Cricket Council in 1981. Several high profile retirements over the last two years has seen a steady decline of the Sri Lankan team. They were whitewashed 3-0 in Tests and 5-0 in the One-Day Internationals when they toured South Africa in December. Then Bangladesh recorded their maiden Test win over them with a stunning four-wicket victory in Colombo. The hosts could only square the three-match ODI series 1-1 after the second game was washed out. However, in T20s, the Sri Lankans have some momentum with series wins in Australia and South Africa in the last two months.

Bangladesh have had fewer opportunities in T20 cricket. Since the ICC World Twenty20 in India last year, they only played one series in the shortest form of the game. The Sri Lankans, meanwhile, played four series in that period. The highly successful Bangladesh Premier League has given the Bangladeshi players much needed exposure in T20s with an opportunity rub shoulders with some of the finest players in the game. Lack of a solid domestic T20 competition has hurt the Sri Lankans, but there are efforts to identify players who are suited for this fast-paced game.

Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, batsmen who were part of the squad that won the series in South Africa, have been left out while Shehan Jayasuriya, Danushka Gunathilaka and Thisara Perera, perhaps players with a better T20 mindset have been included.

Both games will be played at R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. The Sri Lankans have a horrendous record at the ground; ten losses in the 11 games they have played there, including a World T20 final in 2012. Often the hosts have cracked under pressure here with massive numbers turning up for the game. A sell-out crowd is expected on Tuesday (April 4).

We are in good shape in T20 cricket: Upul Tharanga

Sri Lanka's stand-in captain Upul Tharanga believes his team has more confidence going into the two-match T20I series against Bangladesh following series wins in Australia and South Africa in recent months. Tharanga became only the third Sri Lankan captain to win a series in Australia after Angelo Mathews and Kumar Sangakkara. He was also part of the side that won a series in South Africa in January.

"We are more confident leading into the T20 series having won in Australia and South Africa. They are top teams in the T20 format and we felt good after those series wins. We are in good shape in the T20s. We have got lot more experience with players like Lasith Malinga coming in. He is a big match winner for us," Tharanga said on Monday (April 3).

Sri Lanka however are without the services of regular captain Mathews. The all-rounder hasn't played any cricket since returning home from the tour of South Africa with a hamstring injury. His recovery was going well and he was expected to feature in the T20s. But while trying to bowl during training, Mathews hurt his right calf and was ruled out of the series.

"He's been the best player for us over the last few years. We can't replace a player like him. The good thing for us is that we did well without him in Australia. Someone like Asela Gunaratne stepped up and performed well," Tharanga added.

One good news for Sri Lanka is that wicketkeeper batsman Kusal Perera has recovered from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the ODIs against Bangladesh. "Kusal is completely healed now. He had a fitness test earlier today and he came out well. He is fit and available," Tharanga added.

There has been much debate after the 22-year-old Kusal Mendis was left out of the T20 squad. Mendis, who smashed a stunning 194 in the first Test in Galle, scored a maiden ODI hundred in the second ODI and was named Player of the Series.

"He's playing Tests and ODIs really well. In T20s though he hasn't been that successful. The Champions Trophy is coming, and hopefully he'll be in a good mental state for that. If we give him a break here, he can concentrate on the longer formats, and we can get more out of him there," Tharanga argued.

Cummins, Walton return for Pakistan ODIs

West Indies have named a 13-man squad to play the first two ODIs of the three-match series against Pakistan, with Carlos Brathwaite being the notable omission due to his IPL commitments. Miguel Cummins and Chadwick Walton earned recalls.

Walton last played an ODI in 2014 but featured in the recently concluded T20Is against Pakistan. Cummins has played only two ODIs so far after making his debut in 2014.

The axing of Kraigg Brathwaite is the only other change to the squad that played against England in March. The right-hander had a quiet series, managing just 61 runs in three games.

West Indies, who are currently ranked ninth with 84 points in the latest ICC team rankings, are set play three ODIs against Pakistan on April 7, 9 and 11 respectively at the Guyana National Stadium in Guyana. They are under pressure to improve their position on the table as only the top eight ranked teams as of September 30, 2017, will earn an automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup.

With the addition of a series against Afghanistan, West Indies now have a total of 12 ODIs - three each against Pakistan and Afghanistan, a one-off against Ireland and five away games against England - before the cut-off date.

Squad: Jason Holder (Captain), Devendra Bishoo, Jonathan Carter, Miguel Cummins, Shannon Gabriel, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Mohammed, Ashley Nurse, Kieran Powell, Rovman Powell, Chadwick Walton

KKR rope in Colin de Grandhomme as Russell's replacement

Kolkata Knight Riders have called in New Zealand all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme in place of the suspended West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell for the upcoming season of the Indian Premier League 2017.

De Grandhomme, who has played six Tests, nine one-dayers and eight Twenty20 Internationals for New Zealand, will make his IPL debut, and be an apt replacement for the hard-hitting Russell, being a handy lower-order batsman himself. He also doubles as a more-than-useful seam bowler, famously taking a six-wicket haul on his Test debut against Pakistan.

Russell was ruled out of the tournament following his one-year ban. He was suspended for having violated a whereabouts clause under the anti-doping rules by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) earlier in January this year. Following the announcement in January, KKR CEO Venky Mysore, termed it as a "big loss".

KKR will kickstart their campaign in the tenth edition of th
e tournament on Friday (April 7) in Rajkot against Gujarat Lions.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Football star scores after kFootball star scores after kung-fu WONDER touch that will blow your mind AN ACROBATIC footballer performed a stunning goal assist that has to be seen to be believed.

 Australian side Western Sydney Wanderers – who play in the Australian version of the Premier League – went head-to-head against the Newcastle Jets at the Newcastle International Sports Centre today.

The side went 1-0 up after 40 minutes but it was a wonder goal assisted by Japanese midfielder Jumpei Kusukami that got fans talking.

In amazing video – available above – the Western Sydney Wanderers are given a free kick 50 yards away from goal.

A player whips the ball into the right hand side of the box to Kusukami who has two rival players chasing him.

As the ball rockets towards him, the midfielder then leaps in the air and acrobatically sidekicks it through the Jets players to team mate Jaushua Sotirio.

With bags of space around him, strike Sotirio then rockets the ball through the keeper into the back of the net.

The Newcastle Jets are languishing near the bottom of the table with 22 points – only a couple ahead of last place Central Coast Mariners.

Melbourne Victory are the current champions

Celtic secured a sixth straight Scottish Premiership title thanks to a Scott Sinclair hat-trick as they thrashed Hearts 5-0 at Tynecastle on Sunday.

Sinclair scored twice in three minutes in the first half to put Brendan Rodgers' side in charge. Stuart Armstrong then made it 3-0 in the 55th minute before Patrick Roberts curled in a fine fourth.

Sinclair completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot late on as Celtic won the second part of a potential treble, with a Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers to come on April 23.

The win also sees the Hoops break a 100-year club record of going 37 domestic games unbeaten to start a season, and they are on track to become the first unbeaten Scottish champions since Rangers in 1899.

On a day of records and celebrations, Celtic's win was even more impressive given they were missing two of their top three scorers this season, with Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths out injured.

Hearts started the game brightly, with Esmael Goncalves threatening as he shot at Craig Gordon and then had another shot saved from a tight angle.

But, after Callum McGregor missed a brilliant chance from six yards out for Celtic, Sinclair opened the scoring when he played a one-two with Roberts and fired home emphatically into the roof of the net in the 24th minute.

It was 2-0 shortly afterwards as Roberts slipped in Sinclair and he finished the one-on-one chance.

The quickfire double seemed to knock the stuffing out of Hearts, who saw their challenge firmly fade away after half-time.

Armstrong scored Celtic's third when he finished from the edge of the box before Roberts curled in a well-struck shot into the top corner.

Dedryck Boyata headed over as Celtic controlled the closing stages, with Sinclair completing the rout when he finished from the penalty spot after being fouled by Krystian Nowak.

Mustafizur is expected to arrive on April 7: Moody

Sunrisers Hyderabad coach Tom Moody on Sunday said that Bangladesh's left-arm pace sensation Mustafizur Rahman is expected to join the franchise on April 7 after playing the final match of the limited overs series against Sri Lanka.

There were unconfirmed reports that said that the 'cutter master' will not be available during this season of IPL after playing a major role in defending champions' triumph.

"At this stage, we are expecting him to come. We have not had any official word in any other way. We are expecting him to be here on (April) 7th. Unless, we hear differently from BCB, we will continue to expect him," he said.

Sunrisers Hyderabad take on Royal Challengers Bangalore on April 5 in the inaugural match which Mustafizur will be missing.

According to Moody, there's no pressure being defending champions.

"To me, it's not just another chapter, actually another book. So, I am not concerned about last year of anything. Just proud of what the players achieved last year," he told reporters.
There are no injury concerns too for the side at the moment, the Australian veteran said. Moody defended concerns regarding David Warner's lean patch.

"Warner is 100 percent fit and he would soon join the team shortly from Australia, where he is spending quality time with his family," he said.

To a query, he said the team is also not worried about the form of Shikhar Dhawan, who has had a lean period, and it is confident that the opener would come good when it is required. Dhawan however has found some form in Deodhar Trophy.

Moody said that Afghans Rashid Khan Arman and Mohammed Nabi will add value to the squad.
"We are really excited about both Nabi and Rashid. Both have terrific, not only couple of months but over a year of form. Both add lot of variety to the squad. Rashid is obviously a pretty unique leg-spinner. We welcome both of them and look forward to working with them," he said.

SRH players Ben Laughlin and Chris Jordan, who were also present on the occasion, said they are looking forward to the tournament.