Kumar Sangakkara offers support for returning Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford

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Close relationship: Sangakkara and Graham Ford.

Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara has backed Graham Ford to succeed in his second stint as the nation’s head coach.

The South African left his post as Surrey coach on Thursday to return to the international scene and a role which he previously occupied with the sub continent side from 2012 to 2014.

His appointment ends the Sri Lankan Cricket Board’s five-month long search for a successor to Marvan Atapattu, who resigned in September.

And Sangakkara feels the right choice has been made in re-hiring Ford, who guided Surrey to the Division Two title last year and convinced the left-hander to ply his trade in the second tier of county cricket for the south London club.

“I think Graham Ford is an exceptional human being and an exceptional coach,” Sangakkara told Sport360 during his visit to the National School League (NSL) Finals day.

“I had a wonderful few years under him with Sri Lanka and then last season at Surrey. I think he is the ideal choice and he’s a great man-manager with a huge amount of passion for the game.

“At this particular moment we couldn’t have asked for anyone better. I just hope that he has a wonderful tenure and I know the boys enjoy working with him so he’ll be ideal for us.”

Ford, who has agreed a deal with the SLC board until the 2019 ICC World Cup, has got little time to get his feet under the table second time around with Sri Lanka set to defend their World Twenty20 crown in March in India.

The 55-year-old coach, who cut short his first reign in charge due to personal reasons before Sri Lanka’s success in Bangladesh four years ago, can take the team forward, according to Sangakkara.

“I think in Twenty20 Cricket, Sri Lanka always have a very good opportunity because we have a varied bowling attack, we’ve got some wonderful new young players coming through and a core group of older players. Fordy, himself, would probably have liked a few more months of preparation with the team but I’m sure he’ll adjust and adapt with what he has to work with. I’m very hopeful that the team will do well.”

Meanwhile, Sangakkara, who retired from international cricket last year after a glorious 15-year career which contained a combined 63 Test and one-day international hundreds, is currently playing for the Gemini Arabians in the Masters Champions League in the UAE.

And today the left-handed batsman will face one of his idols, Brian Lara, as the Arabians look to make it two wins out of two against the Leo Lions in Dubai.

“I’m looking forward to the match very much. It’s an exciting tournament and concept. To have so many of the old greats come back and play and having a lot of current county and league cricketers come into the mix to means the cricket’s going to be of a very high quality,” said the Sri Lankan, who hit a 43- ball 86 in the tournament’s opening match to help his side to victory

“It’s going to be very entertaining and I just hope that the spectators have a really good time and they come in large numbers. I’ve had some interesting run-ins with Brian Lara when he’s dominated attacks around the world. He came to Sri Lanka in 2001 and we won the three-match Test series 3-0 but he scored 688 runs all by himself. Brian and Sir Vivian Richards are the two batsmen I really idolise.”

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AB de Villiers agrees to assume full-time South Africa captaincy

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Staying on: AB de Villiers.

AB de Villiers has agreed to become South Africa Test captain on a permanent basis.

De Villiers, who will also lead his country in a five-match one-day international series against England, starting next week, was in charge for the last two Tests of the series lost 2-1 to the same tourists.

After taking over the Test captaincy from Hashim Amla as a short-term measure, however, he appeared equivocal about the role – and his subsequent form, including a pair in the final match at Centurion last week, was below his established standards as one of the world’s finest batsman. It was nonetheless announced, following a Cricket South Africa board meeting on Friday, that the 31-year-old will lead the Test team for the foreseeable future.

De Villiers has discovered a zest for the new responsibility, in those two Tests since Amla resigned the captaincy to concentrate on his batting.

“This is an exciting time for South African cricket, and I am honoured to have been asked to captain the Test team into a new era. I thoroughly enjoyed captaining in the last two Tests against England – and although I still have a lot to learn in this role, it’s a new challenge that I’m excited to take on.”

He is optimistic about the potential of a team which appears in transition but contains several promising players.

“There is plenty of hard work ahead of us; we are rebuilding and have a long way to go to being a finished product as a squad,” he said. “We may have to fight through some tough times. But the recent performances of Kagiso Rabada, Temba Bavuma, Dane Piedt, Dean Elgar and others have created an opportunity to build a team that delights and unites our country as never before.”

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Emphatic India secure Twenty20 series victory over Australia

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India sealed a Twenty20 series victory over Australia.

India condemned a weakened Australia to back-to-back defeats to take the Twenty20 series with a 27-run victory in front of a 58,787 crowd at the MCG in Melbourne.

Virat Kohli, who made his highest T20 score of 90 not out in his side’s 37-run victory in the opening game in Adelaide on Tuesday, followed up his heroics with a knock of 59 as India posted a competitive 184 for three.

Australia captain Aaron Finch, leading the side in the absence of a rested Steven Smith, then struck 74 despite pulling a hamstring but the home side were restricted to 157 for eight in reply.

India now lead 2-0 in the three-match series to send a powerful message ahead of the forthcoming World T20 on home soil.

Australia were without David Warner and Smith, both rested ahead of the tour of New Zealand, while Travis Head, Cameron Boyce, Shaun Tait and Kane Richardson were dropped and Scott Boland, Andrew Tye and Nathan Lyon were brought in for their T20 international debuts as the selectors experimented ahead of the World Cup.

After being put into bat, India’s openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma gave their side the perfect start, bringing up the 50 inside the first six overs.

Dhawan departed for 42, attempting a reverse sweep off Glenn Maxwell, but Sharma brought up India’s hundred and his own half-century with a deflected shot to third man in the 12th over.

Sharma was run out for 60 and Kohli struck an unbeaten 59, off just 33 deliveries, to help India post the highest T20 international score at the MCG.

Finch and Shaun Marsh got Australia off to an impressive start, putting on 94 for the first wicket before Marsh, who survived a stumping chance on 16, was caught at long-off for 23.

Finch made the most of two dropped catches to be his team’s top scorer but the turning point came with the dismissal of Shane Watson, who was the victim of a stunning catch off his own bowling by Ravindra Jadeja, who once again showed why is among the best fielders in the world.

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