Suranga Lakmal is named Sri Lanka captain for third Test against West Indies

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New captain: Suranga Lakmal

Suranga Lakmal has been appointed as Sri Lanka’s captain for their third Test against West Indies, which begins later today on Saturday.

Dinesh Chandimal lost his appeal for a one-match ban for ball-tampering and the Sri Lankan cricket board have named 31-year-old bowler Lakmal as his replacement.

“Lakmal was appointed as the captain, in the absence of Dinesh Chandimal,” Sri Lanka Cricket said in a brief statement.

Sri Lanka must win the first-ever day-night Test in the Caribbean to save the three-match series after losing the first Test. The second Test ended in a draw.

Chandimal will miss out on the game after he was given a ban for applying saliva to the ball, reportedly with a sweet, during the second Test. He was also charged 100 per cent of his match fee.

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Reverse swing vanishing in ODI batting carnival but spare a thought for finger spin

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Ashwin and Jadeja have lost their place in India's limited overs teams.

India batting legend Sachin Tendulkar has smashed many bowlers to pulp during his playing days but even he couldn’t contain himself after another batting carnival in the guise of an ODI match in England put the spotlight on the plight of bowlers.

England collected a world-record 481-6 in the third ODI against Australia before chasing down 311 inside 45 overs in the fourth. The ease with with England’s top-order scored the runs underlined their status as the No1 ODI team in the world but also highlighted the fact that bowlers simply have nowhere to hide in ODI cricket.

Tendulkar tweeted that the two-new balls in ODI cricket is making it next to impossible for fast bowlers to generate any kind of reverse swing. His views were supported by Pakistan legend Waqar Younis and many across the globe.

Indeed, reverse swing has all but vanished from ODI cricket. That’s because the ball only gets 25 overs old at the most, which is the time when the ball used to start to reverse.

Pacers, therefore, have been forced to bring out new variations – wide yorkers and knuckle balls. Straight yorkers and slower ones are simply not enough anymore. And if the seamer doesn’t have enough pace, then good luck to him.

But the bigger casualty during the unchecked rise of runathons in ODIs is finger spin.

Since 2015, there have been eight scores of 400 or more in ODIs. Before that, there were 11 in all. And in the last three years, finger spinners have been all but wiped off the map of ODI bowling.

Among active cricketers, the top wicket-taker among finger spinners is Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi. His 58 wickets from 47 games place him on 13th position in the wicket-takers’ list. And he is not even a frontline spinner.

The next finger spinner on the list is Kiwi Mitchell Santner on 15th with 52 wickets from 48 games. Sadly Santner is out for a long time due to a knee injury.

England’s Moeen Ali is the next ‘active’ finger spinner on the list of wicket-takers over the last three years – 47 wickets from 56 games on 17th position.

We are clutching at straws here. Names like Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been left far behind. Rangana Herath is a master spinner but he doesn’t play limited overs cricket even in Sri Lanka.

If you do bowl finger spin, you better offer a lot with the bat. Which is why Nabi, Santner and Moeen are on the list. Players like Ashwin and Jadeja won’t be given 50 odd ODI matches in the first place.

Two new balls mean finger spinners don’t get to bowl with a scuffed up ball, which in turn makes most of them canon fodder for batsmen who don’t believe in the concept of middle overs in ODI cricket anymore.

So as the game progresses and reverse swing becomes a thing of the past in white ball cricket, let’s also take a moment mourn the demise of finger spin in ODI cricket.

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World champions Australia's ODI woes under the scanner after England hammering

Ashish Peter 23/06/2018
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Australia's ODI form has been declining rapidly.

As England blew away Australia by six wickets in the fourth ODI between the two sides at Chester-le-Street despite the visitors notching up the highest total ever at the ground, the emotions on Justin Langer’s usually stoic face were clear to see.

Tim Paine’s men had slumped to their 14th defeat in 16 ODI matches as the hosts took a 4-0 lead in the five-match series.

Just days before, the Aussies had been put to the grind at Trent Bridge where they suffered their worst defeat ever in 50-over cricket history as England scored a world-record 481-6. To make matters worse, the visitors sank to their lowest-ever ODI ranking (sixth) since 1984.

Such has been Australia’s woes with white-ball cricket that is easy to forget that they lifted their fifth ICC World Cup trophy three years ago.

Things seemed to be rolling smoothly for some time after their World Cup win as series victories against India and England followed. It is only at the start of last year that the wheels began to fall off Australia’s ODI unit.

The 5-0 thrashing they received at the hands of the South Africans was a precursor of things to come despite subsequent series wins over New Zealand and Pakistan. Now, after their latest defeat at the hands of England at Chester-le-Street, Australia’s win-rate in the format post their World Cup win is a lowly 47 per cent.

For the record, only two teams among the full members have a worse record than them during this period. That only Sri Lanka (31 per cent) and the West Indies (26 per cent) have a worse win-rate than the Aussies tells you all you need to know.

Afghanistan and Bangladesh have performed better than the five-time world champions, which raises questions about Australia’s limited-overs setup.

The balance of power between England and Australia has shifted.

The balance of power between England and Australia has shifted.

The alarming decline in Australia’s game is further highlighted by shift in the balance of power with arch-rivals England. In the last 13 ODIs against their Ashes rivals, the Australians have managed to win just two matches. In the preceding 12 ODIs before those set of fixtures, Australia had won 11 times.

This role reversal shows the direction the two teams have taken ahead of the 2019 ICC World Cup. While Eoin Morgan’s England are on their way up and early contenders to capture their maiden world title in front of home fans, Australia are spiraling out of control.

While it is true that Australia turned up in England without their main pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, they weren’t pulling up any trees in the preceding ODI series at their own backyard following their Ashes win. That 4-1 defeat at home came at a time when Steve Smith and David Warner were still the poster boys of Australian cricket.

With less than a year to go for the 2019 World Cup, it is safe to say than new coach Justin Langer has quite a task at hand in trying to reinvigorate the ODI setup. That Smith and Warner will walk straight into the side post the completion of their bans is now a given.

Langer has his work cut out as Australia coach.

Langer has his work cut out as Australia coach.

What Langer needs to do now is build a team for the global showpiece where every player is aware of his role in the squad. In all, 42 different players have been selected by Australia in ODIs since the last World Cup. Only Sri Lanka have chopped and changed more often than that and they have been equally abysmal, if not more.

Appointing a permanent captain for the ODI team is the first task for Langer and the Australian selectors. With his current batting woes, Tim Paine does not inspire too much confidence as skipper and unless the Australia think tank are completely assured of Paine growing into his role, they would be better served to look elsewhere.

When Langer took over the coaching role post the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, he spoke about wanting to change Australia’s dressing room culture as he sought to write a new chapter for the world champions. What he needs to do more urgently is repair Australia’s ODI unit, for the World Cup clock is ticking fast.

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