A promising show by the U19s in England

Rex Clementine in Derby

Sri lanka U19 Tour of England 2022

After a valiant effort to knock off England’s lower order in Derby had failed, Sri Lanka’s under-19 cricketers were warming down and the baby of the team Duvindu Ranatunga was in pain but no complains.

He had bruised arms and knees. He’d been like a man possessed, diving while running between the wickets and diving on the field to cut off boundaries. The rookie indeed is a breath of fresh air.

Duvindu was born in far off Ratnapura. He was brilliant in his academics and passed the Grade Five Scholarship, ending up in Colombo and joining Mahanama College. Although he’s a late developer, Duvindu has become a crucial cog in the wheel not only for his school but for Sri Lanka Under-19 as well. As most of the boys were excited and checking out their GCE Advanced Level results in Derby, Duvindu was not bothered. If you wondered why, he is only 17 and it’s the GCE Ordinary Level results that he is waiting for. He’s expected to pass that with flying colours.

In the first Test Duvindu was the standout performer with the ball having taken seven wickets. In the second Test, when Sri Lanka needed some quick runs, he threw caution to wind, smashing a quickfire half-century that enabled Sri Lanka to take a 160 run lead. For someone who is batting as low as number ten, Duvindu has got all the shots and what is exciting is his fearless approach and passion for the game.

England tested him with a few short balls and having survived that, when it was their turn to bat, Duvindu gave the Englishmen a taste of their own medicine. You will spot him with a smile on and off the field, but he’s also a fierce competitor with a great attitude.

Sri Lanka’s team management rate Duvindu highly. The way he has carried himself on tour has impressed them. For someone to come out of Sri Lanka for the first time and move about things as if he’s been there and done it means that that person has got something special about him. The food, language or the weather has not bothered Duvindu. He’s bowled with fire, batted fearlessly and his enthusiasm on the field is contagious.

Why everyone is talking about his attitude is when Thomas Cliff, the highly rated fast bowler from Yorkshire was peppering the Sri Lankans with short pitched bowling on day three, Duvindu volunteered to go in as night watchman

and take the bull by the horns. A team that has a character like that is sure to prosper and the selectors should take note of this outstanding talent.

Although Duvindu has the pace and accuracy, the fastest among the Sri Lankan quicks on tour has been Sahan Mihira, another late developer. Mihira took up cricket at the age of 15 and has played all his cricket on matting wickets. He hails from Panadura and his school St. John’s only features in Division 2. For someone who has not competed at the top level, to come to a place like England where even seasoned campaigners struggle was quite impressive.

There was an interesting battle between Mihira and England captain Ben McKinney. The fast bowler made life difficult for the England captain hitting him a couple of times on the head and then beating his outside edge a few times.

Captain Raveen de Silva claimed three wickets in the second innings in Derby and his matured knock when Sri Lanka had to bat out time to shut England out of the game was superb. He occupied the crease for five hours and made a crucial 74. He proved to be an attacking captain as well, not spreading the field when boundaries were scored off nicks.

Shevon Daniel with a big hundred in Derby laid the foundation for a big first innings total. Playing to his strength, he pulled and drove well. Having missed out to make a big contribution in the first Test, he cashed in the second game as the team’s senior most batsmen and vice-captain.

Among the batters, Ranuda Somaratne looks a class act. Elegant to watch, he is someone who can play all the shots using his wrists to good effect. Ranuda is very organized and goes about things methodically punching above his weight. Shevon and Ranuda look very good prospects for the white ball teams and they need to be closely monitored as they move onto the Development Squad and the ‘A’ team where they can develop under some very good coaches like Ruwan Kalpage and Avishka Gunawardene.

Asitha Wanninayake, the left-handed opening batsman looks indeed a solid player for the longer format of the game. He’s a bit of a grinder, no flashy strokes and has the ability to concentrate for long hours. These have been some of the finds for Sri Lanka in the two match Test series.