Mahela Jayawardene offers motivation ahead of 1st Test

Updated 13 December 2012
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Mahela Jayawardene offers motivation ahead of 1st Test

HOBART, Australia: If Sri Lanka needed any extra motivation heading into its three-Test series against Australia, captain Mahela Jayawardene provided yesterday on the eve of the first Test by announcing this tour will be his last as skipper.
The Sri Lankans, fresh from splitting a two-test home series against New Zealand last month, are chasing their first test win in Australia.
The opening test starting Friday at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval will be followed by tests at Melbourne and Sydney. Sri Lanka and Australia will then play five one-dayers and two Twenty20 matches.
Jayawardene, 35, who was re-appointed as skipper for a 12-month period in January, announced yesterday he will stand down after the Australia tour.
He will lead an inexperienced bowling attack and an aging batting lineup against an Australian side that feels it is close to piecing together a strong team, having pushed No.1-ranked South Africa in a just-completed three-test series.
Left-arm spin bowler Rangana Herath has emerged as Sri Lanka’s most potent weapon in the past year, but — Sydney aside — it is unlikely the Australian pitches will offer the same opportunities as those in the subcontinent.
“We probably don’t have the pace which you think which is required to win test matches in Australia but we’ve got guys who will bowl good lines and lengths and create opportunities,” Jayawardene said yesterday.
Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Thilan Samaraweera, meanwhile, will look for a chance to cement their places among Sri Lanka’s batting greats.
“A lot of the guys will be very hungry to do well,” Jayawardene said. “Especially when you’re playing against a top side like Australia, you want to lift your game.
“It’s about pride. We aren’t just there to make up the numbers, we’re going to play a good game,” he added. “Individually the guys will have to come up with a game plan on how they’re going to adjust. The bowlers will have to work out how to attack a really good batting line-up as well.” Australia came close to winning the first two Tests against South Africa, before suffering a crushing 309-run loss in the third at Perth — ex-captain Ricky Ponting’s farewell match.
Ponting’s retirement prompted a recall of former opener Phil Hughes after a 12-month absence to fill the No. 3 spot in the batting lineup, while Shane Watson drops down the order to No. 4.
As for openers David Warner and Ed Cowan, Australia captain Michael Clarke says it is time for them to assert themselves.
“There is plenty of talent there. It is about owning your position, making the most of it,” Clarke said. “They have the chance to build a long, successful career whether it be opening the batting (or) batting three.” While Warner and Cowan both averaged over 40 in the South Africa series, Australia’s first-innings starts of 3-40, 3-55 and 3-34 put the home team’s middle order under enormous pressure.
Clarke says the key to big-hitting Warner’s success lay in trusting in his natural, expansive style of play.
“He plays his best when he’s looking to score runs,” he said. “Sometimes he doesn’t look great when he gets out, but the other side is he’s got that x-factor.
“He can take a game away from any team in the first session of a test match really. Not too many players in the world have that talent.” Despite a six-wicket haul against South Africa at Perth, Mitchell Johnson was dropped from the Australian XI in favor of fellow fast bowlers Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus.
Siddle and Hilfenhaus return after being rested from the third test against South Africa in Perth, while Mitchell Starc was named as the third-prong in the Australian pace attack. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon completes the bowling lineup.


'We want to make Saudi Arabia proud': Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

Updated 21 June 2018
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'We want to make Saudi Arabia proud': Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

  • Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday
  • Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious

ROSTOV-ON-DON: “Keeping possession of the ball seems to be the absolute and most important thing, but then when you sometimes find issues in getting the ball into your opponent’s half, you have to find other movements and ways of doing that,” said Oscar Tabarez after watching his lackluster Uruguay rely on a solitary Luis Suarez goal to eliminate Saudi Arabia from the World Cup. 
Tabarez was talking about his own team’s struggles, yet the assessment is considerably more applicable to the Green Falcons, who dominated possession and retained the ball with ease in midfield, yet for the second match running looked absolutely bereft of ideas in the final third. With Uruguay and Russia now on six points, Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday.
The Green Falcons coach Juan Antonio Pizzi confirmed he intends to stay at the helm of the side for the long-haul, yet is only too aware that the potential of this team is being hamstrung by its inability to score. He called it “our weakness”, adding that his side enjoyed “good ball possession, but no effectiveness”. They, he said, did not have the sufficient “weapons or tools” to equalize.
Pizzi’s side have found the net now just twice in their past five games and against Uruguay managed only three shots on target in 90 minutes — two of which came in added time and were so tame they would hardly have troubled the opposition goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had he been relaxing at his far post sipping a drink. In the 5-0 defeat to Russia last week, they failed to muster a single shot on target. 
Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious. One passage of play in the opening exchanges saw Saudi Arabia complete 16 passes untroubled without the ball entering the opposition penalty box. When Uruguay finally won possession, they required only four quick exchanges to find Edinson Cavani on the left wing drilling the ball across the front of goal. 
“I don’t share that assessment,” said Pizzi, when it was put to him that his team was too slow to attack. “We played at the speed that was necessary. We need to be accurate, but if you step up the speed you lose accuracy with your passes. We had control of the game and that was why.”
Striker Mohammed Al-Sahlawi had been the focal point of much criticism from Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of Saudi’s General Sports Authority, after the Russia “fiasco” and was dropped from the side against Uruguay. So too was goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, another who Al-Sheikh name-checked as having been at fault.
Pizzi, asked whether the scathing assessment from his bosses had forced his hand when it came to team selection, calmly dismissed the suggestion. He also ruled out the notion that administrative issues between the players and the country’s football federation had caused unrest in his squad.
“I have a list of 23 players here and they are all available to play. We are here together and pushing in the same direction. 
“I wanted — and still want — to make the Saudi Arabian people feel proud of our energy and the desire we show in matches. Unfortunately we were unable to do that against Russia and will be playing our next match without any hope of progressing. I hope now they will feel a little more proud even though we are out of the World Cup,” he said.