Sam Curran and Jos Buttler save England against Sri Lanka spin in Kandy

England's Sam Curran and James Anderson run between wickets during the first day of the second Test in Pallekelle. (Reuters)
Updated 15 November 2018
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Sam Curran and Jos Buttler save England against Sri Lanka spin in Kandy

KANDY: Sri Lanka’s spinners claimed some big-name England wickets on the first day of the second Test on Wednesday before Jos Buttler and Sam Curran rescued the innings.
Buttler’s 63 and a crucial 64 from Curran at the end lifted England to 285 all out after they had been struggling on 89-4 on the turning Pallekelle stadium pitch.
Curran, fast becoming an England hero, said reaching near 300 was a “massive” achievement.
England spinner Jack Leach then strengthened England’s position, dismissing opener Kaushal Silva in the 12 overs Sri Lanka faced as the home side reached 26 for one at the close.
A day that saw Ben Stokes, batting at the key number three position, become the latest to fail also reinforced Buttler and Curran’s standing lower down the order.
England were in trouble against spinners Dilruwan Perera who took four wickets, Malinda Pushpakumara (three) and Akila Dananjaya (two) when Buttler came in to counter-attack with five boundaries and a crucial 45-run stand with Adil Rashid who made 31.
Buttler’s 63 off 67 deliveries ensured Sri Lanka did not convert a good position into a dominant one, as he swept and reverse swept furiously and effectively. He was eventually out top-edging a reverse sweep off left-arm spinner Pushpakumara, playing his first Test for more than a year.
Curran was even more important, taking 50 balls to reach double figures before he tore into the Sri Lankan bowling. He hit six sixes and a four off the spinners and his last wicket partnership of 60 with Jimmy Anderson was the best of the innings.
“It was crucial. You saw in the evening how much it spun. Getting close to 300 was massive for us,” said Curran.
“Me and Jimmy had quite a bit of fun out there. He was probably the one telling me to calm down and trust him.”
Stokes, who batted at number five in his team’s opening win last week, was boosted up the order in the latest bid to find a solid number three. Off-spinner Perera successfully reviewed an lbw decision against Stokes after the on-field umpire had turned down an appeal. He was out for 19.
England captain Joe Root, who scored 35 and three in the first Test, was bowled by Pushpakumara in the 18th over for 14 and opener Rory Burns (43) soon followed as England lost regular wickets on the dry, crumbling surface.
Curran said the wicket was fast breaking up and the cracks growing so England spinners must be looking forward to the second day. Ten of the 11 wickets to fall Wednesday went to spinners.
There were several near misses during the 12 overs Sri Lanka faced, with Karunaratne edging a ball just low and wide of slip off the bowling of Ali when he was on 12.
Leach then made the breakthrough at the other end, getting a ball to break sharply off the surface and beat Kaushal Silva’s forward defense, to rattle off stump — the batsman dismissed for 6.
Nightwatchman Pushpakumara then survived the 15 balls he faced before stumps.


Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

Updated 22 February 2019
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Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

  • World No. 4 wins third three-setter of the week beat Hsieh Su-wei and claim place in the final.
  • Swiss star Bencic deals a forehand smash to Svitolina's chances of unprecedented hat-trick.

LONDON: If Petra Kvitova does get her hands on the Dubai trophy against Belinda Bencic on Saturday, she will be quick to admit she did it the hard way.
The two-time Wimbledon champion was once again made to toil at the Aviation Club as she finally overcame Hsieh Su-Wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. It was her third three-setter in four days and came about as much through sheer grit and determination as any superior groundstrokes or serves.
“Yeah, it was (tough),” the Czech said.
“It was a tough one, for sure. She really didn’t give me anything for free.
“It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. Anyway I didn’t play great at the end of the first.”
Coming into the event the world No. 4 admitted she was undercooked and in need of some game time. While, in hindsight, the three-setters against Katerina Siniakova and Jennifer Brady in the first two rounds probably did her some good, another match that went the distance was probably not in the ideal script for the 2013 Dubai champion.
But Hsieh is a tricky opponent and she proved it once again on Centre Court. The world No. 31 hits two-handed shots off both sides and was trying to beat her fourth top-10 seed of the week. That included wins over Angelique Kerber in the third round and Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals.

Bencic will try to upset Kvitova in Saturday's final at the Aviation Club (AFP) 


She started off in much the same vein as she had finished against Kerber and Pliskova, hurrying Kvitova around the court and making life as uncomfortable as possible under the hot Dubai sun.
“She’s very tricky,” Kvitova said about Hsieh, who grabbed five games in a row to take the opening set and go up 1-0 in the second.
“I didn’t really play the best at the end of the first set. But I calmed down afterwards a little bit,” Kvitova said.
“With Hsieh, I need to be a little bit patient. ... It’s not really that easy to make those winners against her.”
While she has 
not consistently displayed her A-game this week it should come as no shock that Kvitova has made today’s final. It was the second seed’s 17th victory of 2019 — a feat bettered by no one — and it will be her third final of the season and 35th of her career. She revealed that her presence in the showdown is thanks to her mental toughness and she admitted that after a long week she will have to draw on that a lot today.
“I think I’m pleased with my kind of mental focus after losing the first set, that I was more calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set,” Kvitova said.
“I still kind of felt that I can do that somehow — it was something weird.
“I’m a bit tired right now, to be honest. I have a final, so I don’t know how I going to recover. Hopefully I have a few hours to do something with me.”
Of her sparkling form so far this year she said: “It’s a bit weird, to be honest. I didn’t really expect anything like that. Well, to be honest, I didn’t expect anything, which I already achieved this year. For me, everything is just bonus.
“As I mentioned, the tennis, it’s a bit like escape this week. This is unbelievable to be in the final when I’m escaping from something. Yeah, very interesting.”
In the other semifinal Bencic once again upset the odds to overcome world No. 6 Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-3, 7-6. The Swiss went into the clash as the underdog, but from the off the world No. 45 was aggressive and deservedly won.
In doing so she ended Svitolina’s 12-match winning streak in Dubai and ended the two-time defending champion’s hopes of becoming the first woman to win three Dubai titles in a row.