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England get their first look at Sri Lanka’s ambidextrous spinner Kamindu Mendis

Mendis showcased his rare ability during the first warm-up game.

England get their first look at Sri Lanka’s ambidextrous spinner Kamindu Mendis

England faced one of the rarest propositions in cricket during their first warm-up fixture in Sri Lanka, with ambidextrous spinner Kamindu Mendis bowling at the tourists with both left and right arm.

The 20-year-old from Galle had already scored a composed 61 for a strong Sri Lankan Board XI in Colombo – batting left-handed – when he took the chance to prove his true all-rounder status.

Asked to deliver the 14th over as England chased a winning target of 288, he bowled his first five deliveries as right-arm off-breaks to the left-hander Eoin Morgan and then informed the umpire he would be switching to slow left-armers when the right-handed Joe Root took guard.

He continued flipping throughout his eight overs with no discernible dip in the quality of his deliveries and tidy figures of nought for 37.

Mendis has previously showcased his unusual skill during two editions of the Under-19 World Cup – with one video from the 2016 tournament garnering more than 430,000 views on YouTube.

Indian bowler Akshay Karnewar has a similar ability, and surprised Australia’s touring team during a warm-up match in Chennai last year.

If not unheard of, ambidextrous bowlers are a genuine collector’s item in top-level cricket.

Another Sri Lankan, Hashan Tillakaratne, reverted from his preferred right hand to his less-favoured left in a hefty win over Kenya during the 1996 World Cup, while others, including former England captain Graham Gooch, have been known to deliver with their ‘wrong’ arm in stalemates.

Other sports have had their own well-known examples. Snooker star Ronnie O’Sullivan responded to claims he disrespected opponent Alain Robidoux by indulging his party piece by claiming to be “better left-handed than he is right-handed”.

In golf, Mac O’Grady attempted to play left-handed as an amateur and right-handed as a professional, while British boxer Naseem Hamed happily alternated between punching southpaw and orthodox.

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