The hard hitting Angelo Mathews, with the proven track record to take the fight to the opposition, will be the man to carry Sri Lanka’s thrust. The arrival of young Kusal Mendis from the cricket crazy town of Moratuwa, sounds exciting. The riding back to form of Chandimal must put the smiles on Sri Lankan faces. – Srian Obeyesekere expounds
An ‘Ape Kollo’ Sri Lankan feeling must ring within as a 0-2 down back to the wall Sri Lanka prepare to reverse fortunes in the Lords 3rd Test match on June 9. Sri Lanka is known for its inherent capability to bounce back, and the rediscovery of its batting muscle in a second innings total of 475 at Durham must certainly be morale boosting for the Lords showdown. Indeed, Lords will be much more home to the Sri Lankans going by the last meeting in 2014 between the two countries in a drawn contest. Skipper Mathews took a ton off England while opener Kaushal Silva posted twin half centuries in a first innings total of 453 in reply to England’s mammoth 585..
That the 2016 tour started on a devilish note with Sri Lanka playing the first two tests in the most trying ice cold climatic conditions against a highly professional England side speaks of the first Test innings defeat at Headingley and the 9-wicket defeat at Durham. In the Durham slide, Sri Lanka can take to the drawing board the form of frontliners Mathews who smacked an aggressive 80 and Dinesh Chandimal carving a back to the wall 126. Contrastingly to Leeds and Durham, the Lords pitch is traditionally known to play well for batsmen and therein Sri Lanka does have in its ranks quite a number of sound stroke makers. While the openers Kaushal Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne posses sound technical temperament up front, Mathews and Chandimal pack the type of bludgeoning impetus. Silva, in fact, has had a fairly good run having taken a half ton off England at Durham.
ENTER KUSAL MENDIS
The bright spark to Sri Lanka’s 2016 England campaign has been the discovery of the young right-hander Kusal Mendis who has with a maiden Test half ton at Leeds shown the right credentials to hold the pivotal No.3 slot. The 21-year old Sri Lanka Youth Captain has had a rather pleasing journey in the hot spot though having started with a debut duck to have redeemed himself with a second innings 53 in the first test and followed up with 26 and 35 in the second test. Balapuwaduge Kusal Gimhan Mendis, born February 2, 1995, who made his foray to international cricket from Prince of Wales Moratuwa as a top under-19 wicket-keeper batsman, does excite the blood. He follows a breed of potential batsmen from the cricket crazy town of Moratuwa such as Duleep Mendis and Romesh Kaluwitharana who have done Sri Lanka proud; the more recent being the left handed Lahiru Thirimanne. While Thirimanne battles poor form in a bid to recapture the early career form that saw him win the faith of the national selectors as the vice captain of the Test team, the arrival of the young colt Mendis has proved to be a plus mark for the team. That he has breathed a semblance of hope at No.3 is pressure easing to the captain on the future horizon.
Strikingly, this 2016 Test exchange without an argument puts hosts a rampant England in the box seat against Sri Lanka which I on a rebuilding course bordering on mostly young blood following the retirements of veterans Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. England, on the other hand, basks in some highly seasoned veterans with the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad ingrained in quite some Ashes winning heroics in recent years against arch foes Australia. Given that backdrop, the Anderson fantasy at Durham was no big surprise in running through a recouping Sri Lankan side just in the throes of blending raw talent in getting the right mix.
The loss of fast bowler Shaminda Eranga from a suspect action during the second Test is another setback and it will be interesting to see how Sri Lanka head into Lords. That is whether they will opt for the new Master Blaster in its ranks Kusal Janith Perera, the opening batsman who himself came out of a suspension after an ICC positive finding on his urine sample was reversed recently. Kusal Janith Perera had been well touted as the next ace in the pack in the trend of basher Sanath Jayasuriya and great things were expected of him at the Asia Cup and T 20 World Cup, but those hopes were blown off following the suspension. The reentry of Perera therefore does add dimension on the England tour as to whether he will play in the third test or be slotted in the ODI contest to follow. The bowling department has been of concern to the Sri Lankan camp that has suffered the injury sidelined setbacks of 2014 historic series match winner at Headingly Dhammika Prasad, and the tearaway speedster Dushmantha Chameera.
In effect, the hard hitting Angelo Mathews, with the proven track record to take the fight to the opposition, will be the man to carry Sri Lanka’s thrust. While young Mendis sounds exciting at one drop, the riding back to form of Chandimal must put the smiles on Sri Lankan faces.
NUWAN KULASEKERA EXITS TEST CRICKET
The retirement from Test cricket of speed merchant Nuwan Kulasekera at the age of 33 marks the end of a chapter. Kulasekara Mudiyanselage Dinesh Nuwan Kulasekara hailing from Nittambuwa had proved to be quite a cog in the wheel for Sri Lanka since making his New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Napier, Apr 4-8, 2005. His last test appearance was against England at Lord’s in June 12-16, 2014. The right arm medium pace man collected 48 test wickets from 21 matches and 38 innings with a best of 4 for 21 at an average of 37.37 and economy rate of 3.01. However, Kulasekera’s forte was as an ODI bowler having starred in some of Sri Lanka’s stellar trophy winning tournaments. In ODI cricket he has 186 wickets from 173 matches and 171 innings at an average of 34.08 and economy rate of 4.86. One of his lethal armories was the impeccable in swinger which also accounted for the prize wicket of master batsman Sachin Tendulkar.
Kulasekera has reportedly stated that he will continue his ODI career on which he wants to prioritise.
By Srian Obeyesekere