Sri Lanka in Australia, 2012-13 December 20, 2012

Eranga capable of sharpening blunt SL attack

In the absence of Lasith Malinga in Tests, Shaminda Eranga has the skills to be the most potent bowler in Sri Lanka's pace attack

The loss in Hobart may not have greatly enhanced the reputation of Sri Lanka's Test pace attack, but there is a Sri Lankan fast bowler who has had a soaring start in Australia. Lasith Malinga possesses the fire to distress batsmen on any surface, and his exploits - eight wickets at 5.75 - have been in the wrong format, and for entirely the wrong team, when Sri Lanka aim to secure victory in a land that has yielded them only disappointment in the longest format.

Injury may have sidelined Australia's two best fast-bowling prospects for the summer, but Sri Lanka's finest quick has been lost to their Test team through a chronic injury for some time now, and his early harvest in the Big Bash League have only served to highlight how sorely he is missed. Less than a week out from the Boxing Day Test, Malinga's long-time mentor and Sri Lanka's fast-bowling coach, Champaka Ramanayake, still harboured hopes that Malinga might play in whites again, but the bowler himself has ruled out a return. If he could play, the visitors' pace attack would be stripped of its humdrum, and re-dressed in venom. Malinga's knee is one of the great frustrations of Sri Lanka's present state.

But there is another, Ramanayake believes, who can lend Sri Lanka's attack the edge it has lacked. Like Malinga, Shaminda Eranga was unearthed at a pace competition in an outstation town, and was quickly brought into Sri Lanka's fast-bowling academies and given a place in a first-class team of his choosing. There he learnt the rudiments of swing and seam under Ramanayake's guidance, and eventually progressed to Sri Lanka's A team, and into the international fold.

His Test debut gave much cause for encouragement, when he squeezed five Australian wickets from a typically lifeless SSC pitch to finish with more scalps than any other quick bowler in the match. A nerve-related back injury then sidelined him for almost a year, but he has done enough on return to retain his place in the team, even if he hasn't yet bettered the haul from his first innings at a Test bowling crease. Eranga has the ability to move the ball both ways off the seam - if modestly - and bring the ball into right-hand batsmen in the air, which has seen him earmarked as talent worth investing in. In Galle, against New Zealand in November, he also showcased a mastery of reverse swing, delivering a series of tailing yorkers towards the end of the visitor's first innings.

Perhaps more crucially for Sri Lanka on their current assignment, Eranga was the only bowler who was not decisively outgunned by Australia's pacemen in Hobart. Easily the sharpest of the visitor's pack, Eranga kept pace with Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc, while Chanaka Welegedara struggled to hit the low 130s (kph), and Nuwan Kulasekara was slower still.

"Eranga is a guy who can give us a bit of firepower," Ramanayake said. "He has only played four Test matches, three of which were in Sri Lanka. He played against Australia at home and he bowled really well in that game. I can see that he's bowling 140-plus, and as time goes, he can be a very good bowler who can take five-wicket hauls and win us some games."

Eranga's promise was not evident in his figures from Hobart, however, and while Starc and Siddle both earned five-wicket hauls, Eranga's match figures were 2 for 143. Australian pitches reward bounce more than most, and in that regard, he is hampered by a bowling action that remains essentially homespun. Eranga does not brace his front leg at the crease, nor is his arm vertical at release, and accordingly, he does not generate the lift that he could achieve, given his height. His movement too, was missing in Hobart - and though a flat pitch in the first innings allowed little lateral movement for any bowler, there was reverse swing in evidence later in the game, which Eranga did not exploit. A tendency to become intermittently wayward also undermined the efforts of other bowlers, when they had been building pressure with tight spells from the other end.

"If he can start moving the ball a little bit more with his pace, I'm sure he'll be able to take more wickets," Ramanayake said. "Consistency as well, is key. If he can bowl in the right areas and keep his lines and lengths, I'm sure that he will get there very soon."

In an attack desperate for an aggressor, Eranga is the only bowler with the pace to become a truly fearsome force in Australia, and as such, his performance is key to their prospects in the remaining Tests. Eranga has impressed the selectors and coaching staff with his potential, but until his results begin to match that promise, Sri Lanka's pace attack is may not progress beyond pedestrian.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Pasan on December 21, 2012, 19:32 GMT

    @Last they are going to talk about him. This man Eranga is the best skiddy bowler i hv seen in recent days for sri lanka as he is someone with better pace and Swing.He is the most probable fixture in fulfilling vassey's spot.Good to see him getting opportunity.But I guess if he can open the bowling with the new ball he might become better. as the confidence for a paceman should come through strikes specially in tests. He still has a long way to go and even might be better than any other paceman in sri lanka Bt it's better if we can use some one like Pradeep who can exceed 144 kmph in these fast tracks.because the other too are typically's not a fault bt we must take the maximum use of wht we have got

  • Prashan on December 21, 2012, 15:06 GMT

    @Meety, that is a dream buddy. Anyway, as per the current situation, we are better off playing Nuwan Pradeep instead of Nuwan Kulasekara. Nuwan Pradeep being nearly 180 cm in height and having a bowling action a bit like Rana Navad or even Ben Hilfenhaus gets good bounce. His physique is good for a pace bowler from Sri Lanka. Also, he never touched a leather ball until he was 20. Hope he is not going to be in the dressing room for the Boxing Day test. His bowling average is poor because he has so far not got a good run on the bouncy surfaces. Last year, when we toured England, in the practice match he took 4 for 45 and injured himself and was out of action till the series with Pakistan in UAE.

  • Kenn on December 21, 2012, 13:37 GMT

    I think Sri Lanka should open the bowling with Welegedera & Eranga. Should look at replacing Kulazsekara with Prasad, Prasad is quicker, as a third seamer he could work.

  • Mark on December 21, 2012, 12:11 GMT

    Sri Lanka needs to find a couple of Rumesh Rathnayake types or Laisth Malinga types and have a well stocked stable of these type of bowlers. Because in tests you need bowlers who can take 20 wickets. You throw in a good spinner like Herath or Mendis and Sri Lanka have a good chance of winning in Australia or anywhere overseas for that matter. Good luck to Sri Lanka at the MCG.

  • associate cricket fan on December 21, 2012, 5:04 GMT

    I still say sri lanka should go with the same pace attack. Prasad and nuwan pradeep dont have the accuracy that kulasekara provides. Yes they have the pace. But pace doesnt mean they will take wickets. Last year both Ishant and Umesh struggled to take wickets eventhough they both can bowl at 150Km/h.

  • Andrew on December 21, 2012, 0:19 GMT

    @Riyas Izzedeen - I agree. I felt in the 1st innings that he & Kulasekara were excellent in terms of line & length - yet it was Welegedara that got the wickets & HE was the loose bowler. The 2nd innings - Oz were setting a total, so they were having a bit of a crack. I do not believe that Welegedera's 6 wickets for the match was fair in comparison to Ernaga & Kula's bowling efforts. @ Sinhaya on (December 20 2012, 17:12 PM GMT) - still, dreaming about an opening attack of Eranga & Malinga would be a nice one!

  • Dummy4 on December 20, 2012, 22:42 GMT

    Eranga is a promising prospect but how is it that Sri Lankan selectors left out Thisara? His notable absence almost matches the absence of Ajantha Mendis. Sri Lanka's only real hope for a win in the Melbourne Test is to play both Herath and Ajantha. The alternative is impotent.

  • Dummy4 on December 20, 2012, 21:59 GMT

    I agree with R Wijetunge 's comment re;thisara perera ,he should be in this test team ,plus he is a better batter than kulasekra.

  • Prashan on December 20, 2012, 17:12 GMT

    Eranga has not got sufficient exposure. Ramanayake must stop dreaming about Malinga's return.

  • Al on December 20, 2012, 15:00 GMT

    Dont want to bring the young man down but NO. SL's pace attack is pretty much ineffective. Rod Marsh's comments were harsh and cruel but unfortunately true. Pity Herath hasnt the right support. What was Ramanyake doing all these years?

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