Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sydney, 1st day

Thirimanne shows the future is not bleak

Andrew Fernando at the SCG

January 3, 2013

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Lahiru Thirimanne drives during his innings of 91, Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sydney, 1st day, January 3, 2013
Lahiru Thirimanne scored 91, only 36 hours after landing in Australia © Getty Images
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From all the innings, shots, wickets and catches Mahela Jayawardene oversaw as captain of Sri Lanka in 2012, his favourite moment was an instance of exceptional gall from Lahiru Thirimanne. Sri Lanka were five runs short of victory in Pallekele in their first Super Eights match of the World Twenty20, but they only had two balls remaining, with Tim Southee at the bowling crease, delivering one of the spells of the tournament. Thirimanne, fresh from the dugout, had not managed a convincing stroke from either of the balls he had faced, yet on the penultimate delivery of Sri Lanka's innings, he knelt and played a scoop he had never tried before in international cricket, sending Southee's yorker over short fine leg for four, and the stadium into raptures.

"For Lahiru to have the courage to do that and back himself was fantastic," Jayawardene said months later, while reflecting on the year's events. "I think among the young group, he has that mindset to handle those really tough situations." Courage, self-belief, fortitude. They are the same virtues that fashioned Thirimanne's 91 in Sydney, and provided the backbone of Sri Lanka's first innings after the team had shown little of the above with the bat in their last Test.

Not many of the 26,000 at the SCG knew Thirimanne upon his arrival at the crease, and until five days before the match, he had no idea he would be playing a New Year Test either. Yet, when he departed short of the three-figure score he deserved, the stadium rose to give him a warm ovation. They only need to think back to last year's Test to recall knocks that dwarf Thirimanne's 91 in heft, skill and allure, but there was much to enjoy about the steel in his defense and the defiance in his strokes, and they did not withhold their appreciation. Perhaps the crowd had also heard on their earpiece radios by then, that Thirimanne had stepped off a plane only 36 hours before his innings began.

If Thirimanne was not nervous when he arrived at the crease, the lbw shout and referral off his first ball certainly would have put him on edge. "I thought that was out," he said at the end of the day, but he did not allow that rattling introduction detract from focus or technique. He left positively and even early in his innings, his scoring strokes were assured. As he grew more accustomed to the pace of the pitch, he drove the quicks on the front foot with the same comfort with which he dispatched Nathan Lyon through the offside, leaning back. Australia cannot have had long to analyse footage of Thirimanne to deduct a plan of attack, but if there are glaring vulnerabilities in his game, he did well to hide them. Few Sri Lankan batsmen graduate from the domestic system without a major weakness that must be ironed out at the top level.

Thirimanne had replaced Kumar Sangakkara, and the bent-knee cover drive he wielded with increasing command throughout the day bore strong parallels to Sangakkara's signature stroke, only it was less clean. Like Thirimanne, Sangakkara had a limited range of strokes once, but a strong mind and tireless work ethic transformed him into one of the greats of the modern game. It is encouraging that Thirimanne already seems to possess an iron temperament, but he would do well to emulate the hunger and commitment Sangakkara has ridden to acclaim, if he is to make good on the potential his innings made plain.

Before receiving the call from Sri Lanka's selectors, Thirimanne's last match was at the Nondescripts Cricket Club in Colombo, where even the likes of Mitchell Johnson might find getting the ball above chest height a fruitless pursuit. The SCG may be the least daunting Australian venue for Sri Lanka, but the bounce and carry in the pitch on day one is a world removed from the featherbed on which he scratched out a limited overs half-century a week ago, and he has had just one training session to adjust to batting in conditions that have not flattered his teammates in the first two Tests. Uncluttered by the baggage of the Melbourne massacre perhaps, Thirimanne relied on resilience to compensate for unfamiliarity.

"It was a bit difficult to adjust, but it's all about mindset," he said. "You have to adapt to any conditions quickly if you want to play international cricket. Whether we are playing ODIs or Test we have to get our mindset right. I adapted really well today. I am disappointed to have missed a hundred, but I'm happy with my performance."

Just as Rangana Herath has shown Sri Lanka there is life after Muttiah Muralitharan, there are signs from the likes of Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal that Sri Lanka can be hopeful about their batting beyond the careers of the four ageing men who have begun winding down their careers. On day one in Sydney, a 23-year-old propelled Sri Lanka towards respectability with spunk and composure. The visitors may still be placed poorly in the match, with a second-string pace attack now tasked with reining Australia in, but fans at home will take even more pleasure in Thirimanne's innings than the SCG crowd that witnessed it, because suddenly, the future does not look so bleak.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

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Posted by Sinhaya on (January 5, 2013, 11:24 GMT)

Actually the author should also show how Dimuth Karunaratne too has cemented his spot in the side. No doubt a good knock by him. So hopefully Thirimanne, Karunaratne and Chandimal will be our future batting stars.

Posted by Sinhaya on (January 4, 2013, 15:42 GMT)

@Chris_P, thanks for your wishes on Pradeep. Yes actually Pradeep has something to boast in the shorter domestic format, but in the longer local format, he averages over 30 and that is a worry. He does get the good ball but normally say once in 2 or 3 overs which is not good. Regarding test cricket, yes West Indies have made some inroads in the shorter formats, but still not enough to impress in tests. Great if you have visited Sri Lanka already and looks like you visited when Australia toured here in 2004. Fact is that we have played our worse test cricket of all against Aussies. Unfortunately T20 cricket should be restricted as it dilutes the reality of cricket. Honestly the way Aussies have improved in test cricket (still 50 50 in other 2 formats) since the Ashes debacle is simply phenomenol. However, too early to talk about Ashes next year. England too are very good.

Posted by gnanzcupid on (January 4, 2013, 3:02 GMT)

Those who are abusing sanga must understand that it was him along with mahela who pressed a pause button on sl team becoming another zimbabwe or kenya like team. I feel that the author is carried away by thirimanne's innings. Lets wait and watch how he turns out to be. Too early to pass comments like this dear. Have seen a few lankan players play well in few matches and end up a flop. I don agree with the author that sl future is not bleak.

Posted by ahead-of-time on (January 4, 2013, 1:46 GMT)

well said Darshana Dias. Thank u for standing by our home grown Heroes.

Posted by Palitha-Ferdinands on (January 4, 2013, 0:41 GMT)

I totally agree with Ramesh Darshan Perera. You have said better than I would have. Journalists and commentators, they all have boundaries and parameters set by their employers. I find Andrew and of course Russel doing their best to encourage our young cricketers which we should appreciate and be encouraged.

Posted by Chris_P on (January 3, 2013, 23:39 GMT)

@Sinhaya. I wish Pradeep all the best, although being a pace bowler on Sri Lankan wickets will test his mettle. I don't read too much into early test stats, bowling on dead pitches tend to balloon your figures out in that manner, they should be much improved after this test. Too bad your seasons coincide with ours, a season with a Sydney or Melbourne grade club would be a good experience for him.

Posted by Chris_P on (January 3, 2013, 23:31 GMT)

@Sinhaya. Test cricket needs a competitive Sri Lanka, as well as NZ, West Indies et al, but this has to start at grass roots level. I haven't been to Sri Lanka for nearly a decade, there didn't seem to be a lack of facilities or enthusiasm! Having seen Galle, it struck me as the perfect place to develop a pitch with bounce & carry, ideally situated near the sea with right climate. Imagine if they had a quick pitch? The batsmen would be better equipped, bowlers would be standing up everywhere to bowl on it & you would have a perfect pitch to play against sides not so as well equipped to handle it? I really hope this SLPL includes cricket development at grass roots level, that is where your future is, not in encouraging T20 sloggers.

Posted by Chris_P on (January 3, 2013, 23:25 GMT)

@endianuwagona. Not sure why you are so hard on Sanga? All his opponents respect him highly, the Aussies believe him to be one of the best around, you don't need stats when he is acknowledged by his peers. Look them up yourself, you might get a surprise how good he is!

Posted by Shaggy076 on (January 3, 2013, 23:16 GMT)

He batted really well, the scratchy start can be attributed to never experiencing Australian like conditions and he only arrived a few days before the test to acclimatised. Once he hit 30 odd then he really looked the goods.

Posted by   on (January 3, 2013, 22:20 GMT)

@ranil ranatunga... Sanga may not be a "matchwinner" perhaps he saves his best for when Sri Lanka have their back against the wall and runs out of support. So many occasions we have seen Sanga put up a lone fight against many an opposition only to be left with the tail. Like the 190 odd last time SL toured aussie. Or perhaps you overlook his stats. In tests he averages a staggering 74 in matches Sri Lanka have won. 17 of his 30 100's have come in matches SL have won. Apart from this, he scored 98 against RSA in 2001, and was the last man out. Total 252. 95 Against England out of 250 (Took the score from 88 for 6). 100 not out (batted through the innings) out of 170 against New Zealand. 137 out of 309 against India. Only 4 of his 100s in test cricket have resulted in Sri Lanka losing. So considering all this do you still say he is not a match winner for SL?

Posted by ranilranathunga on (January 3, 2013, 19:39 GMT)

"I am suprised that the author is praising Sangakkara. He is not a match winner and has not won matches for SL even though pocketing awards and runs under his belt. He is not a team man and match winner. Provide me with stats where KS has won SL matches with solid batting performances. "COMLETELY AGREE WITH THIS, SANGA IS NOT A MATCH WINNER, JUST LOOK AT THE STATS, CANT UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE DONT UNDERSTAND THIS.

Posted by   on (January 3, 2013, 18:06 GMT)

consistency is the most important thing in test cricket if he want to long stay in the team he has to play big hundreds.

Posted by Htc-Android on (January 3, 2013, 17:27 GMT)

I have always said Thirimanne should be a regular member in the test team. He has a good technique and he has the ability to build an innings. He should be batting at the top in the ODIs too. The way he played some shots reminded me sangas batting.

Posted by   on (January 3, 2013, 17:24 GMT)

@ endianuwagona : When you start watching Cricket matches..??

Posted by stormy16 on (January 3, 2013, 17:17 GMT)

May be there is light at the end of the tunnel and it was extremely heartening to see Lahiru make a fist of things. I would have batted Chandi ahead of Thilan to give this guy a chance to bat freely. Lahiru certainly gave some hope for the future and wonder if they should not have played him in Para's spot all this time. Interestingly Lahiru in an opener (I think) but has made a mark in the middle order. He did play a poor shot to get out but did enough to get excited about.

Posted by   on (January 3, 2013, 16:55 GMT)

@endianuwagona - clearly you are not interested about SL cricket, and why ask questions forwhich you are not interested of an answer?. Match winning knocks of sanga are so many i loose count. Beside even if we loose thanks to sanga we get really close match which goes to the wire. But i agree his more memorable knocks have come in loosing causes. If not for sanga SL would have been a team in the oblivion. Because of Sanga's knocks we have become runner's up in 4 world cup's. The record speaks for itself..

Posted by   on (January 3, 2013, 16:21 GMT)

Ravine `s comment is pathetic.Andrew is the only Sri Lankan voice here and arguably the best as well..he is far more neutral than ENglish and Indian writers i ve seen..It is so unfortunate the attiudes of Lankans coz we see 100s of articles here about Indian and English players everyday and when a young batsman from our country plays really well , and then when we see an article about a lankan finally , its a Lankan who comes here first and criticize it !!

Posted by   on (January 3, 2013, 16:19 GMT)

The "second string pace attack" will surprise tomorrow.. Nuwan Pradeep is a talent for the future and he will come good one of these days!!

Posted by endianuwagona on (January 3, 2013, 16:19 GMT)

I am suprised that the author is praising Sangakkara. He is not a match winner and has not won matches for SL even though pocketing awards and runs under his belt. He is not a team man and match winner. Provide me with stats where KS has won SL matches with solid batting performances.

Posted by KingOwl on (January 3, 2013, 15:51 GMT)

@ Ravine Anuja Mihindukulasuriya: Do you seriously think that journalists are 'neutral', ha? Let us not be naive. Journalists have perspectives. Journalists are not academic scholars to look at things through rigorous, unbiased lenses. There are plenty of people in Cricinfo who give the Anglo perspective. It is good to have someone like Andrew giving a different perspective. Besides, he is great at writing!

Posted by   on (January 3, 2013, 14:55 GMT)

Well played Thiri.....Good for Fututr

Posted by Sinhaya on (January 3, 2013, 13:34 GMT)

It would have been great if Thirimanne got a ton. If he added 9 more, our total would have been just over 300. It just shows how important are test centuries. Our bowling at the MCG showed that had we taken 2 catches, we would have had the Aussies at 122/5. So with this bowling attack, we may have hope. Had we got 370 we can call it a par score. @Chris_P, for your information Nuwan Pradeep is a bowler who never touched a cricket ball until he was 20 years old.

Posted by   on (January 3, 2013, 13:31 GMT)

whilst I love Andrew Fernando's writing and articles, I am increasingly finding it very hard to appreciate any article written on Cricinfo about Sri Lank or about an SL player as it seems like the home man singing praises of his fellow countrymen 24/7. Like I said whilst I feel Andrew's style of writing and wit is miles ahead of most other writers on here, it is always to better to read an article by someone who is neutral who is appreciating SL or SL Players. I hope Cricinfo takes note of this. get him to write about any other country bar SL. His piece on Tony Grieg was extremely heartfelt and agreeable.. but seeing 99% of SL articles and reports by him takes the fun out of reading and looking forward to an unbiased view on a days play. I just don't enjoy reading SL articles anymore..

Posted by Sinhaya on (January 3, 2013, 13:21 GMT)

@Chris_P, yes he obviously cashed in thanks to DRS indeed. Well my worry is that we may get the Aussies out for less than 350 but skittle for less than 150 when we bat in our 2nd innings. No doubt Aussies showed today that they will be the best pace bowling attack till 2020 and beyond.

Posted by   on (January 3, 2013, 13:09 GMT)

its amazing how these players doesnt get a chance in SL test team unless someone get injured.there is a huge conspiracy against up and coming players in SL..Chandimal and Thirimanne are world class and two of the finest young players in the world but still useless below average ,30+ yr old players like Paranawithana and Prasanna gets in to the team instead of them !

Posted by sawifan on (January 3, 2013, 13:02 GMT)

@Sujan, yep, Pradeep shows lots of potential, to average over 500 with the ball after this test!!! 345 already!!! nah, he has only bowled on dead pitches so far so i am sure that average will come down, i hope so SRL tomorrow. But all in all, 294 really is a sub-par score, if AUS get going tomorrow, they may need to only bat once in this test again. I hope thats not the case, as i am a fan of SRL cricket, however, i can see things turning bad tomorrow. People are praising SRL because of their effort today, but that only looks good in comparison to the MCG, where, lets face it, things couldn't get much worse. Thirimine looks the good s though, and i agree with @KingOwl, he needs to bat in the middle order, not open. Stick with Dimuth for a while their, he'll come good!

Posted by KingOwl on (January 3, 2013, 11:59 GMT)

I am not sure that people who know the game in SL doubted Lahiru's potential. He was pushed in to open in a previous series - that was because the management was confident - perhaps over confident of his ability. Doing that was a mistake. But he will be a solid middle order batsman. There is no doubt about that. Chandimal has more to prove at the test level, however. But he has the talent to make it work.

Posted by   on (January 3, 2013, 11:45 GMT)

good innings....kindly stick with chandimal, thirimanne, dimuth, randiv, suranga lakmal, nuwan pradeep.....they may not deliver overnight...but give them enough chances for them to prosper

Posted by Chris_P on (January 3, 2013, 11:34 GMT)

Got to admit, he looked the goods. Good for Sri Lankan future as well. I hope they stick by him, showed solid play with increased confidence after a very scratchy & nervous start.

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