Sri Lanka in Australia, 2012-13 January 14, 2013

Regeneration heralded by Thirimanne

A century for Lahiru Thirimanne in Adelaide was the latest evidence of a welcome regeneration in Sri Lanka's batting

Some images stick more readily in the mind than others. Among this summer's most indelible sights have been an exhausted and exasperated Peter Siddle on his haunches in Adelaide, Ricky Ponting bowing graciously to the WACA ground at the end of his Test career, and Michael Hussey barely able to contain his glee when carried from the SCG by Siddle and Mitchell Johnson at the conclusion of his.

To these may now be added an embrace by two young Sri Lankan cricketers upon the completion of the visitors' eight-wicket hiding of Australia at Adelaide Oval. Lahiru Thirimanne and Kushal Perera completed the task with panache and professionalism, but their spontaneous outburst of joy upon reaching the target demonstrated how much it meant to take their team to a first win of the tour.

Thirimanne had the additional pleasure of reaching a century with the winning boundary, and his fluency on a pitch no batsman found easy to negotiate was the latest episode in the most promising subplot of Sri Lanka's visit down under.

As Australia shuffle their players strenuously while looking ahead to future assignments, it is arguable that the stronger signs of regeneration are evident on the opposing side. Quietly, but notably, Sri Lanka's batting is showing evidence of new and genuine growth, of the kind that has eluded the nation's cricket team for a generation.

At the start of the tour, familiar concerns were raised about the fragility of the talent beneath Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. They were raised in pitch at the moment Sangakkara's hand was shattered by Johnson at the MCG. But following the contributions of a trio of young batsmen over the Sydney Test and so far in the ODI series, those voices of doubt are losing their edge.

None of Thirimanne, Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne are entirely new faces. All had played for their country before this tour, with varying degrees of success. In Chandimal's case it has been a source of curiosity for some time why he had not yet been granted a more permanent place in the Test team; his composure at the crease and with the gloves when replacing the injured Sangakkara in Sydney certainly indicated a sate of readiness. Karunaratne is the more recent addition to the national squad, and he emerged from the Test series having learned plenty of lessons, putting them into practice with a refined 85 at the SCG.

In terms of international exposure, Thirimanne is somewhere in between the other two, having made his Test debut in England in 2011 and his ODI bow the year before. In and out of the national team ever since, he only joined this tour as a reinforcement after the string of injuries suffered during an ignominious defeat in Melbourne. Nonetheless, the Australians had reason to respect Thirimanne even before his flight landed in Sydney ahead of the third Test.

His first encounter with them had been in a tour match when Michael Clarke's team visited Sri Lanka before the 2011-12 summer, and a doughty second innings century at P Sara Oval demonstrated a neat technique and collected temperament that appeared likely to serve him well in the future. A Test match appearance later on the same tour was less notable, but even then Thirimanne showed a capacity to stick to the crease, seeing off 79 deliveries before Siddle pierced his defence on the 80th.

Runs at home are a great thing for any batsman, but to make them overseas in unfamiliar climes is to suggest that there is enough vitality and resourcefulness within to succeed anywhere. Thirimanne knew this when he shrugged off jetlag while walking to the centre of the SCG, and against an Australian pace attack hungry for a rapid conclusion to the series his 91 ensured the tourists would stay afloat for far longer than they had managed in Melbourne. A source of frustration to Thirimanne for its conclusion before a century was reached, that innings was to be doubly unfulfilling when Australia ultimately pressed on to inflict a five-wicket defeat.

Thirmanne's strokeplay is considered rather than limited, for he is able to manoeuvre the ball to most parts of the ground, and at times can unfurl a drive to please those who have watched plenty of similar shots by his seniors

All that was in Thirimanne's mind when he set about chasing a paltry target in Adelaide. He walked to the wicket at the fall of Upul Tharanga - who increasingly carries the haunted air of a talent unfulfilled - in the first over of the pursuit, but aided by a composed Tillakaratne Dilshan set about closing in on the required runs. Thirmanne's strokeplay is considered rather than limited, for he is able to manoeuvre the ball to most parts of the ground, and at times can unfurl a drive to please those who have watched plenty of similar shots by his seniors. Most importantly he seems to have found the ability to adjust his batting to the circumstances, and now possesses most gears on the continuum from stonewall to sprint.

Dilshan's departure, 34 runs short, moved Jayawardene to send in Perera, who quickly showed his own shotmaking talent with a six swung to square leg and a coruscating drive to the cover fence from a nonplussed Xavier Doherty. But he reined himself in from there to allow Thirimanne a chance to make the century that eluded him in Sydney. "Sydney Test, after the match I thought I could have got a century," Thirmanne said afterwards. "So that was in my mind when I was 90, so I tried to keep my head still and play along the ground. After that Kushal helped me a lot to score the hundred."

Having levelled the series, Perera and Thirimanne savoured the victory with real feeling, for it had been as hard earned as it was deserved. The Sri Lankan win in Adelaide may prove to be a key moment on this tour. Moreover, this tour may prove a turning point in Sri Lankan batting. In Thirimanne, Chandimal and Karunaratne, there is plenty of reason to hope.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sam on January 17, 2013, 6:49 GMT

    There are many young talented players in SL especially in batting. The bowling as always looks a bit out of depth except for a 3-4 year period when they had Malinga, Murali and Vaas. Any way, all the younger generation cricketers Mathews, Thissera Perera, Chandimal, Thirimanne, Karunaratne and Kushal Silva seem to be very talented. So, I expect a good future for SL cricket and seeing good young cricketers have always excited me.

  • Nimmie on January 17, 2013, 2:38 GMT

    World knows that the reckless hitter always has tendency to boost confidence of a good bowling attack, these jokers have been continuing with such batters that can't middle the ball nor stroke the ball all along the ground when it really matters most, particularly on the leg-side. The Jokers have always hated batters that have proper control over their batting, It is due to this very reason the bats the class of Dias, Madugalle, M'nama, Hashan, A'pattu, (S'weera),… were forced to retire early than they'd have been, whereas reckless hitters with no control over their stroke play were allowed to continue with 500-600 Internationals to their credit and thus SL became very unpredictable team by now. A test team needs batters of the class of Young Dravid, T'dulkar, A'taire Cooke, Trott,Amla, Bell,.. that have total control over their stroke play but not blind hitters. Desipte these henchmen's poor performances out of the Country they the J&Ps may continue with them till the next WC.

  • Nimmie on January 17, 2013, 2:38 GMT

    The Game has been played continuously since 1830s. therefore there're always enough talent of quality, the only lapse is that the J&Ps in office for the last 25 years have been very much ignorant of the Game and certain envious minded persons too have been in the process of trying to make a game (which isn't suited for Asians) popular forcibly, with the help of the principals of all big schools and together with certain media personnel, for the last 20 years. Mostly due to this very reason there is a shortage of talented big-made fast bowlers. By the way one of the 3 seniors was dropped for the tour of Zimbabwe in Nov 2008 & that of B'desh Jan 2009 for his poor performances up to that time as a middle-order batter(however he got back into the Team somehow). and these type of fleet-footed reckless risky stroke makers that offer 2-3 straight forward chances to score a 50, have always been given annoying recognition and employed as front-liners. Though the whole Cricketing (2 B CNTD)

  • associate cricket fan on January 16, 2013, 16:16 GMT

    @Sakthiivel. Chandimal is not a flop. He scored a half century in the last ODI and the 3rd test match. The reason why he failed after the CB series is because he is very poor in subcontinent wickets. I beleive he can improve that as he will play most of his matches in the subcontinent. But outside the subcontinent he is very effective. You can check his stats.

  • Aruna on January 16, 2013, 15:52 GMT

    @miles100, totally agree with you. Great way to go about in doing both things at once, wining games plus nurturing the new talent for future. Fantastic strategy that many team managers do not seem to consider.

  • Sakthi on January 16, 2013, 15:04 GMT

    Whenever we sawa post like this, that particular player will flop immediately. Hope it wasn't a fluke. Saw the same with Dinesh chandimal, Kapu etc... Now all SL fans will say I saw Aravinda in Thirimanne, Thirimanne resembles Arjuna bla bla bla

  • Shamalka on January 16, 2013, 11:51 GMT

    t is clearly evident that 3 veterans' days are numbered when we see the brave performance of the youngsters. Sanga's injury is a blessing in disguise. Mahela should take a call on his ODI career since he's not effective on seaming wickets anymore. Sanga & Dilshan may have a couple of years left in ODIs but I don't know how helpful it would be for the 2015 WC in AUZ and NZ since their reflexes not getting any faster. We never imagined that we would see players like Aravinda or Captains like Arjuna anymore but Sanga and Mahela proved that it was a myth. Similarly young guns will prove that they could replace Sanga and Mahela in time to come. Sanga and Mahela didn't become legends over night. Therefore it's high time to pass the baton to players like Anji, Lahiru, Chandimal, Akhila, Kushal and Dimuth before it is too late.

  • Dark on January 15, 2013, 12:27 GMT

    Thirimanna reminds me of Asanka Gurusinghe, the BEST number three SL had at that time... I think it will be good if Thirimanna can be the permanent solution for SLs no. 3 problem. Ideally a no. 3 should be the wall so that other explosives can bat around him.... But surely Tharanga has to make way to Dimuth So that SL can groom him for the 2015 WC.... Y can't SL find a explosive young batter who can bowl a bit like Sanath J...

  • Ajith on January 15, 2013, 9:10 GMT

    Congrats SL for finally getting your act together.We all savour the victory but still a long way to go.Karunaratne must be persisted with as an opener in all forms of cricket without confining to tests only.Atleast his foot movement looks better than Tharanga against the moving ball.SL should not carry any passengers in the team which demotivates the rest of the team. I think herath should play in the crucial 3rd match in brisbane now that the aussie stalwarts are back to strenthen the SL spin dept.Good Luck SL this is your chance to go ahead in the series.

  • Sinhhalaya on January 15, 2013, 8:00 GMT

    Thirimanne: the man for the ugly innings. Just like Gura in days of yore, a streaky edge through the slips, a lucky nick past the leg stump, an occasional burst of aggression and a sizeable contribution to the team's cause. Very few classic Kodak moments. When I say ugly, I mean it in the best possible way. Workmanlike and not flashy - no lovely Marvan drives, Mahela late cuts or Sanga's caresses between cover and extra. Thirimanne, like Gura before him, is a solid cricketer. What SL would be advised to do is to persevere with