Australia v Sri Lanka, CB series, Sydney February 18, 2012

Jayawardene happy with youngsters stepping up

Mahela Jayawardene is pleased Sri Lanka's turnaround in the triangular series has begun with youngsters stepping up. Thisara Perera, the promising allrounder who is slowly becoming a key member of the side, and Farveez Maharoof, who made yet another comeback in an in-and-out career, took four wickets for 47 runs between them, and broke the back of the Australian innings.

"These are the guys who are going to take Sri Lanka cricket into the future," Jayawardene said. "Hopefully we can build on that.

"I am a big fan of his [Maharoof's]. He has been playing some good cricket back home. Especially with two new balls, he is one of the guys who can give us something extra with the bat and the ball in different conditions. It's good to have him back. He felt really confident. He is an experienced player, he played in the 2007 World Cup as a 20-year-old."

Perera, a more regular member of the side than Maharoof, had earlier been dropped in Sri Lanka's second match of the tournament. In their big win against Australia, he contributed to two run-outs apart from taking two wickets. "Brilliant," Jayawardene said. "These are young guys who are coming through. They believe they belong here, which is great. The energy level they bring to the team is fantastic.

"He [Perera] is a fast-bowler-allrounder, who can field at any position, he is a good slip fielder as well. It's good to have this group of players we can work with for the future. Got other youngsters who are coming back from injury. We will get a bigger pool going forward. Exciting times as long as we keep working hard."

Apart from youngsters, Jayawardene was pleased Sri Lanka finally got a decent start to their innings. Jayawardene moved back to the opening role, dropping Upul Tharanga, and the captain and former captain put on 74 for the first wicket. "We needed a tactical change," Jayawardene said. "We were not getting starts upfront. Upul is a very good player. But unfortunately he is going through a bit of a period. We felt giving him a break will do him justice, freshen him up. I just jumped in straightaway.

"Lahiru is a middle-over batsman, he can fit anywhere. We just need to settle things upfront, make sure we get a good start, which we did today."

Jayawardene has seen good signs from Tillakaratne Dilshan. "Dilly plays his own game," Jayawardene said. "We never restricted him. He goes out there and plays naturally. He is a fantastic player to have. On the field he saves 20 runs. Even on a good wicket he can bowl five-six overs for you. A complete package. The way he batted today was beautiful. We just want to make him a free player so he can win matches for us. He has got three good starts now, hopefully he will get a big one next game."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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