England v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Cardiff, 2nd day May 27, 2011

Prasanna shows his mettle

ESPNcricinfo staff
The onus was on Prasanna Jayawardene to justify his position at No. 6 coming into this match, and his calm hundred did just that

Prasanna Jayawardene was perhaps the Sri Lankan with the most to worry about ahead of the England Tests, but those concerns were put to rest with a crisp century in Cardiff on the more illustrious Jayawardene's birthday.

The specialist batting slots in the side are set in stone, while the bowling has a revolving-door feel, which allows players an opportunity to return even if they botch it in a match or two. The Sri Lankan wicketkeeper-batsman position, though, has four candidates in the squad, including a former captain and two young up-and-comers.

With the team needing to play five specialist bowlers in the absence of the batsman-confounding genius of Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga, and Kumar Sangakkara having given up the captaincy, some argued Sangakkara should take up the gloves in the interest of the team balance, allowing another specialist batsman to be selected at No. 6.

On first sight Prasanna seems to have made a compelling case for batting that high in the order: he is widely considered the best gloveman in the country, and he amassed 736 runs to lead his domestic side Bloomfield to the title in the first-class tournament. The trouble for the 31-year-old Prasanna is that two of the other contenders, Dinesh Chandimal and Kaushal Silva, both at least six years younger than him, scored even more. Chandimal, in particular, has been talked up as a star in the making for at least a year now.

Add to that, three single-digit scores in the two warm-up matches, and he surely must have felt insecure about his place coming into the series. Not so, he says. "I love handling pressure, I don't why everybody says I'm under pressure because I have proved myself every time I have had a chance in Test matches." And he has too - averaging an astonishing 53.70 over his past ten Tests, certainly enough to qualify for that No. 6 place.

"This is a new challenge I've had, I normally bat at No. 7," he said. "This time for team balance I have to play at No. 6, all the team management trusted me, I think I proved myself."

Still, when he walked in at 159 for 4 on a sunny Cardiff day, the wisdom of playing five full-time bowlers was getting tested for the first time. Mahela Jayawardene failing to continue his series-opening centuries in England had left the home side relishing the prospect of getting into the long Lankan tail early on the second day.

The first signs that may not come to pass were when Prasanna scored his first runs through a classy punch between the bowler and mid-on. A couple of streaky fours followed - outside edges to the third man boundary which increased Stuart Broad's frustration - before a lazy fielding attempt from Kevin Pietersen gave him four more.

That pushed him along to 20, and with Graeme Swann and Jonathan Trott operating either side of lunch, he had time to settle in before facing the challenge of the second new ball. Though he scored at a brisk pace, it wasn't an innings studded with eye-catching strokes, barring some emphatic sweeps against Swann, and a powerful pull off Trott . It was more about nurdling the ball around into the gaps, the placement allowing him to pick up plenty of twos and threes.

It was one of those threes that brought up his century, only the second Sri Lankan wicketkeeper to post a hundred in the United Kingdom, after Amal Silva more than two decades ago. The normally undemonstrative Prasanna cherished the milestone, not content with just the wave of the bat to the crowd but following it up by facing the dressing room and repeatedly pumping his fist on his chest. "I have toured England before, but I never got a chance to play a Test," he said. "This was my first time, and I'm really happy to get a hundred in my first innings."

Dilshan had said after winning the toss that Sri Lanka would be satisfied with a total in the range of 350-400. By the time Prasanna was dismissed, Sri Lanka had moved along to 397 and the series of doughty partnerships that he had put together had thwarted the home side for most of the day. Broad bravely talked about reprising what Australia did in the only other Test in Cardiff ("bat once and bat big") but Sri Lanka are the happier side two days into the series. And the most content of them will be Prasanna.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ramesh on May 28, 2011, 17:25 GMT

    Yes where are these fools who wanted prasanna dropped...yes chandimal shoupd be in the team but not in expense of PJ who is the best wk in d world....and also very poor batting by MJ and Sanga...They didnt come for practise matches, they were more keen on IPL and now they were the only ones to underperform

  • Finn on May 28, 2011, 10:34 GMT

    I don't see why he should be dropped, yes Silva and Chandimal have impressive FC averages but they are unproven and surely it would be better to blood them in Sri Lanka than chuck them in at the deep end in cloudy and swinging England? Jayawardene played very well and he took SL from a total of like 300-320 to 400.

  • Philip on May 28, 2011, 9:26 GMT

    What a delight to see Prasanna take up the challenge. I always thought that he had past his days with the emergence of the younger duo (Chandiman & Kaushal). I have to admire his guts and this is what we need. A Gutty display and performance. The two batting failures are the biggies (who are entitled to a few) and how well the team has responded. All talk of Mahela & Sanga as the key, will put pressure on England's strategy. Stuart Law stood by the team and did warn of a surprise. Surprise they have so far. The Bowling needs more umph. Did not see a100% effort and was a bit of a waste of the new ball. Hope the good work continues and the surprise comes to fruition. Philip Gnana, Surrey

  • chandana on May 28, 2011, 9:20 GMT

    Everyone is talking about Chandimal the batter but what about Chandimal the keeper??? who is the second best keeper in Sri lanka? I think Sanga is and because he plays for NCC where there are 2 others keepers in ChANdimal and Tharanga, he does not keep much in domestic matches. Kaushal keeps for SSC and is ok but so is Dilshan who keeps when PJ is not available for BLoomfield. Kusal Perera from Colts is another batting keeper, but Im not sure where Rashan Peiris is and he was nearly as good as PJ. However Sri Lanka will need to ind a really good keeper to keep the tradition of Mahesh G, Kalu, Sanaga and PJ going for the foreseeable future.

  • Dummy4 on May 28, 2011, 8:51 GMT

    I think slot should be rotated between Chandimal and Prasanna. Chandimal has the potential to be like Mahela or Sanga. Prasanna dont have that ability. Chandimal has to be given a chance.

  • Shafraz on May 28, 2011, 5:31 GMT

    with both Dilhara & Pradeep out the bowling really does look thin, and will really need a collective effort from the bowlers to get a result out of this game. The one over from Mendis yesterday looked interesting if he can be half as effective as he was on his rookie season, it would do nicely indeed. One of the seamers hopefully has a good day today. Great Innings from Prasanna, and kudos to SL for reaching 400 after both Sanga and mahela failed.

  • Crick on May 28, 2011, 5:24 GMT

    Prasanna surprised me with his extravagant defensive strokes and the way he mixed caution with aggression, Sanga and Mahi should learn from him

  • Dummy4 on May 28, 2011, 5:03 GMT

    @Erantha Perera : bro what are u talking about, are you out of your sense....who has to try and keep their places...you are talking about the pillars of Srilanka cricket...and more about the best batsmen of the world right now....they will show...in their coming matches.... :)

  • Denham on May 28, 2011, 4:50 GMT

    The best way to answer his critics. Hope he will continue to torment the English bowlers throughout the series. All the best Prasanna J and team SRI LANKA

  • Charindra on May 28, 2011, 4:31 GMT

    Well done Prasanna. Now it's up to the spinners to get some wickets and turn it from the rough.

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