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

Prasanna shows his mettle

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

ESPNcricinfo staff

May 27, 2011

Comments: 20 | Text size: A | A

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.


Prasanna Jayawardene acknowledges the applause after reaching his hundred, England v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Cardiff, 2nd day, May 27 2011
Prasanna Jayawardene justified his place in the middle order with a battling hundred at Cardiff © AFP
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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.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by ranilranathunga 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

Posted by Finn92 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.

Posted by Philip_Gnana 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

Posted by chandau 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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by Shafi79 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.

Posted by crickstats 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

Posted by   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.... :)

Posted by denwarlo70 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

Posted by 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.

Posted by warsha on (May 28, 2011, 2:35 GMT)

Where are those idiots asking for the head of Prasanna (after the first two warm up games) for Chandimal.They must realise he is the best wicket keeper we have and he has the highest test average over 53.00. Anyway those idiots can now call the heads of Sanga and Mahela.

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (May 28, 2011, 2:26 GMT)

A super performance from him, and wonderful century. A great day of cricket for Sri Lanka, in these conditions to score 400 is a great achievement. Looking forward to Sri Lanka slamming home the advantage tomorrow and build a sizeable lead. Best of luck to Sri Lanka tomorrow.

Posted by Biggus on (May 28, 2011, 1:45 GMT)

A gutsy effort from SL, but they will need some magic from their bowlers. Looking like a draw to me.

Posted by   on (May 28, 2011, 1:19 GMT)

He has proved and made big guns like Sanga and Mahela feel like small-fry and raw,with pure determination and dedication when the team needed him he delivered, before people ranked him only as a specialist wicket keeper but not anymore, it seems to be whenever he is under pressure he delivered, a great example shown by prassana how to bulid and score a big century. Sanga and Mahela got out on 11 and 4,it all seemed lost until the PJ The batsman came with a bang.Mahela and Sanga hope that there is no next time like prassana, because you cant deliver you arent better or best.

Posted by randika_ayya on (May 28, 2011, 1:18 GMT)

Weldone Prasanna. You have proven me and everyone else as wrong! After the splendid innings your numble footwork behind the wicket too seem to have come back! pro'lly the fastest pair of gloves behind the wicket in the world as well. Although it'll be nice to see Chandimal playing atleast as a specialist batsman, can't think of someone who he could replace. Good luck for the rest of the series

Posted by   on (May 28, 2011, 0:45 GMT)

Well played Prasanna everyone knows you are the best wicketkeeper in the world. Sanga himself has said that. Dinesh and Kaushal are competing for specialist batters positions. Specially Sanga and Mahela should concentrate to keep their places now.

Posted by evenflow_1990 on (May 28, 2011, 0:39 GMT)

a brilliant performance by him under pressure

Posted by ygkd on (May 27, 2011, 23:46 GMT)

Further, the statistic that should matter is the fact that Prasanna's announced himself in his first Test innings in England. Good players do that. It's not just how many that matters, it's when and how. Too often SL bats are criticised for making easy runs at home. Well, this was an important away innings in an equally important series and he stood up. Full marks to him for that.

Posted by ygkd on (May 27, 2011, 23:39 GMT)

Sri Lanka are blessed with an abundance of riches behind the stumps, but Prasanna deserves to be left with the gloves. His work is outstanding and his century-conversion rate with the bat is pretty impressive too. He just needs to make 50 a bit more! Honestly, though, when you are that good a keeper, averaging over 30 should be more than good enough for anyone, especiially when Angelo Matthews slots back in to No 6. Nobody should consider dropping Prassana just because Matthews is injured.

Posted by wandrew on (May 27, 2011, 22:22 GMT)

Great to see Prasanna coming good and scoring a century. I was thinking why Sri Lankan side keeps playing him instead of getting Sangakkara to keep. I am glad I was wrong. Sangakkara and Mahela should make up by scoring heavily in the second innings. They have to realiise that they need to rotate strike and remain there till they get their eye in. I have a feeling that scoring is going to be difficult on the fourth and fifth day and spin is going to play a major part in the outcome of the match. Good luck to our Sri Lankan team.

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