England v Sri Lanka, T20, The Oval May 20, 2014

SL future glows brighter in victory

Encouraging innings from Kithuruwan Vithanage and Lahiru Thirimanne suggested Sri Lanka can handle the Jayawardene-Sangakkara succession issue
  shares 22

Kithuruwan Vithanage's debut provided another encouraging sign for Sri Lanka
Kithuruwan Vithanage's debut provided another encouraging sign for Sri Lanka © Getty Images

Sri Lanka had worked towards this match for some time. Not for the game at The Oval, in particular. Not for the foreign conditions, the opposition, nor even the tour as a whole. Sri Lanka have spent much of the last 18 months consumed in the quest to secure their future. A future beyond Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.

This reality is only one match old. Things happen quickly in cricket, including the unraveling of seemingly capable sides. The team may not even discover exactly how successfully they have regenerated until the end of next year's World Cup. But in this victory over England, they have suggested there is no cause for alarm. It is not that the seniors were not missed. It is just that even without the juggernauts in the top order, Sri Lanka possessed so much substance.

Sri Lanka's batting was a whirl of kinetic energy; a raw, writhing mass, lacking the shape and finesse Jayawardene and Sangakkara provided but forceful enough to bash through to a daunting score. As batsmen came and swung hard at the ball, the self-belief that had bloomed during the team's successful run in Bangladesh was evident. Kithuruwan Vithanage bludgeoned an important innings, spoiling the impetus England had gained from two early dismissals. He threw his heart at every ball, but used his brain as well, reading the field each over, and shaping only to hit to the open spaces, perilous though many strokes were.

It is too early to suggest this batting unit will achieve the success it had with Jayawardene and Sangakkara, but lately, the signs have largely been encouraging. Lahiru Thirimanne is being groomed as a like-for-like replacement for Sangakkara at No. 3, and his studious method has begun to pay off in 2014. He lacks the power of most of his team-mates, and that vector alone would have seen him left out of many international T20 teams. But he drives himself to collect the singles and twos efficiently, and possesses enough insight into his own cricket to discern the balls he can flay.

He has many mountains to scale before he can match Sangakkara's record - perhaps he never will. But at 24, Thirimanne has a wider range of strokes and a steadier temperament than a young Sangakkara did. The older man had said as much last year. Thirimanne has now been installed as vice-captain in all three formats, and his challenge will be to maintain his rise, as he shoulders more responsibility. Sri Lanka had appointed two young leaders last year as well and, of those, Angelo Mathews grew in stature, while Dinesh Chandimal seemingly regressed.

While Thirimanne held the innings together, others would begin their knocks with ambition. Perhaps it was the assurance they had batting down to No. 8 or maybe it is because even the batsmen had caught some of their new captain's fire. A 17th over formed entirely of slower balls revealed something of Lasith Malinga's soaring self-confidence. Alex Hales, England's best batsmen of the match, anticipated the offcutter and walloped the third ball to the midwicket fence, but Malinga was unperturbed. The next one, even slower, clattered into the stumps and sent Sri Lanka to touching distance of the win.

After the World T20, Malinga had returned to Sri Lanka with his swagger embellished, even suggesting on a television show that he should have been T20 captain a year ago. Sri Lanka fans value humility more than most but they will forgive him his ego if it continues to drive him to success. If his attitude affects the collective mood, then perhaps all the better; a fearless approach has rarely let Sri Lanka down in its limited-overs past.

Sri Lanka were far from perfect on Tuesday. On other evenings, they will have fewer runs off the outside edge. Most games, the opposition will hold their catches. It might have been tougher if they had been asked to chase a good score without the newly retired men there to guide the effort but, through pure white heat, Sri Lanka earned their first win outside Asia this year.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • KingOwl on May 21, 2014, 0:40 GMT

    Brilliant win. It is just one T20. But, its implications are far greater. I have said this once before - a couple of years ago - about Sri Lankan captains. Many of them come from upper middle class families from Colombo schools with overly protective parents (like me, I might add). Arjuna was an exception because he came from a big political family, although he too fit the rest of the criteria. As such, most captains (including Sanga, Mahela and now Angie) have not been risk takers, playing well within themselves in their captaincy roles. We need a street smart captain every now and then in one form of cricket or another. Malinga could be that. He is brash and street smart. Speaks broken English, but doesn't care at all about that. I hope Malinga will instill fearlessness in the team. That would be a huge contribution to SL cricket.

  • Andrew-Silva on May 22, 2014, 23:05 GMT

    1st ODI showed again, the VALUE of MISSING EXPERIENCE at The TOP! SL missing the services of a stable, experienced opener, who can stem the side and play a long inning in these conditions! Opener should be able to stay there, until the middle order is exposed (min. 25 ov), while Dilshan is making the initial impact from the other end. Otherwise, its going to be a real burden for others in front/middleorder, as repeatedly seen during the past 10 months! Middle order cannot handle this pressure as they did in subcontinent The only SL opener who can prevent this is Tharanga. His track record proves it!

    Tharanga was the Main Architect of 5-0 rubbing in 2006, His average stay at the wicket is 26.2 Overs! He had the highest Batting Average 69.4 with 2 x100s 120 R - 76.92S/R v Eng-Lord's(Thar 48.4 ov) 17 R- 56.66 S/R v Eng-Oval (Thar 9.0 ov) 41 R - 95.34 S/R v Eng-Chester-(Thar 16.4 ov) 60 R- 75.00 S/R v Eng-Manchester(Thar 24.5 ov) 109 R- 106.86S/R v Eng-Leeds (Thar 31.5 ov)

  • Andrew-Silva on May 22, 2014, 23:02 GMT

    SL Opener Upul Tharanga has the highest Batting Average followed by AN Cook (Eng) - ALL-TIME Batting Record of Eng Vs SL:

    Upul Tharanga (SL) - Ing 11 - Runs 578 - Av 57.80 - S/R 78.00 - 3x100 - 2x50 AN Cook (Eng) - Ing 13 - Runs 592 - Av 49.33 - S/R 78.51 - 1x100 - 3x50 GA Hick (Eng) - Ing 13 - Runs 587 - Av 48.91 - S/R 72.73 - 1x100 - 3x50 HP Tillakaratne (SL) - Ing 12 - Runs 258 - Av 43.00 - S/R 55.72 - 0x100 - 2x50 M Jayawardene (SL)- Ing 32 - Runs 1242 -Av 42.82 - S/R 85.59- 5x100 - 5x50 MTrescothick (Eng) - Ing 17 - Runs 697 - Av 41.00 - S/R 85.94- 1x100 - 4x50 KC Sangakkara (SL) - Ing 28- Runs 879- Av 38.21 - S/R 72.04- 1x100 - 7x50 PA de Silva (SL) - Ing 15- Runs 458- Av 38.16 - S/R 86.41- 4x100 - 1x50 ST Jayasuriya (SL) - Ing 15- Runs 152- Av 37.34 - S/R 101.3- 4x100 - 3x50

    Unfortunately, this young Opener is NOT In THE SQUAD, despite mainlining a career batting Average of 34! SL will NEVER Succeed, UNTIL they UTILIZE the VALUABLE RESOURCES available..!

  • on May 21, 2014, 20:15 GMT

    Sri Lanka should have retained Kithuruwan for one day matches and unfortunately he's gone home.

  • CUPULW on May 21, 2014, 19:08 GMT

    WOW, when was was the last time 2 ROYALISTS played in a SRI LANKA team?

    after Madugalle & deMel.....

  • on May 21, 2014, 16:13 GMT

    Think Kithruwan is here to stay, shades of Lara, and seems to pick the gaps,another thing Lara did brilliantly. Looking at the bowling figures, and those with overs to spare, does appear that Malinga made some miscalculations, but ofc, all is forgiven. Someday soon, Sri Lanka will come to England and be more than the warm up for the 'more important' summer tours. And the only way to do that is to consistently beat England in the tests. And that can start in this series. I predict a one sided ODI series.

  • rizwan1981 on May 21, 2014, 15:17 GMT

    BHANUKA RAJAPAKSHE ( who captained Kusal Perera and Kithruwan Vithanage at Royal College ) should be given an opportunity - Bhanuka is an allrounder and has he ability to score even quicker than Kusal.

  • Lord.emsworth on May 21, 2014, 12:57 GMT

    Malinga showed he is not just a 'token' captain following instructions from Sangakarra and Jayawardene as many pundits and fans declared. He captained in his own right and led from the front. Please give the man due credit and be more supportive of this unique cricketer in the future...Thank you!

  • on May 21, 2014, 12:37 GMT

    SL should bring back some experienced players in order to be better prepared for post-Mahela, Sanga, Dilshan, Herath era. Those four kept SL on track after Jayasuriya, Vaas, Murali retired, and now SL should bring back players who have international experience and success, such as Maharoof, Tharanga, Fernando etc.

  • VikumHerath on May 21, 2014, 12:11 GMT

    Well done Malinga, Thisara & Thiri. You guys are awesome and pulled the weight towards another victory for SL, as always did in the past despite repeated failures at the top! Although this article highlighted the least as the most, shadowing the pathetic failure & the most significant contributors :-) Predicting a Glowingly bright, eye-blinding future & ELONGATING the Elaboration (beyond Mahela Jayawardene/Kumar Sangakkara sans future) based on a single T20 performance, is little hilarious! It gives some insight to the inside story! It seems, when one juggernaut fails, SLC seem to have a list of earmarked list of juggernauts to "regenerate" the level of SL Cricket, beyond recognition. We are eternally grateful to the actual workhorses in the side, who are pulling enormous weight to make us Happy!

  • KingOwl on May 21, 2014, 0:40 GMT

    Brilliant win. It is just one T20. But, its implications are far greater. I have said this once before - a couple of years ago - about Sri Lankan captains. Many of them come from upper middle class families from Colombo schools with overly protective parents (like me, I might add). Arjuna was an exception because he came from a big political family, although he too fit the rest of the criteria. As such, most captains (including Sanga, Mahela and now Angie) have not been risk takers, playing well within themselves in their captaincy roles. We need a street smart captain every now and then in one form of cricket or another. Malinga could be that. He is brash and street smart. Speaks broken English, but doesn't care at all about that. I hope Malinga will instill fearlessness in the team. That would be a huge contribution to SL cricket.

  • Andrew-Silva on May 22, 2014, 23:05 GMT

    1st ODI showed again, the VALUE of MISSING EXPERIENCE at The TOP! SL missing the services of a stable, experienced opener, who can stem the side and play a long inning in these conditions! Opener should be able to stay there, until the middle order is exposed (min. 25 ov), while Dilshan is making the initial impact from the other end. Otherwise, its going to be a real burden for others in front/middleorder, as repeatedly seen during the past 10 months! Middle order cannot handle this pressure as they did in subcontinent The only SL opener who can prevent this is Tharanga. His track record proves it!

    Tharanga was the Main Architect of 5-0 rubbing in 2006, His average stay at the wicket is 26.2 Overs! He had the highest Batting Average 69.4 with 2 x100s 120 R - 76.92S/R v Eng-Lord's(Thar 48.4 ov) 17 R- 56.66 S/R v Eng-Oval (Thar 9.0 ov) 41 R - 95.34 S/R v Eng-Chester-(Thar 16.4 ov) 60 R- 75.00 S/R v Eng-Manchester(Thar 24.5 ov) 109 R- 106.86S/R v Eng-Leeds (Thar 31.5 ov)

  • Andrew-Silva on May 22, 2014, 23:02 GMT

    SL Opener Upul Tharanga has the highest Batting Average followed by AN Cook (Eng) - ALL-TIME Batting Record of Eng Vs SL:

    Upul Tharanga (SL) - Ing 11 - Runs 578 - Av 57.80 - S/R 78.00 - 3x100 - 2x50 AN Cook (Eng) - Ing 13 - Runs 592 - Av 49.33 - S/R 78.51 - 1x100 - 3x50 GA Hick (Eng) - Ing 13 - Runs 587 - Av 48.91 - S/R 72.73 - 1x100 - 3x50 HP Tillakaratne (SL) - Ing 12 - Runs 258 - Av 43.00 - S/R 55.72 - 0x100 - 2x50 M Jayawardene (SL)- Ing 32 - Runs 1242 -Av 42.82 - S/R 85.59- 5x100 - 5x50 MTrescothick (Eng) - Ing 17 - Runs 697 - Av 41.00 - S/R 85.94- 1x100 - 4x50 KC Sangakkara (SL) - Ing 28- Runs 879- Av 38.21 - S/R 72.04- 1x100 - 7x50 PA de Silva (SL) - Ing 15- Runs 458- Av 38.16 - S/R 86.41- 4x100 - 1x50 ST Jayasuriya (SL) - Ing 15- Runs 152- Av 37.34 - S/R 101.3- 4x100 - 3x50

    Unfortunately, this young Opener is NOT In THE SQUAD, despite mainlining a career batting Average of 34! SL will NEVER Succeed, UNTIL they UTILIZE the VALUABLE RESOURCES available..!

  • on May 21, 2014, 20:15 GMT

    Sri Lanka should have retained Kithuruwan for one day matches and unfortunately he's gone home.

  • CUPULW on May 21, 2014, 19:08 GMT

    WOW, when was was the last time 2 ROYALISTS played in a SRI LANKA team?

    after Madugalle & deMel.....

  • on May 21, 2014, 16:13 GMT

    Think Kithruwan is here to stay, shades of Lara, and seems to pick the gaps,another thing Lara did brilliantly. Looking at the bowling figures, and those with overs to spare, does appear that Malinga made some miscalculations, but ofc, all is forgiven. Someday soon, Sri Lanka will come to England and be more than the warm up for the 'more important' summer tours. And the only way to do that is to consistently beat England in the tests. And that can start in this series. I predict a one sided ODI series.

  • rizwan1981 on May 21, 2014, 15:17 GMT

    BHANUKA RAJAPAKSHE ( who captained Kusal Perera and Kithruwan Vithanage at Royal College ) should be given an opportunity - Bhanuka is an allrounder and has he ability to score even quicker than Kusal.

  • Lord.emsworth on May 21, 2014, 12:57 GMT

    Malinga showed he is not just a 'token' captain following instructions from Sangakarra and Jayawardene as many pundits and fans declared. He captained in his own right and led from the front. Please give the man due credit and be more supportive of this unique cricketer in the future...Thank you!

  • on May 21, 2014, 12:37 GMT

    SL should bring back some experienced players in order to be better prepared for post-Mahela, Sanga, Dilshan, Herath era. Those four kept SL on track after Jayasuriya, Vaas, Murali retired, and now SL should bring back players who have international experience and success, such as Maharoof, Tharanga, Fernando etc.

  • VikumHerath on May 21, 2014, 12:11 GMT

    Well done Malinga, Thisara & Thiri. You guys are awesome and pulled the weight towards another victory for SL, as always did in the past despite repeated failures at the top! Although this article highlighted the least as the most, shadowing the pathetic failure & the most significant contributors :-) Predicting a Glowingly bright, eye-blinding future & ELONGATING the Elaboration (beyond Mahela Jayawardene/Kumar Sangakkara sans future) based on a single T20 performance, is little hilarious! It gives some insight to the inside story! It seems, when one juggernaut fails, SLC seem to have a list of earmarked list of juggernauts to "regenerate" the level of SL Cricket, beyond recognition. We are eternally grateful to the actual workhorses in the side, who are pulling enormous weight to make us Happy!

  • on May 21, 2014, 9:18 GMT

    Allow Kusal to build his trust and timing against good fast ballers on seem friendly wickets. It will make us one step closer to the WC2015.

    Wow Kith... got talent.

    keeth and Kusal should be the opening pair for ODIs. then it like sanata and gayle

  • ksquared on May 21, 2014, 6:23 GMT

    Great win by SL it's this brand of fearless and unbridled cricket that made SL a highly successful team since 96. Malinga has always had an attacking mindset and fearless attitude as a captain. The whole team seems to be following that mantra. The youngsters are allowed to freely express themselves and we saw how well vithanage, thirimanne played.

  • on May 21, 2014, 5:45 GMT

    I know everyone is hunky dowry about Malinga the captain and I am so proud about him for winning the world cup under his watch. But I do not understand the logic of this split captaincy. If Angelo is good enough to captain in tests and ODIs, and in his mid 20s why would we need another man to captain the T20. Although I totally disagree, when Chandimal was there, selectors had a point. (Man to come after Angi and all). If common sense would prevail, Angelo should be the captain for all 3 formats and either Lahiru or Chandimal should be vice captain. It is the selectors call based on the guy they see as future captain. Angelo has good 10 years ahead of him, so may be in another 5 to 6 years, selectors can split it to train the young man at the helm. This is just creating an unwanted split. I still think Malinga is better when he is bowling yorkers than captaining the side.

  • DJyash on May 21, 2014, 5:21 GMT

    From his first match i have admired Chandimal's batting .and still i hope he will learn how to form an innings weather it is t20 ,odi or tests ,shaping your innings more important ,he was a good captain but when he bat he don't seems to use his captain brain to good effect .yesterdays match the situation didn't demand him to go after every ball ,he got one six and just like sanga do more often get a single and rotate the strike ,his partner was thirimanna at the other end which means it is left and right hand combination ,so rather than hitting every ball for six should try to rotate the strike after you get a six or four ,hope he uses his brain and place an innings without go after every ball ,he have the capability to be our next mahela jayawardena with his captaincy skills as well as his batting .

  • vkumar_086. on May 21, 2014, 5:07 GMT

    Vithanage must also try improving his bowling.

  • Udendra on May 21, 2014, 4:37 GMT

    @shockValue: I disagree. No. 3 should be Thirimanne's spot, especially in ODI's and Tests.

  • shockValue on May 21, 2014, 3:05 GMT

    Kithuruwan Vithanage seems to be a very promising batsmen. Number 3 for me if he continues batting like this.

  • shakeena on May 21, 2014, 1:54 GMT

    Yap exactly. Some people will say Kusal, Chandi failed in this match but it is a T20 and even though they didn't make big scores, both youngsters didn't waste lots of balls in their little innings. All and all it's a good win for young Lankans under England conditions with freezing weather.

    But the real examination will begin tomorrow with the first ODI. Kusal & specially Chandi should make an impact without excuses inside their batting overs. Looking forward for another interesting match. Hope it will not be a last over finish as usual since my week heart granny will be there tomorrow to watch the match with me. May the allah give strength and courage to my blue lions ! ! !

  • on May 21, 2014, 1:03 GMT

    We never fail to entertain !! Don't we??

  • on May 21, 2014, 0:58 GMT

    Kithuruwan Vithanage plays with sheer power but it was heartening to see his clever placement using his wrists and those delicate, 'very' late-cuts; he knew exactly where the fielders were and used his head well.

    No one in Sri Lanka wants a team of sloggers like WI (no offence), therefore to match or even come close to matching Mahela and Sanga's artistic strokeplay that is real cricket, these new guys will have to work extremely hard. Boundaries have the same value no matter which way they come: through edges, by an almighty swing of the bat to muscle the ball over the rope or through elegant, proper cricketing shots, but cricket is an aesthete's sport; and we, Sri Lankans, do NOT want to see our team play cricket like baseball!

    We might JUST manage without the dynamic duo, at least in the shorter formats of the game but we need batsmen and not batters! Carry on the legends' legacy, boys! Work hard and take Sri Lanka to even greater heights!! Budusaranai!

  • vkumar_086. on May 21, 2014, 0:42 GMT

    Oh what a win indeed. Sri Lanka just showed as usual how exceptionally special they are in cricket. The brand of cricket they play is fantastic meaning the best in the world. Amazing talents keep coming like a waterfall from nowhere. Vithanage is the greatest find for Sri Lanka. Fantastic stuff as usual. Cant recall when did Sri Lanka last lose any international game honestly?

  • on May 21, 2014, 0:18 GMT

    Malinga should have definitely been given the T20 captaincy and Chandimal the vice-captaincy. It might've even saved Chandimal's poor run of form. An experienced player would then be the captain and Chandimal could've learned under Malinga until he was ready to take the reins from him, when he has matured. Sri Lanka's youngest ever captain didn't work out and it nearly cost a promising player his career!

  • on May 21, 2014, 0:18 GMT

    Malinga should have definitely been given the T20 captaincy and Chandimal the vice-captaincy. It might've even saved Chandimal's poor run of form. An experienced player would then be the captain and Chandimal could've learned under Malinga until he was ready to take the reins from him, when he has matured. Sri Lanka's youngest ever captain didn't work out and it nearly cost a promising player his career!

  • vkumar_086. on May 21, 2014, 0:42 GMT

    Oh what a win indeed. Sri Lanka just showed as usual how exceptionally special they are in cricket. The brand of cricket they play is fantastic meaning the best in the world. Amazing talents keep coming like a waterfall from nowhere. Vithanage is the greatest find for Sri Lanka. Fantastic stuff as usual. Cant recall when did Sri Lanka last lose any international game honestly?

  • on May 21, 2014, 0:58 GMT

    Kithuruwan Vithanage plays with sheer power but it was heartening to see his clever placement using his wrists and those delicate, 'very' late-cuts; he knew exactly where the fielders were and used his head well.

    No one in Sri Lanka wants a team of sloggers like WI (no offence), therefore to match or even come close to matching Mahela and Sanga's artistic strokeplay that is real cricket, these new guys will have to work extremely hard. Boundaries have the same value no matter which way they come: through edges, by an almighty swing of the bat to muscle the ball over the rope or through elegant, proper cricketing shots, but cricket is an aesthete's sport; and we, Sri Lankans, do NOT want to see our team play cricket like baseball!

    We might JUST manage without the dynamic duo, at least in the shorter formats of the game but we need batsmen and not batters! Carry on the legends' legacy, boys! Work hard and take Sri Lanka to even greater heights!! Budusaranai!

  • on May 21, 2014, 1:03 GMT

    We never fail to entertain !! Don't we??

  • shakeena on May 21, 2014, 1:54 GMT

    Yap exactly. Some people will say Kusal, Chandi failed in this match but it is a T20 and even though they didn't make big scores, both youngsters didn't waste lots of balls in their little innings. All and all it's a good win for young Lankans under England conditions with freezing weather.

    But the real examination will begin tomorrow with the first ODI. Kusal & specially Chandi should make an impact without excuses inside their batting overs. Looking forward for another interesting match. Hope it will not be a last over finish as usual since my week heart granny will be there tomorrow to watch the match with me. May the allah give strength and courage to my blue lions ! ! !

  • shockValue on May 21, 2014, 3:05 GMT

    Kithuruwan Vithanage seems to be a very promising batsmen. Number 3 for me if he continues batting like this.

  • Udendra on May 21, 2014, 4:37 GMT

    @shockValue: I disagree. No. 3 should be Thirimanne's spot, especially in ODI's and Tests.

  • vkumar_086. on May 21, 2014, 5:07 GMT

    Vithanage must also try improving his bowling.

  • DJyash on May 21, 2014, 5:21 GMT

    From his first match i have admired Chandimal's batting .and still i hope he will learn how to form an innings weather it is t20 ,odi or tests ,shaping your innings more important ,he was a good captain but when he bat he don't seems to use his captain brain to good effect .yesterdays match the situation didn't demand him to go after every ball ,he got one six and just like sanga do more often get a single and rotate the strike ,his partner was thirimanna at the other end which means it is left and right hand combination ,so rather than hitting every ball for six should try to rotate the strike after you get a six or four ,hope he uses his brain and place an innings without go after every ball ,he have the capability to be our next mahela jayawardena with his captaincy skills as well as his batting .

  • on May 21, 2014, 5:45 GMT

    I know everyone is hunky dowry about Malinga the captain and I am so proud about him for winning the world cup under his watch. But I do not understand the logic of this split captaincy. If Angelo is good enough to captain in tests and ODIs, and in his mid 20s why would we need another man to captain the T20. Although I totally disagree, when Chandimal was there, selectors had a point. (Man to come after Angi and all). If common sense would prevail, Angelo should be the captain for all 3 formats and either Lahiru or Chandimal should be vice captain. It is the selectors call based on the guy they see as future captain. Angelo has good 10 years ahead of him, so may be in another 5 to 6 years, selectors can split it to train the young man at the helm. This is just creating an unwanted split. I still think Malinga is better when he is bowling yorkers than captaining the side.