England v Sri Lanka, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley June 18, 2014

Silva's granite toughness aids Sri Lanka


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Sri Lanka would be happy with 0-0

For much of his Sri Lanka career, Kumar Sangakkara has had no equal at pre-match training. He is almost always the last to leave the nets, sometimes by a matter of hours. Those hoping to meet or interview him must first watch him leave ball after ball, then watch him defend plenty more. He is accommodating enough to make their wait worthwhile.

But in the last few months, a new challenger has arisen for Sangakkara's crown of blood and sweat. Kaushal Silva was not the last to face a delivery at the Wednesday morning net session, but he did hang around with his pads on until the end of the session, looking hopefully for the coach to give him a few more balls. The foot of the nets has been a favourite haunt for him since being recalled to the Test side at the end of 2013.

Since then, he has all but secured a long-term berth as opener, in as few as six Tests. In 11 innings, Silva has hit five fifties and a hundred. He had displayed aptitude for application and endurance in the series in the UAE in January, but at Lord's he showcased a head for bounce and swing as well. The England bowlers attacked him with the short ball and bowled testing new-ball spells, but he emerged with a match tally of 120 - second only to Sangakkara from among the visiting batsmen.

Few Sri Lanka batsmen arrive at the top level with such well-formed techniques, and Silva credits preparation for both his success this year, and the good run so far in England. He had also struck an unbeaten ton in the practice match against Northamptonshire.

"When we were in Sri Lanka, I practiced using a granite slab, to emulate the pace you get on the pitches here. When you tilt the granite, you can also recreate movement off the seam. Also I practiced a lot against swinging deliveries on the bowling machine.

"We were in England two weeks before the Northampton match, when we practiced in Sussex. That was incredibly helpful because we were able to come to terms with wickets and the ball here. We picked up the skill of leaving on length against the new ball, as well."

Like for Sangakkara, Silva's father has been a major influence on his career. Sri Lanka top orders are often replete with homespun techniques, but Silva's cricket is textbook - the result of countless hours of work with his father, who is an accredited cricket coach.

"My father has watched almost every match I've played since I was young. He tells me what I'm doing well and what I'm doing wrong. I absorb a lot of what he says, because even when I play well, he might have some criticism. That's important, because when you're doing well, you don't think about your faults. When you do have a closer look on the good days, that gives you a lot more insight into your game."

Silva had set his eyes on this series for some months, as he is not in the frame for ODI selection, and he is set to face his most difficult test yet, with the Headingley pitch expected to be faster and more seam friendly than Lord's. He can have few better mentors than head coach Marvan Atapattu, who averaged 50.16 from four matches in England. Atapattu is also on trial on this tour, as Sri Lanka search for a new head coach.

"Marvan aiya has been telling us for some time which sorts of things work in these conditions, so we knew what we needed to work on. Things have turned out like he said, so that training has paid off.

"Personally, I've always been someone who plays close to my body. Especially when they use the new ball, I'm thinking about not going after the balls outside a certain life. That is difficult. But you also have to try and score against the balls that are at your body. I think those things have helped me so far in England."

Despite an average of 55.09 since January, Silva sees room for improvement in his cricket. He and Dimuth Karunaratne have shown glimpses of promise as an opening partnership, without yet putting together the kind of substantial stand that might give Sri Lanka a definitive advantage in a Test.

"I'm quite disappointed that I've got a few good starts and then not gone on to triple figures. The opening spells are the toughest. When you get through the toughest periods, and get out for 60, it's a bit of a waste. I need to be watchful and try to shed the things that are preventing those big scores."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Pinidiya on June 21, 2014, 17:29 GMT

    Without Sanga's massive contributions, SL would have lost the First Test with a humiliating margin.! 2nd Test is already heading that way, despite Sanga's 1/3 contribution of 1st inning's collective effort.!

    Future of SL cricket is well defined by the repeated failures of youth outside subcontinent conditions. Unfortunately, there are no capable hands to play long innings, among the youth selected by SLC, in the batting department. Only Kaushal Silva & Angelo Mathews have showed some potential.

    SL Cricket will never succeed, as long as SL cricket MARRED with MUDDY SLECTION POLICIES.!

    Keeping away the most experienced young hands of Upul Tharanga, who was capable of making a WORLD RECORD for building the highest number of long innings (Seven 200+ partnerships even in ODIs), will certainly prove the IRRATIONALITY of SL CRICKET Administration, more than ever in near future!! Especially, when the last bit of valuable experience remaining in the side, exit with Sanga & Mahela..!!!

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2014, 2:48 GMT

    Yes totally agree with Dulanjan.

  • Sage on June 19, 2014, 16:10 GMT

    I think what SL lack is direction. If you take from Mahela, Sanga and now Angelo as SL captains, they all have one thing in common...play very negative cricket. It was highlighted in the last test which SL had a narrow escape. Don't get me wrong these guys are terrific world class players but do not how to finish the game. I have told Marvan many times no negative cricket when it comes to the final day. We recently lost to Pakistan due poor and negative thinking. Also the last test, it better you go for a win and then lose having a good score. England has exploited SL's weakness and keeps attacking. But what changes have SL done to conquer the situation. The next test will be favouring England as it's a fast pitch. I'm sure England will go all out for a victory. Its better SL changes their attitude and play aggressive cricket and go for a win with a positive mind. My SL XI is Kaushal, Lahiru, Sanga, Mahela, Dinesh, Angelo, Dilruwan, Rangana, Shaminda, Dammiika and Nuwan/Chanaka

  • Dummy4 on June 19, 2014, 14:03 GMT

    There is a concern about Dimuth's batting technique. He is a good sound batsmen but fail to make a big knock because of he throw his wicket away after the all the hard work is done. It's important to make him to play a good long inning with player like kaushal who is extremely good replacement as the openning batsmen because of his patient mentality. He will play more better knocks in future

  • Sriram on June 19, 2014, 12:20 GMT

    Malinga practising with shoes at batsmans end to perferct yorker, Sliva with granite all shows want to improve and be the best! Lessons to be learnt for many youngsters aspiring to play the game.

  • SLisbest on June 19, 2014, 11:27 GMT

    Kushal Silva will be better batsman than Rahul Dravid.. Rahul is only Indian who could handle Fast & Seam blowling very well. Kushal air tight technique is better than any sub-continent batsmen visited UK. A legend in making...

  • Udai Sundarshana on June 19, 2014, 10:38 GMT

    Whilst watching the test match I couldn't help but listen to the comments from Geoff Boycott who kept on saying what a good player Silva was, 'I like him' was what he kept on saying and I couldn't agree more!. Compact and picking the right balls to attack he seems like a guy with a plan which is exactly what you want from an opening batsman. I think his batting shows a lot of maturity and the fact that he handled a good English attack is testament to that. It's also great to hear that he has great work ethics similar to Sanga.I'm wishing luck for the next match and hope both sides will give us another entertaining match for all cricket lovers!!!!

  • Jon on June 19, 2014, 9:40 GMT

    I like this writer normally but the cricinfo writers (excluding those who have played at the top level) oversimplify everything. I like Silva as a batsmen and technically he looks solid, but lets be honest, where at Lord's was there swing and bounce? It was an easy a pitch as you could wish to have. In fact the notion about English pitches being green seamers is a myth. I haven't seen any pitches like this since Pakistan toured in 2010. English pitches in the main have become flat, easy paced and pretty lifeless if you ask me. Not all pitches in ENG/NZ/AUS/SA seam and bounce like the sub continental writers have you believe. It is like saying all pitches in Asia spin. The picthes in BD and those used in t20's in India are a graveyard for spinners just like they are a graveyard for spinners.

  • Nick on June 19, 2014, 8:37 GMT

    Good to see Kaushal Silva in such fine form - the pity is - we only get to see him when the Tests come around. Meanwhile, Upul Tharanga, who excels in both Tests and ODIs, is mysteriously left on the outer. Tharanga would be the perfect foil for Silva in Tests (he stays in and he scores runs, and a better option than the cavalier Kusal Perera as an ODI opener. He is wasted as captain of SL A for their tour of England in July. Instead, Tharanga should be in the SL squad for the upcoming 3 ODI and 2 Tests series v South Africa in Sri Lanka in July. If not the selectors first choice, then at least as cover for the under-achieving Kusal in ODIs and for Dimuth Karunaratne yet to make his mark in Tests.

  • Janaka on June 19, 2014, 7:53 GMT

    The greastest of all, Mohommad Ali, said before a fight "I've wrestled with alligators, I've tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning, And throw thunder in jail. You know I'm bad. just last week, I murdered a rock, Injured a stone, Hospitalized a brick. I'm so mean, I make medicine sick." - This mentality, the strength about themselves, is required for Sri Lanka. Think like giants, and be mentally strong. Be brave, act intelligently, and fight till the end! You can do it, Sri Lanka. Sanga once said they need mentors in handling such situations. Well, now, I would say, you have to become mentally strong, rock solid, that you can do anything you want. Be strong Sri Lanka. Don't say "0-0" is good enough for you. Say "we missed the chance to make it all our victory as 2-0, but we will surely make it 1-0, and we will win!". Think positively. Learn from Australian squad to thrash any team they play against.

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