July 10, 2009

It was a joy watching Herath operate - Jayawardene

Wow. The first Test was a fantastic game of cricket. As Sanga said afterwards, it was far from a perfect performance in Galle, but the guys showed guts and character on the fourth day and both Rangana [Herath] and Thilan [Thushara] bowled superbly. At the same time we have to admit that we were probably outplayed for much of the first three days, particularly on Monday when our batting was poor.

The loss of Murali was obviously a blow going into the match so it was even more impressive that the whole bowling unit rose to the occasion so well. The attack may have been inexperienced, but they showed they had a real hunger to do well and also a lot of talent if given a chance to shine. We won't always have our stars and so it's great when the younger brigade shoulder responsibility.

If you look at Thushara's bowling in the second innings, for example, it was exceptional. He may have only taken 2 for 21 but the figures don't highlight just how magnificently he bowled. He swung the ball both ways, found movement off the seam, hit the bat hard and beat the bat many times. In the first innings Kula (Kulasekara) was equally impressive.

Rangana has long been a fine spin bowler and is just unlucky that we have the exceptional talent of Murali and now Ajantha. In another country he might have played 50 Tests by now. His talent is more orthodox and his variations are subtle. He flights the ball beautifully and really earned his Man-of-the-Match award. It was a joy standing at slip and watching him operate. You don't often get to see such classical left-arm spin anymore in international cricket.

He deserves special credit, too, for the fact that he travelled back to Sri Lanka from the English leagues, literally arriving at the team hotel on Friday afternoon. It is not easy to perform in a Test match with that kind of preparation, but he showed a positive mindset and quickly shrugged off the jetlag.

Angelo [Mathews] was also very impressive on his debut. He is a really fast-developing allrounder and could become a vital cog in all formats of the game. In this game he made important contributions with the bat in both innings, took the prize wicket of Younis Khan twice and a very important run out. He looks at home in international cricket and I expect him to have a big future.

I thought Sanga had a great first game as skipper. He's had to make some difficult selection decisions and he's not just played safe. He's been bold and shrewd, picking the team best-suited to the conditions and the opposition. On the field, he led from the front, was always looking to be positive and he managed the bowling changes and field placements brilliantly. The decision to start the day bowling with Thushara and Rangana first-thing on Tuesday was a great success.

I think we've seen just how good a captain he'll be in the next few weeks. He did a terrific job in England and he'll get better and better with experience. The players have certainly given all the support and the atmosphere in the team is excellent. I only hope that fans and the media will give the support he needs because I know from personal experience that captaincy is not an easy job.

On a personal note I was obviously disappointed to miss out on a big score. In the first innings I was given an early let-off but then got set and should have made Pakistan pay. Galle is a venue where I am used to making big scores. Then, in the second innings, my footwork let me down a bit. I got a decent ball from their young quickie (Aamer), but I should have got in a bigger stride.

The batting will be our major focus going into the second Test at the weekend. We can all be satisfied with winning in Galle, but there are two more Tests ahead and unless we bat much better we will be fortunate to win. The only top-line batter to really dig in was the inexperienced Tharanga Paranavitana in Galle and we should learn from his example.