India v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Kanpur, 2nd day

Herath shows heart for five-star returns

The Sri Lankan left-arm spinner kept his head, and his line and length, in the face of the onslaught from the Indians

Cricinfo staff

November 25, 2009

Comments: 8 | Text size: A | A

Rangana Herath is congratulated by his team-mates after Rahul Dravid's fortuitous dismissal, India v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Kanpur, 2nd day, November 25, 2009
Rangana Herath outshone his two more illustrious spinning partners © AFP
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On landing in India, Kumar Sangakkara singled out Rangana Herath as Sri Lanka's best bowler, citing form as the criterion. It may have been intended as a red herring for India but, by placing Herath above Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis, Sangakkara had clearly set Herath a stiff challenge.

Today Herath took a few steps to meeting that challenge. He bagged his fourth five-for, and his first on foreign soil. It was an important contribution - India had posted a record first-day score, and on the way had exposed the visitors' three-spinner combination on a pitch that has remained slow.

Yet Herath had to earn that haul. On Tuesday, he was greeted by Gautam Gambhir with three boundaries and his first six overs went for 42 runs. He went wicketless through the day despite trying every variation. Things didn't get much better this morning; Rahul Dravid hit his third ball over his head for six, continuing the sort of aggression he'd shown during his 177 in Ahmedabad last week, and Sangakkara removed Herath from the attack after a four-over spell before lunch.

Enter Murali and Mendis. What would normally have proved a double-ace combination proved a flop as the Indians showed they'd done their homework on the duo's tactics and planning. In a week's cricket played so far Murali has bagged only three wickets and gone wicketless in the second innings at Motera. His stocks slumped further in Kanpur - he was the most expensive bowler in the Indian first innings.

As for Mendis, he was included in the playing XI for this Test after much deliberation as the Sri Lankan think-tank thought the Green Park pitch would start disintegrating soon. It was clearly a decision loaded with risks - Mendis is no more the mystery for the Indians that he was last year - and, with India unlikely to bat again to any consequence, it could be seen as having backfired.

The problems at Green Park were the same for Murali and Mendis: neither maintained a tight line, deviating as soon as the batsman charged him. On an unhelpful pitch persistence is key to a spinner's success, but Murali and Mendis appeared easily rattled.

Luckily Herath kept his head. Varying his delivery point from the popping crease, he never stopped giving flight to the ball and, as he grew in confidence, the ball started dipping. Once the wicket started to take turn in the second session he got it to break nicely, and force the batsmen on to the defensive.

First VVS Laxman, one of the best players of spin, got distracted by Herath's teasers. Aware of Laxman's preference for leaning into his drives Herath pitched it a few inches behind the good-length spot, luring the batsman forward. All the while he was not afraid to flight while using the arm ball (his stock ball) sparingly but smartly to keep Laxman rooted to the crease.He tied down Laxman with a maiden - one in which two leg-before decisions were turned down. The next over Laxman charged Herath but only managed to give an easy catch to the cover fielder.

The rest followed in quick succession and soon India were back in the pavilion. Herath's hard work impressed even his opponents. "He had to bowl on the first day when nothing was happening, but he stuck with it, persisted and finally reaped rewards." Gambhir said. The man himself remains confident. "When I started this series, personally I wanted to get a five-wicket haul in India. That was one of my targets and I am glad that I have achieved that," Herath said.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Sisira on (November 26, 2009, 11:49 GMT)

As an old boy of the same school I am very proud of you little brother. keep up the good work and make all Devans happy and have some pride about the kind of cricket we played at Maliyadeve College. I wish you a great future Rangana do not stop just continue what you are doing right now you deserved the praise from Sanga. Good luck.

Posted by RoshanF on (November 26, 2009, 5:27 GMT)

Yes Herath got it right as said with his perseverance and some deceipt. Sadly (for Sri Lanka), Murali is surely coming to the end of a magnificent career. He not has lost his potency but also his thinking cap. He now gets his strategy wrong too often. Talking of thinking caps what on earth were the Sri Lankan selectors thinking about when decided to field three spinners against the best players of spin bowling and on their home turf as well.

Posted by RoshanF on (November 26, 2009, 5:27 GMT)

Yes Herath got it right as said with his perseverance and some deceipt. Sadly (for Sri Lanka), Murali is surely coming to the end of a magnificent career. He not has lost his potency but also his thinking cap. He now gets his strategy wrong too often. Talking of thinking caps what on earth were the Sri Lankan selectors thinking about when decided to field three spinners against the best players of spin bowling and on their home turf as well.

Posted by randikaayya on (November 26, 2009, 3:30 GMT)

A spinner is as good as his mental strength under today's trying circumstances when the batsman take the game to you from ball one. If one were to waver like Murali and Mendis did in line AND length expect to be punished. Herat is one bowler who knows he has to work hard for every wicket, hence the bigger heart. Congrats to him on this accomplishment. That said I so dearly hope the Lankan batting comes good on an already disintegrating pitch to battle out the remaining days. Ever since the two jayawardena's dropped the SERIES in the first over SL are on a mission for survival. Under these conditions a single drop will determine the final outcome!

Posted by Smaamdiu on (November 26, 2009, 3:26 GMT)

It was very tough for the bowlers in the first 2 day... and the way he bowled was really creditable as he was always giving flight and was trying to get something out of the pitch.. unlike mendis who i felt didnt do any justice to his election.

Posted by muizuzair on (November 26, 2009, 2:44 GMT)

Herath has bowled well on day two but had this good work come immediately after Murali got rid of the openers it would have placed Srilanka in a much comfortable position.

Posted by ElectronSmoke on (November 25, 2009, 19:38 GMT)

As an Indian .. I must admit to have been pretty impressed with Herath's attitude. Indeed, spin bowling in the flat pitches is as much about skill as it is about persistence and patience. Murali and Mendes do have the natural gift but like Kumble, Hauritz and to a lesser extent even Roelof van der Merwe and Suleiman Benn have shown over the last few seasons - it takes more than just skill in face of a batting onslaught.

Mendis himself was so potent last year not just for his variations but the fact that all those variations were pretty subtle counterpoints to his excellent accuracy.

Posted by yohandf1984 on (November 25, 2009, 18:28 GMT)

Herath has made a remarkable comeback to test cricket in 2009 and claimed 31 wickets in 6 matches including 4 5-for s. His presence relieved Sri Lanka in last 2 series and here again .good luck for his future.

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