Mahela Jayawardene
Sri Lanka's captain and leading Test run scorer

Sri Lanka in England 2011

We didn't take the easy way out

Sri Lanka could have gone into the Tests against England with seven batsmen, but we chose not to, for the sake of building a team for the future

Mahela Jayawardene

July 22, 2011

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Nuwan Pradeep picked up four second-innings wickets in Sri Lanka's win , England Lions v Sri Lanka, Tour Match, Derby, May 22 2011
Nuwan Pradeep may not have played a Test but he was one of the bright spots for Sri Lanka © Getty Images
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Rain rather ruined the Test series in the end, but I still believe - in spite of the disappointment of what happened in Cardiff - that we actually had a pretty good series and made some important strides as a team.

We always knew when we came to England that it was going to be a tough challenge. Playing England in their own conditions is always hard to do, but especially so for us since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan. We no longer have a player with the individual brilliance to control games, so the challenge was to find a solid and consistent group of players who know their roles in the team and can help to build us a strong future.

To do that we had to take a few risks, because we didn't want to be looking at this series in a negative way. It would have been much easier to go in with seven batsmen and four bowlers, which could have helped us make big runs, but then wouldn't have given us much chance of getting 20 wickets. We made a bold move from the first Test onwards, going with six batsmen and five bowlers, which was tough on the batting group against a tough attack, but an important attitude to have away from home. It's the picture that a lot of people haven't seen. We didn't take that easy option, but we still played some good cricket.

We can take a lot of positives out of this series. The younger bowling unit has gained a lot of valuable experience, and we know what we need to do to keep rebuilding our bowling. The only really experienced guy we had was Dilhara Fernando, who is coming to the end of his career. It's the guys like Chanaka Welegedara and Suranga Lakmal who are our future, and Nuwan Pradeep, who bowled brilliantly in the Lions game at Derby but unfortunately had to fly home injured.

Back home in Sri Lanka our spinners can be relied upon do the bulk of the work, and we're pretty confident in that strategy, but away from home we have to create a stronger seam-bowling unit if we are to maintain our position as one of the top-ranked sides in the world, so we had no choice but to give chances to three or four guys who will get together and do that job for us. We need to keep working at it and give them the experience they require to be a challenge in these conditions.

While we get through this transition period, it is really up to the batting group to use their experience and carry the burden for the next couple of years. That makes it all the more disappointing that, for the first time in a long time, I had a really bad series. The new England attack was pretty challenging. I had a couple of brilliant balls to deal with, and they bowled really well to me; I wasn't given easy runs, but I also didn't handle them as well as I should have done. At practice I was fine and my work ethic was brilliant, so maybe I should have been more aggressive. But it's done and dusted now. I need to move on and I've played enough cricket to know these things happen.

 
 
England's bench strength is exceptional, and not every team has the luxury of that many bowlers to call upon. While they have it they might as well enjoy it, because we all know how the cycle works in world cricket
 

All things considered, I still reckon our batsmen did a good job, with at least one really good innings in each of the Tests - even though neither Kumar Sangakkara nor myself really got going until Kumar's hundred in the final innings of the series. The conditions were especially tough and England's bowlers are the best they've produced for some time, but the younger guys like Tharanga Paranavitana and Lahiru Thirimanne showed a lot of promise, Dilshan and Prasanna Jayawardene had great series, and Thilan Samaraweera chipped in as well.

I was particularly happy for Kumar when he got his first hundred in England. He's a class act and he's probably the most consistent player we've had for quite some time now. He was well aware that his record in England wasn't as good as everywhere else in the world, and so he was putting himself under pressure to perform. We needed somebody to bat through that final day and he did just that in very challenging conditions. Good for him. He took the responsibility, and he did the job for us - as our captain for one last time as well as a senior batsman.

Though we're now looking forward to the one-day series, England's next Test series is against India in July, and that is going to be a fascinating contest. I've already said that I believe England are the best team in the world in their own conditions, so it really depends on how the rest of the summer pans out.

If the weather changes and we get dry and sunny conditions, that will play into the hands of India's batsmen and be a challenge to England bowlers. What we're seeing in the West Indies isn't a true indication of their strength. When their senior guys like Sehwag and Tendulkar return, they are hugely experienced and they'll have the talent to put up a great challenge. England have got the advantage by playing in home conditions, but I think it will be a straight fight between India's top seven and England's bowlers

England's first-choice attack is really strong, and their next in line, Steven Finn, is pretty good as well. Other bowlers like Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan might also feature in the series at some stage. Their bench strength is exceptional, and not every team has the luxury of that many bowlers to call upon. While they have it they might as well enjoy it, because we all know how the cycle works in world cricket. They have a very good chance right now.

Mahela Jayawardene is former captain of Sri Lanka

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Posted by jagan77 on (June 25, 2011, 4:40 GMT)

This is friday evening for me in USA and having a few drinks. Please correct me if we already entered july 2011 cause i need to get married in july. Just want to know if i missed my marriage. Tha article shows july 22 2011.

Posted by   on (June 24, 2011, 2:58 GMT)

the_blue_android, Sri Lanka have won 8 test matches outside the sub-continent. 2 in England in 1998 and 2006.

Posted by the_blue_android on (June 23, 2011, 22:28 GMT)

To all the lankans, can you guys please win ONE test match outside the sub-continent please and then ramble on how good you guys are?

Posted by delastbastion on (June 23, 2011, 14:47 GMT)

I still think that mahela and sanga sold out the sl team by remaining in india to play ipl cricket...instead they should have arrived early, acclimatised and prepared themselves like anybody else...just coz theyre class players dont mean they can just turn up days before and dominate any attack...this same thing happened to chris gayle and dwayne bravo on last windies tour to england...and just like sanga and mahela by the time they got their feet the english had already won the series......and the english are smiling on their move up tjhe ladder aided and abeted by disloyalty

Posted by shathveegan on (June 23, 2011, 12:48 GMT)

the thing is tht though we had a gud line up we still struggled a lack of a good tight pacemen with a higher pace at about 140+ bt with the retirement of malinga it seemed a lot too hard about pacemens but still nuwan was one of the greatest hopes but that did'nt last long that he also at last struggled with injury anywys win and loose is there in sports better luck srilanka

Posted by stormy16 on (June 23, 2011, 11:06 GMT)

I see the point of a 6/5 combo but that will catch SL out in the long run I reckon - all the good sides have 7 specialist batters but positive move all the same. Low points of the tour are Mahela, Dilhara, Maharoof & Perera and the inability of the bowlers to make use of seam/swing conditions. Positives were Paranawitharana, Prasanna and Dilshan. Sanga had one great knock and Thilan did just enough to keep his head above water. Not sure why Randiv didnt get a single test - I think this guy is better than Herath who didnt exactly looked threatening. The big plus was Dilshan showing no signs of captaincy presures and Lahiru showing some ability in that last test. I dont see any calls for Prasannas head but we are looking to the future and he is 31 - there is 21 year old Chandimal averaging 60+ who surely needs to be given a chance. Remember the years Gilchrist lost waiting for Healy to retire and everyone thought Healy was good which he was but Gilly was something else.

Posted by crickstats on (June 23, 2011, 7:30 GMT)

@Sehwagologist SL attack has had thier bowlers doing the work and India try to win tests by batsmen, that is why they are ending up to need high totals in the 4th innings. Pls use statguru about the wicket taking ability of Lankans of Murali era, we are in a transition period,

Posted by   on (June 23, 2011, 7:13 GMT)

Of coz we lost Murali, Vaas, Malinga, Kulasekara, and Nuwan Pradeep too. The present Test bowling attack of SL is the same as now in India. No specialized wicket takin bowlers. But we all know that SL 's strength is bowling and we didnt play for our strength.

Posted by CharlieAlanJakeHarperFamily on (June 23, 2011, 4:03 GMT)

when was the last time sl won a test outside sub-continent ? if sl flat track bullies r so talented why have not they chased down successfully any 370+ scores in subcontinent ? india has done against likes of swann,anderson,flintoff,harmison at a dusty chennai track sachin scoring a ton,SA have done 414 at perth sl have not dont a single 250+ at home infact last year india scored 250 in sl laxman scored ton just give me one example sanga,mahela,dilshan ?

Posted by   on (June 23, 2011, 3:59 GMT)

@Rajitha88- india cannot win outside the india....because of that still therez no number 1 team.....

^^ But my dear friend, We have won Test matches in Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Haven't we? We won the Test series we played last time in WI and England? We came very close to winning the Test series in SA just before World Cup? So I can't see how can you justify your statement?

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Mahela JayawardeneClose
Mahela Jayawardene Elegant and prolific, Mahela Jayawardene is easily one of the best batsmen around. By a fair margin he is the highest run-getter for Sri Lanka, and on his way to becoming an all-time great. His excellent slip catching, and sharp captaincy - until early in 2009 - made him a big contributor to Sri Lanka's cause. He and Kumar Sangakkara hold the world record for the highest partnership in Tests, 624 for the third wicket, against South Africa in Colombo. Jayawardene is one of cricket's gentlemen: well-mannered, humble, intelligent and articulate.

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