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

Comments: 36 | Text size: A | A

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?

Posted by   on (June 23, 2011, 3:26 GMT)

India's tour of Eng is going to be one hell of a contest. Though England look a better side on paper in their own backyard this Indian team has done what no one expects them to do. They almost always come back after a poor start. Came close to winning the test series in SA before WC after loosing 1st test but were undone by Kallis heroics. How many teams can do that?

Indian batmen are best in the business even though over past 1 year or so English batsmen seems to be catching up fast with solidity in all departments.

Bowling dept - England are a better unit with all the variety, hands down. But Zaheer can be a real problem for the Poms. Even Ishant is showing the signs of coming off age in WI tour. Praveen can show some awe inspiring swing bowling and Sreesanth on his day in helpful English conditions can run through a side as well.

Looking forward to a great battle. Best of luck team India. Most of us consider this as the final frontier. Show us you deserve the No1 tag.

Posted by   on (June 23, 2011, 3:14 GMT)

@all the guys calling Mahela a flat track bully - He has scored centuries in England before. It is just a hard luck that he kept getting out to beauties, which with a bit of luck on any other day, could have been a played and miss shot. There is no doubting the fact that Mahela is a class act and he is bound to come good. And rain or no rain let's not forget if it was not to be a bad session in Cardiff, they could have walked out of a drawn series.

About England's bowling- Lets not make any mistake about it. They are lethal and possess variety. Swing, Seam, Speed, Bounce, name it they have it. Add to it an enviable bench strength. They definitely are the best bowling unit anywhere in the world and even more so at their own backyard.

About England's Batting - Well what can I say. Everyone seems to be in the form of their life.

Posted by   on (June 23, 2011, 2:17 GMT)

@mrgupta.. dont be an idiot he said england is the best team in the worl in their own conditions in these days.. he didnt mean that they are the best team in the world and I know india is not the best eventhough they ranked no1.. compare the no of matches u played and the other top ranked 5 countries. Me too believe south Africa is far more better than any country.. they got the perfect balance. India have batters so as Sri lanka, Australia has none these days. Even if england come to subcontinent their so called brilliant batters will be miserable.. so do their bowlers. so my friend dont miss understand what he said..

Posted by Rajitha88 on (June 23, 2011, 2:13 GMT)

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

Posted by crickstats on (June 23, 2011, 1:54 GMT)

while 1-0 result would satisfy a SL fan like me, inside we all know that we should have lost series 3-0, if not for the rain, Pradeep's injury was a huge setback, agreed. However, it baffles everybody how come Maharoof play ahead of Welegedara in two tests, and Sri Lanka's best swing bowler Nuwan Kulasekera is not even considered. Mind you Kula is a better batsman than Maharoof. Dilhara should be done away with and Dhammika Prasad would have done better. Team selection was poor and as the results suggest we should play at least 3 counties before playing a test; overall a poor planned series and a befitting disappointment. Only batting wise we improved, and the bowling rarely looked to get the batsmen out,

Posted by Mitsui on (June 22, 2011, 18:42 GMT)

@mrgupta: Haven't you heard of freedom of expression mate? If he thinks England is the best test team let him think as that. I'm a SL and I think South Africa is the best team in the world. You on the other hand think it's India. We are all entitled to our own opinions and if you want I can write several comments about why I think India is not number 1 and write about the flat track bullies in the Indian team *cough*Raina, Gambhir*cough* But it would lead to another pointless SL vs India debate so I'll abstain from it. Respect other people's opinions. There's a reason he is writing for cricinfo and you are not

Posted by Alexk400 on (June 22, 2011, 17:18 GMT)

if srilanka has to win Sangakarra has to score century and others has to contribute. Srilanka do not have bowlers if they don't play malinga. Fast bowling is decent not threatening. Srilanka lacks Test Strike bowler. Still have enough juice in batting.

Posted by Vindaliew on (June 22, 2011, 16:54 GMT)

If they had won the first test I'm sure they would have gone in with 7 batsmen for the rest of the series. Having lost the first test, and not having a world-class bowler at their disposal, Sri Lanka were pretty much forced to stick to five bowlers for the 2nd and 3rd tests to try and level or win the series. If only Lasith Malinga was still around - at least there would be a spearhead to handle this transition period, but sadly, like Shane Bond, sometimes the best don't last long, and only leave us with precious glimpses of what could have been. Unless a new world-class bowler is unearthed, SL will always have to play 5 bowlers in order to have a chance at bowling opposition out. This reminds me of the days when Anurasiri, Ramanayake, Wijegunawardene, Wickremasinghe etc would toil over after over without success. Maybe bringing Vaas back for just another year wouldn't be a bad idea at all - maybe like with Zaheer his very presence will inspire the others to bowl better?

Posted by sanath007 on (June 22, 2011, 16:16 GMT)

Early England summer is really difficult for a sub continent team, and always Sri Lanka gets the 1st tour while India is lucky to go to England at the end of the season when pitches are flatter and weather is warmer. so the flat track bullies can score

Posted by Lord.emsworth on (June 22, 2011, 15:15 GMT)

Sanga has a habit of being a 'class act' after a series has being lost. Mahela keeps mum of his own failiures. Nothing is said of Herath whose determined stubborn batting in the role of nightwatchman turned the tide in the last match.As for the young unit he speaks of Paranavitane and Welegedra are 30. The only youngsters blooded were Thirimanne, Perera and Lakmal, and Thirimanne came in only because Dilshan couldnt play so that leaves Perera and Lakmal.

Posted by Aloke_Mondkar on (June 22, 2011, 14:43 GMT)

Mahela, What really was exposed and confirmed on this tour is that you are a flat track bully. You can score runs only in SL and sub-continent with Murali to support you but take you out and you are a below-average test batsman. Maybe the SL board should revoke your passport so that way your average will climb into the 60s and not go down like it did with the English tour.Learn from Aravinda - he was a real class act and please stop writing articles and score runs overseas instead.

Posted by   on (June 22, 2011, 14:17 GMT)

even with 5 bowlers they still couldnt get 20 wickets, they should have played 7 batsman and just played 3 draws

Posted by mrgupta on (June 22, 2011, 14:07 GMT)

Excuses, Excuses and more excuses. Mahela, All your Best Batsmen were in the playing Eleven for first 2 tests, if you had gone for the option 7/4 then who would have you added to help your team score big scores... Sir Don Bradman? Agreed that you had one bad session where you lost the match and the series. But what about the next two tests where you were struggling on the last days to save the tests match let alone Win it. You are sounding like English team is similar to either WI of 80s or Aus of 90s/2000s. You are number 4 in the ranking and England are no.3, where is the big difference? England team's Home Win-Loss ratio in last 3 years is still miles behind India and also SL, how are they best team in the World?

Posted by   on (June 22, 2011, 14:05 GMT)

i really feel for these guys.....even with 5 bowlers they did not even looked liked getting England out......n this guy is talking like if Srilanka won the series....These kinda articles may suit teams which start as underdogs but end up winning...but srilanka were outplayed in every session.... funny guy mahela always trying to be in headlines!!!!

Posted by mrgupta on (June 22, 2011, 13:59 GMT)

@HILMY10730603: Your gut feeling is right mmate, he will be back with a bang in SL except for the fact that all he performs is in SL only. Its not the first time or the last time. For a player who boasts of a batting avg of 52+ his combined batting average in Aus, SA, Eng and NZ is 32.5!! So its not the lean patch my friend, its the regular day of cricket for him. In this Article in particular he has tried to portray England team as the best in class even better than Ind and SA. He said they have exceptional bench strength in bowling, Is it? Then what happened in second test when Anderson was injured? Mahela, its just an excuse to hide your failures. Best Bowling unit is SA and not Eng. And for those of you boasting about the young prospect Nuwaan Pradeep, atleast let him play his first test and take one test wicket before making him your Best bowler.

Posted by Ellis on (June 22, 2011, 11:01 GMT)

Sri Lanka were never strong enough to beat England. Their bowling was way below Test class, and the batting from number seven onwards was abysmal. Taking positives out of a whole heap of negatives is admirable, if they exist. Manufacturing positives is delusional.Thirimanne , Paranavitana, Prasanna were bright spots in the batting. Thirimanne will do well given the chance. Thisara Perera needs to go back to the drawing board. He is all huff and puff.Welegedara has never been consistently in the frame, Fernando is going downhill, Lakmal may emerge.The spin bowling is mediocre. Far too much depends on Mahela and Sangakkara who were not at their best.All of this at the Test match level. The ODIs are a different ball game. SL can do well if the weather is kind. The Jayasuriya farewell is a distraction. Good luck to him, but there are better ways for a farewell. A two game 50 over series involving the best players in the world, played in SL, would have been more appropriate.

Posted by ygkd on (June 22, 2011, 9:29 GMT)

Once again I'm with Woody111. Except I think (know) I'd be barracking for SL.

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (June 22, 2011, 9:17 GMT)

Excuse from Mahela. He wasn't even the captain, Dilshan was. Dilshan is an aggressive man and sorely wanted to win on his first assignment as captain. He knew Murali's absence left a huge gap in the bowling department and because of that went with the 6/5 combination, not because of making a future team. Based on the WC forms, Sanga and Mahela were expected to kick in with Dilshan and Samaraweera and make the runs, but Mahela/Sanga failed in 2 tests. The one mistake Dilshan made was putting Maharoof (since he supposedly could bat a bit) instead of an aggressive bowler who can't bat. Maharoof's inclusion in the first two tests were one reason why England made so much

Posted by manojettedi on (June 22, 2011, 7:41 GMT)

Sri Lanka have lost a match winner in Murali. True. But what did the seniors do to fill the gap. All that was required of them was to up their game and show that they could at least put up a fight. Sad that a class player like jayawardene is giving such lame excuses. Its not the problem only with the sri lanka. Even INdia havent played any practice matches in their tour to west indies. Sad thing. I dont blame the IPL. But the scheduling is not correct. Practice matches are the ones where we can get to choose a playing IX. Instead we get to choose the right team after the first test. If practice matches were there we would have known that M.Vijay is useless on the west indian wickets. Sorry state of affairs if they want the test matches alive and kicking

Posted by   on (June 22, 2011, 7:40 GMT)

Nuwan Pradeep must be rehabilitated and rested sufficiently, particularly for the South African test tour where pitches are very bouncy. Thisara and Maharoof can be ignored for some time, in test cricket.

Posted by HILMY10730603 on (June 22, 2011, 5:48 GMT)

Hi Mahela, what happened to you in those Six Test Innings, caught behind the Stumps on all those Six occasions. Bad Luck. I wish all the best to Score heavily in the T20I and ODIs to make amends for your flops in the Test. What my gut feeling says is that it is a lean patch before a heavy work load back in Sri Lanka, your backyard and this new Series against Pakistan in UAE. Keep up writing for the world. Best of Luck in T20I and ODIs.

Posted by chandau on (June 22, 2011, 5:40 GMT)

Well may be you didn't take the easy way out but certainly took the easy way in! Why is it that we dont play at least 3-4 4 day matches before going into the test series? If my memory is right in 1996 we had many county matches and a single test match. You of all people sat on past glory and thought this time too will be like last time so skipped the practice and failed miserably. For the record whether we played 6/5 or 7/4 or 8/3 would have made no difference or for that matter 5/6, because untill the poms went for fast runs, we were not looking like bowling them over. Sorry to say Mahroof and Perera may be good for ODI cricket but certainly they are not test class. If i was skippy Vassy would be my saviour because of the guile he brings on to the pitch. The selectors by sending a bowling unit of rookies made them all look like idiots because there was no spearhead and again am sorry but Dilhara is not the same bowler any more thkx to selectors. cheers for ODI series but Kanda skip?

Posted by Shafi79 on (June 22, 2011, 5:35 GMT)

Great read Mahela, truth be told, it obviously shows that our bowling unit really needs to do a lot of work to be able to WIN test matches outside Sri Lanka now that we dont have match winners like Murali or Malinga. Maybe Nuwan Pradeep can be that match winner for us given time. So as a fan, i was gutted during that collapse at cardiff, specially considering we had such a short period to bat out, anyway things like that happen and we need to move on, we never looked like a side that could beat England but if one of you guys had got in that evening and held on for a draw we could have walked away with a 0-0 result which would have been a very good result for us. Anyways we DO expect a series win the ODI's and T-20's from you guys, after all we are world cup finalists :) All the best for the rest of the tour!!!

Posted by Sobat on (June 22, 2011, 5:29 GMT)

Yes i think this is the best attack England had in a long long time..... not only the bowlers even the batting line up the form they are at this moment they are unbeatable. from Sri Lanla point of vive i think they did realy good in Alien conditionsn except that one innings. the bowling surely not in the best but yet again all of them are new. I wish PJ cound continue the good work at no.6 so it will be a big factor when team selection.

Posted by chiragbhatt on (June 22, 2011, 4:32 GMT)

Just before the Series started...Sanga was saying that they play bounce better than all the other Asian test playing nation....and now Mahela is saying we cant win without Murali...i think rather that finding excuses...SL will have to play more test matches in Australia,South Africa,England...we all know what a fighting team they are at home..but with the retirements of Vass and Murali...they are bound to lose that also...

Posted by Woody111 on (June 22, 2011, 3:45 GMT)

I hope you fellas play more test cricket, Mahela. Sri Lanka are always good to watch and have some absolute stars in the ranks; expecially with the bat. I look forward to watching my team, Aus, play you guys at your place. I'm worried you're going to beat the ?$%& out of us though!

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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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