July 11, 2011

Not all doom and gloom despite defeat

We played some good cricket, weren't outplayed for long periods of time and unearthed some really talented youngsters

We came to England with high hopes for the one-day series so it was a huge disappointment to lose 3-2. I thought we played some very good cricket but we had a couple of really poor games as well. Old Trafford was the closest match of the whole series and unfortunately we couldn't do quite enough to get over the line. It wasn't a polished performance from us and there are a lot of areas to improve on. But it's not all doom and gloom. We showed our fighting spirit and almost pulled the game around at the end.

It's actually quite frustrating looking back on the tour and thinking how good it could have been. We lost the Test series because of one session in Cardiff and in the one-day series it was down to a couple of batting collapses at crucial moments. We can't be too disappointed because we played some really good cricket and weren't outplayed for long periods of time. Hopefully the young players will have learned from their experiences in England.

It was definitely a missed opportunity not to make the most of an Old Trafford wicket that suited our style of cricket. But you still have to play a good game of cricket and we made an awful start by giving away too many runs in the first 10 overs. It was always going to be tough for us to come back from that. However, England were looking at getting 350 and we managed to haul them back brilliantly which was a great effort. But we lost the match in the first 10 overs. Despite chasing hard we made too many mistakes.

Our performance at Old Trafford really summed up one of our major problems on the tour when we lost three early wickets in the run-chase and it's something we need to put right. However, on this occasion we felt we had to go quite hard against the new ball so that it was more comfortable for the boys coming in lower down the order. It was always going to be much harder for them to score at seven or eight an over. Angelo Mathews batted really well while Jeevan Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal played superbly and Kumar Sangakkara helped give us a base from where we almost managed to get the total. There is plenty of room to improve but there are promising signs for the future.

One of the key aims of this tour was to try and identify a new group of Sri Lanka cricketers. After the World Cup we knew there would be some changes and we needed to introduce players with an eye on the next tournament in four years time. We have found some really talented players; Dinesh has played superbly and Jeevan has impressed. Angelo has been with us for a while and we knew what he was capable of, but with Chandimal and Mendis we found out more about them and hopefully we can move forward with them. We have some areas we still need to try and fill; we could do with finding some more fast bowlers and another allrounder or two for the next World Cup. These are things we will keep looking out for but the early signs have been really good.

Our captain, Tillakaratne Dilshan, had a tough one-day series but I've played enough cricket to realise we all go through slumps in form. He is a fantastic player who can turn matches around on his own and when you remove that kind player from the equation it makes it tough. But Dilshan is a fighter. I'm sure he won't change his game and he'll bounce back.

Sangakkara touched on a very sensitive issue, but it's something everyone was talking about back home, not just us here. I think it was a great speech.

As a captain I thought he handled things pretty well. It was a big, big tour for him but I think he showed what he was capable of with that hundred at Lord's, which he made with a broken thumb. If it hadn't been for that injury I'm sure his form in the one-day series would have been a lot different. He would have been able to prepare for the series properly but instead he had to wait two weeks while his thumb healed. There were a lot of things that went against him but, overall, there had been a lot of changes to the team after the World Cup and I thought he did really well.

I was back down the order to No. 4 at Old Trafford but I'm not quite sure what my long-term role will now be. These are things we need to keep working on as we introduce youngsters. It was just a tactical decision and it didn't work for us that day, but on another day it will. In the future, I'm going to be very flexible to see what's best for the team. If that means opening the batting I'll be happy to fill that position. It's all about finding the right balance.

Last week I talked about the challenges facing Alastair Cook as he leads England's one-day cricket forward and both he and his team were impressive in the last two matches. It will take time for him to settle into the captaincy and also for the other players to work around him. They have some quality players in that middle order and everyone has to find their individual roles and then be consistent with that. Cook is a very good player, he's proved that in Test cricket and it's a great challenge to bring that to one-day cricket.

One of major talking points that came up during the series was Kumar's MCC Spirit of Cricket Lecture. I wasn't at the actual event, but know how long he spent writing the speech between the matches. I listened to it afterwards and it was very impressive. A lot of people have taken an interest. It was a bit controversial in places but said some important things about Sri Lanka cricket and what it means to people. He touched on a very sensitive issue, but it's something everyone was talking about back home, not just us here. I think it was a great speech.

We are finishing the tour with a couple of matches in Scotland, but our next major series is against Australia at home. We fancy our chances against anyone in our own conditions, which we see as a fortress. We are very confident and it will be more great exposure for the younger guys who learnt so much on this tour of England. We'll need to be at our best to beat the Australians but we are looking forward to the challenge. There should be some really interesting cricket coming up in the next few months. Hopefully we can kick-start our Test and one-day form back in Sri Lanka. This has been a tough tour but enjoyable and we need to learn lessons from it.

Former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene is the country's leading Test run-scorer