October 24, 2011

We're looking to build a strong pace unit

Sri Lanka got the better of the draw in the first Test, but a bowling attack that struggles to take 20 wickets is a worry

We are still in the series, which is great. When you are playing in the Middle East, where wickets tend to be flat, it is difficult to get results. So if we had gone one-down, we would have been fighting hard to get back into the series. But there is still all to play for.

There are little things we need to work on. We need to take control in the first couple of days of the Test and try to push advantages into winning positions. We will keep trying to improve in those areas to turn the series around.

I think we have to be more consistent in our overall game. We showed a lot of character coming back into the match and saving it, but we shouldn't have been in that situation in the first place. The first couple of days are crucial, and the way we batted on the first day - though obviously there was a bit of help in the wicket for the bowlers - wasn't good. We put ourselves under pressure and had to dig deep to come back.

The credit goes to the Pakistani bowlers as well. They didn't let us score runs. I think we only scored 50 in the first session, and we struggled in the second session as well. When we were put under pressure, we did not handle it well. We lost four wickets in a short span of time - from 112 for 3 to 114 for 7.

I thought Kumar [Sangakkara] batted brilliantly in the second innings. It was one of the best knocks I've seen him play under pressure. He just made sure that he played his part in that situation. And Prasanna [Jayawardene], coming in against the second new ball with five wickets down, was fantastic in the way he approached the situation to get a hundred from No. 7.

We showed a bit of quality to get a lead and put some pressure on Pakistan. They were negative and decided not to chase the target. We ended up being on top of the Test, and hopefully we can take that momentum into the next one.

The bowling is an area we are looking to improve on. You need to get 20 wickets to win a Test match. In the last 10 or 11 Tests we haven't been able to do that, which is why we haven't won any. But to be fair to our bowlers, they bowled on a wicket that got flatter and easier to score on. They bowled their hearts out and did good things at times, but I think we definitely need to create more opportunities and maybe keep varying things a bit. It is a young attack and needs experience.

We have two new guys playing, spearheaded by a left-arm spinner [Rangana Herath] who is probably the most experienced bowler in that unit. He bowls his heart out and does the job for us. The young pace attack will need time to find its feet. You have to be patient with them.

After Murali's departure we still have two or three good spinners in our ranks, with Suraj [Randiv], Rangana and Ajantha [Mendis]. But we need to create a pace unit around these guys, especially if we have to win away from home. We have about six or seven young guys who are coming through the system now. So what we have done is make sure we travel with them, give them the opportunity to learn and get experience. Going forward, we have to create an attack, four, maybe five, bowlers trying to take 20 wickets, who can come and deliver for us, rather than a Murali or a [Chaminda] Vaas taking the burden and taking control of things. That is something we are investing in.

It is a great experience playing in the Middle East, especially Test cricket, which we have never played here. We have a lot of experience playing one-day cricket here, but this is something totally different for a lot of the boys. The heat, the weather - it is challenging. It is a great learning experience even for us senior cricketers who have played for a long time.

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