November 9, 2011

We've competed, but we've slipped up as well

One bad session apiece has cost Sri Lanka their last three series. Ironing out those mistakes will be top priority for the side

It's essentially been one bad innings that has cost us each of the last three series. In Cardiff against England and then against Australia in Galle and now here in Dubai. It is something that we have acknowledged and looked at and it is an area where we need to improve. We realise we have slipped up and cannot make mistakes that cause us to lose entire series.

At the same time, the positive is that we competed really well in all three Test series. Though we are rebuilding, we know we are not that far from turning the corner and becoming consistent enough to win matches and series. We have to believe in ourselves rather than listening to what everyone else is saying. We just need to focus on what we are doing well and improve on that.

Even against Australia, in the last Test match we had a lead but we just couldn't bowl them out in the second innings. We need to be ruthless and convert those opportunities.

The Pakistan series has taught us a few things. We made a few changes. Tillakaratne Dilshan going back up the order has been a good decision, I think. We have all realised the potential of him opening the batting. He gives us a good strike rate at the top and he can change the game. Sometimes he will get out early, but we should not be too bothered about that. His return to the opening position is a very big positive.

We played a six-five combination in the third Test, going in with the extra bowler. Unfortunately Dhammika [Prasad] got injured, otherwise we would possibly have bowled Pakistan out quicker in the first innings, and even in the second innings, with the extra bowler, we would have had a better chance of winning the game. Unfortunately these things are out of our control.

The moves we made were the right ones and we can keep improving. We can try different combinations, and different tricks in our bowling. We need to look at being consistent in our batting, especially in the first innings of a Test match, where you need to control things - just be patient and grind through.

Another big positive was the way Kumar [Sangakkara] batted through the series. It was fantastic to see him dominating the way he did and the way he handled the Pakistan bowlers. We just need to build on performances like his and keep pushing ourselves.

We are looking forward to the one-dayers, where we play a different game. Pakistan are a good team; they pose a lot of threats in their line-up that we need to be up for. Their bowling will be their strong point. They have two allrounders in their line-up, which gives them extra options. With Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir and Junaid Khan, they have a lot of pace options. They have Saeed Ajmal as well. So their bowling will have lots of variations. At the same time their batting will be strong with Umar Akmal coming back. They bat deep into their line-up as well. They look very solid as a unit.

As for us, our bowling attack will be much improved with two experienced bowlers, Lasith [Malinga] and Dilhara [Fernando], coming back into the side. We have had a steady one-day batting line-up the last year or so. With Dilshan opening and Angelo Mathews fit and a young Dinesh Chandimal coming back, we have a good side. It will be crucial to take control of the series early, so it is very important to win the first two.

We are used to switching between formats. Whatever has happened in the previous series, you turn around and say, "This is a fresh start." We have some fresh guys coming in and that does give you a bit more energy. A Test series can be really draining after three, maybe four, weeks of tough cricket. So to get a few fresh faces in raises the energy in the camp and does make a great difference.

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