Sri Lanka in New Zealand 2014-15 December 31, 2014

Silva desperate for more centuries

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"I've also been hitting 30s and 40s, and so the next target is something much bigger." © PA Photos

Kaushal Silva is no stranger to the next step. His story so far has been full of incremental advances. At 28, he is already a veteran of Sri Lanka's arduous domestic staircase. From among his team-mates he had excelled for the longest in first-class cricket, before being granted a stretch in the national side.

Now, a full year since getting his big chance, he has embedded himself in the top order, with an average of 40.30 in 2014. But making it into the side has not quite been enough. The hunger that propelled him to 28 first-class hundreds before becoming a Test regular, now compels him to strive for a new standard of achievement at the top level as well. Having converted only one of his seven half-centuries into a ton, the next level might just mean a better conversion rate, Silva said.

"I'm not satisfied with just hitting fifties," Silva said. "I want the hundreds. I've done that at the club level and A team level, so I'm desperate to get over that hurdle here. Maybe there's a lack of concentration sometimes. I remember sweeping to get out after I'd hit 95 against Pakistan, and another occasion when I played a bad shot in the 80s. But in those situations, I need to go on for the team's sake."

Opening partner Dimuth Karunaratne's young Test career had similarly been plagued by an inability to make more of his starts, but he found the skill and desire to make his first big Test score in the second innings in Christchurch. His 152 in difficult conditions saw him partly shake off a reputation for being a batsman who gives his wicket away too lightly.

"I've batted a lot with Dimuth at SSC, and he's a batsman who has hit a lot of big hundreds at the A team and club levels," Silva said. "I'm very happy for him about his first ton. It's great for me, as we're always talking about how we should negotiate those early overs.

"Watching him do that is a big challenge for me, because I'm thinking I have to do really well in the next Test as well. I've also been hitting 30s and 40s, and so the next target is something much bigger. I want to score heavily."

Silva's partnership with Karunaratne had been moderately successful in their last tour together, in England in June, when they strung together opening stands of 54, 25, 37 and 40. While those were not imposing partnerships, they helped significantly ease pressure on Kumar Sangakkara, who did not miss crossing fifty once in the series, and finished as the highest run-getter.

In Christchurch, Sri Lanka collapsed in the first innings when their openers produced only four between them, but fared much better in the second innings, when Silva and Karunaratne put on 85 for the first wicket.

"The opening combination is very important to the team in a place like New Zealand, because we set things up for the whole batting line-up," Silva said. "We really saw that in the second innings, where the tone for the innings was set by the partnership between me and Dimuth. In England we were able to have a few good partnerships at the top, and that was a reason for our success there.

"As an opener, my plan is to somehow negotiate the first 15-20 overs - to make the new ball old. The two of us were talking a lot about batting out that period. In these conditions, Trent Boult and Tim Southee are very good, but we thought if we rotate the strike and take quick singles, they won't be able to bowl at a single batsman for a long time. Their rhythm can change then, which might lead to more scoring opportunities for us. That's what our plan was in the second innings, and that's what we will try to emulate in Wellington."

Sri Lanka had had extended preparation time before the tour of England, when the Test specialists had spent two weeks training in Sussex while the limited-overs leg of the tour took place. Silva said that intensive preparation had been key to his good performance in England - where he scored 146 runs with two fifties - but having now played a Test as well as the two-day warm-up game, in New Zealand, he feels he has a clearer idea of what it takes to prosper against the hosts.

"There's no huge difference between English and New Zealand conditions, but there is a difference in the attacks. These bowlers pitch it up more than the England attack, and their swing is greater. The thing Boult and Southee do well is swing it late. I've never faced bowlers who swing it so late, and are still so accurate. They are both in the top-ten world rankings, and it's a big challenge for us in these conditions, but we have the quality to counter them - I believe that firmly.

"In England there was more seam than swing, so here, we really have to be mindful of what our scoring areas are. We can't drive as much as we do in Sri Lanka, so we have to identify those things. We've got to restrict ourselves to the good scoring areas, and only move to our normal games after we've settled down at the crease."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android on January 1, 2015, 18:20 GMT

    Silva has a great cricketing mind.....I enjoyed reading how he viewed NZ conditions comapred to Sri Lanka and England from recent matches. Both the pitches and the different style of bowling. Isn't cricket an awesome game.....a game where every country has different conditions....not boring is it.

  • Kepili on January 1, 2015, 17:07 GMT

    @HERATH-UK: We need to admit, NZ is a way better team than the current SL squad in NZ. Defeat is heavy enough to make no excuses. When two Test openers fell within first spell, facing 400+.... there is no salvage remain for any side!

  • Dummy4 on January 1, 2015, 11:47 GMT

    @HearthUK: Tell me how many practice matches SL should have played before the start of 2 tests? Dont you think one practice match is enough for a 2 tests series?

  • Ranil on January 1, 2015, 10:08 GMT

    @Gaurav Manchanda, Learn to separate cheese from chalk,prior to the Indian ODI series, the players were with their families in a break, no cricket scheduled till the Eng tour but to satisfy BCCI, a whirlwind tour was arranged without any practice or training against the players' wishes.Then they played 12 ODIs at a stretch & flew to NZ next day to play the red ball without any prep. Whether it is two match or ten match series, the practice needed comes before the start of the FIRST match. Like to see some intelligent comments only.

  • Dummy4 on January 1, 2015, 9:17 GMT

    @HearthUK: lack of practice & preparation cost us the first match? Same was said for Ind-SL series. How many practice matches you need for a 2 tests series, 3? Its totally unpractical. Just accept the fact that SL were outplayed by MccCullum & co. India also lost the series to Australia because they didnt play well.

  • Dummy on January 1, 2015, 5:01 GMT

    Kaushal score more centuries means SL will only draw more test matches.

  • sam on January 1, 2015, 4:15 GMT

    Kaushal isn't going to be a success story outside Asia if he doesn't move his feet. He leaves well and plays it pretty late but doesn't move his feet and so doesn't get get close to the pitch of the ball.

  • Dummy4 on January 1, 2015, 3:10 GMT

    @SHANEPE2003 McMillan or McCullum? Yes McMillan was a good batsman,i think ur referring to McCullum

  • shane on January 1, 2015, 2:33 GMT

    IMO every good player has the ability to change the pace (gear) of an innings but I don't see that from K.Silava, this could be a reason he will not be able to score big century consistent basis but he look like a batsman with a decent technique to open an innings even though not enough flare to change the gear or make an impact innings like McMillan.

  • Ranil on December 31, 2014, 20:09 GMT

    Yes he needs to produce some big scores & yes the lack of practice & preparation cost us the first match. If he has ambitions to get into the ODI team it may affect his good control at the Tests so he should be very much aware of it. He should be one of the cornerstones in a winning team in Tests in the future.

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