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March 2, 2009
A little more than a year ago, Thilan Samaraweera was struggling to find a way back into the Sri Lankan Test side. He is now in his best-ever form, with 717 runs in four Tests, and has become a key member of Sri Lanka's middle order.
He attributes the dramatic upswing in fortunes to a few technical adjustments he has made. "I've narrowed the stance and with a slightly higher (back) lift, I'm feeling more comfortable," he said.
Samaraweera's Test average has soared above 50, but he is yet to return to the limited-overs side, having played his last ODI in 2005. "I'm ready for the challenge of one-day cricket but my job is to score runs and it's the selectors' decision to pick me."
His 214 on the second day in Lahore helped his side pile up 606, and he also became only the second Sri Lankan, after Kumar Sangakkara, to make double-centuries in successive Tests. "I am really pleased to get to that exclusive club. I have worked really hard over the last two years and it certainly has helped [that] the wicket is also quite good."
The inexperienced Pakistan bowling is without Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, but Samaraweera felt it was still a dangerous unit. "The Pakistani attack doesn't have the big names, but this attack is good. Umar Gul, in particular, is a fine bowler."
It was Gul's mastery of reverse-swing that kept the Sri Lankans from reaching an even larger total. The rest of the Pakistan attack was off-colour, but Gul picked up a career-best six-wicket haul. "[It was] a good comeback after Sri Lanka were only four down with some 500-odd runs on the board," he said.
Despite the assured start from Pakistan's openers, the home side are trailing by nearly 500 runs. Gul, though, insisted Pakistan were still looking for a victory. "We will try to score as quickly as possible on Tuesday and try to win the Test because it's the last match of the series," he said. "It was unfortunate that Salman Butt got run out at the very end of the day."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.