'Our bowlers created the opportunities' - Jayawardene
Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan captain, described his team's thumping innings and 234-run victory over Bangladesh in the first Test as a brilliant effort under tough conditions.
"The important thing for us was to make sure we go very hard at them," said Jayawardene after Sri Lanka had wrapped up the Test half an hour into the fourth morning to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. "We hadn't played Test cricket for a while and we needed to back into things pretty quickly and maintain our standards. That's the challenge we had.
"The batsmen, the guys who got in made sure they made big hundreds. Everyone chipped in especially the lower middle order. The fast bowlers were brilliant. They were very aggressive in creating opportunities. Overall it was a brilliant performance but there are areas we can still improve. Our ground fielding was brilliant but we dropped chances."
Sri Lanka weren't able to wrap up the innings on the third day and Jayawardene's request to bring on the fast bowlers in the fading light was denied by the umpires. "I knew the light would be a concern and I asked them whether it was alright for me to bring on Lasith Malinga. The answer I got was that it was okay. After a couple of balls they changed their minds. That was the disappointment because if there was the slightest indication that it was not ideal, I wouldn't have brought Malinga."
He praised the efforts of Prasanna Jayawardene and Chaminda Vaas who both scored their maiden Test hundreds.
"For Prasanna I think it's been coming for a while. He's been very consistent with the bat for us and he knew the responsibility as a wicketkeeper that he had to make runs for us. It was good to see him getting those runs. It gives him a lot of confidence to build the batting line up around him.
"For Vaas it was his dream to get a hundred in Test cricket for quite some time. When I saw he had the opportunity I had no hesitation in allowing him to go and get it. It's always good to see that our lower order with the kind of determination we have is a very solid set up now."
Once again it was offspinner Muralitharan who picked up the Man-of-the-Match award when the consensus of opinion was on Prasanna with his hundred and six dismissals behind the stumps.
"On a placid track the way Murali created opportunities especially on the first day to take five wickets actually changed the whole game for us," said Jayawardene. "From that moment onwards we knew the Test was in our hands unless we made some silly mistakes. It's brilliant to have a guy like Murali. Now we've got a bowling line-up which creates opportunities among themselves with Lasith, Dilhara [Fernando] and Vaas. Murali has less pressure now to run through teams."
For Mohammad Ashraful it was a tough beginning as Bangladesh captain. He admitted that he had a lot to learn sitting in the hot seat and also cited his side's limited opportunities at the Test level as the reason for the defeat. He also took heart from the team's improved showing in the second innings, posting a more respectable 254 after they were bundled out for 89 in the first.
"I wouldn't have played those irresponsible shots if I had a little bit of experience," he said. "I will learn with every game. Our second innings performance proved that if we concentrate hard it is possible to play quality bowlers. For most of the second innings we actually stuck to our game plan and it came out pretty good. That is the confidence we will take going into the rest of the series."
When asked whether they missed the services of their former coach Dav Whatmore, Ashraful replied: "It's very natural to miss someone like Whatmore because he has helped Bangladesh cricket a lot. The team hasn't had any problem with the new management and the coaching staff."