The summer of Mendis
This series will always be remembered for the startling effect Ajantha Mendis had on India, starting and ending with his dismissals of Rahul Dravid. Mendis was undoubtedly the story of the summer but this was a Sri Lankan victory founded on consistency, determination and plenty from the supporting act. Cricinfo runs the rule over Sri Lanka's contributors to the 2-1 success.
The Man of the Series, and deservedly so. Much had been written about Ajantha Mendis before the match, and he completely lived up to the hype. His match figures of 8 for 132 are the best by a Sri Lankan debutant, and he didn't stop there. Combining two-fingered googlies and doosras, skidders and offcutters with unbelievable accuracy, Mendis finished the series with 26 wickets, the most for a three-match debut series. Murali's trickery was to be expected but it was Mendis' aggression and accuracy that rattled India's cage. Every batsman, apart from Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly, was dismissed at least once by him - VVS Laxman fell to him five times. Yet at the end of the series Mendis couldn't say which of them he would remember the most. "A wicket's a wicket," he said. Finger flickin' good.
Jayawardene topped Sri Lanka's batting averages with 279 at 69.75, as almost expected. With his ninth ton at the SSC, Jayawardene became the first batsman to score four consecutive centuries at a ground, his 23rd overall, a brilliant effort that helped form a massive total. His 86 in the first innings in Galle was all class but a reckless cut shot in the second left Sri Lanka 10 for 3 chasing 307. His captaincy continued to inspire confidence - his field placing at the SSC was brilliant - though he went perhaps a bit too defensive on the final day of the series, allowing Rahul Dravid and an injured Laxman free singles. He remained the epitome of a very professional Sri Lankan unit and used the review system much better than Anil Kumble - especially in the third Test, where Sri Lanka got six decisions overturned in their favour while India got none.
Mendis' success took plenty of pressure off Murali, but he began the series with a Man-of-the-Match haul of 11 for 110 in the first Test. Not for the first time, Murali made India's batsmen dance to his tune. His dismissals of Gautam Gambhir in both innings at the SSC were down to beautiful flight, and his entire array of artillery was on view. However, Murali was overshadowed completely by Mendis in Galle. He is not used to that, especially at home, and one of the key factors in India's success in Galle was that he took only 5 for 200, three of which were tailenders' wickets, after the damage had been done. Murali picked up only two more in the final Test to finish with 21 at 22.23.
He was Sri Lanka's second-highest run scorer and most consistent batsman this series. Samaraweera's fourth century at the SSC was perhaps overshadowed by Jayawardene's record-equalling ninth at the same venue, but it was a crucial one, highlighted by pugnacious shots and brilliant running. Samaraweera ran out of partners in Galle, remaining unbeaten on 67, and contributed crucial runs at the PSS. He previously had a risk-free approach but worked on his game during his stint out of the team, and credited his A team coach Chandika Hathurasingha for the results. Whatever the reason, Samaraweera was the bedrock of Sri Lanka's batting.
Warnapura, the nephew of Sri Lanka's first Test captain Bandula Warnapura, enjoyed his time against India. Scores of 115, 66, 0, 8, and 54 not out did justice to the talent displayed in the West Indies earlier this year and, critically, Warnapura showed an appetite to dig in. He dropped a couple chances in the field but his batting more than made up for it.
Prasad, a right-arm fast-medium bowler, did perhaps more than what was expected of him. He was added to the squad in Galle but didn't make his debut until the final match. But what a match it was. Prasad justified Sri Lanka's decision to include him for his pace by taking three big wickets - Virender Sehwag, Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar - in the first session on day one, then scored a classy 36, and returned to take out India's openers after a blazing start in the second innings. With Chaminda Vaas not making any impact, Prasad, who has a decently disguised slower ball, can seriously boost his Test career if he learns the art of reverse-swing.
A subdued series, by his own high standards, from Sangakkara. Fell early at the SSC, was out for 68 when a hundred looked there for the taking in the first innings at Galle, a wicket that triggered a collapse, and failed in the second, but displayed amazing concentration to score a match-winning 144 at the PSS. His fielding, especially in the slips, remained average.
Arguably the best wicketkeeper around. His glovework was professional all series, bar one drop off Gautam Gambhir early in Galle, and he kept outstandingly to Murali and Mendis. He pulled off brilliant stumpings in every Test, but didn't perhaps too enough with the bat. He made decent contributions but should have stuck around for a big innings.
Sri Lanka chose Tillakaratne Dilshan for the No. 6 spot despite Chamara Silva scoring two half-centuries in the warm-up game against the Indians. Dilshan began to justify his selection by scoring a hundred in the first Test, an innings during which he became the first batsman to successfully review a decision that went against him. His form tapered off after that and he scored 0, 38 and 23 in his next three innings.
With Prasad's arrival and the prospect of Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando returning from injury, Vaas will be under tremendous pressure to keep his place. Aged 34, he managed only five wickets at 44.00, four of which came in two crucial spells in Galle. Vaas bowled ten overs in the first Test and took 0 for 50, his pace often dipping as low as 110kph. His saving grace was a dogged 47 in the first innings at the PSS, helping Sri Lanka out of a trick passage and inspiring confidence in Sangakkara.
After a consistent year, Vandort came a cropper against India, making just 39 runs in five innings. His uncertain footwork and hard-handed stabs in the first two Tests against the moving ball resulted in several edges to the slip cordon, and he failed in the decider as well. He has the support of his captain and coach, so he can expect an extended run in the Test side with no other options really looking good.
Picked ahead of left-arm fast bowler Thilan Thushara, who played in West Indies in April this year, Kulasekara's lack of pace told. His 20 overs in two innings at the SSC yielded one wicket - a needless shot from a gung-ho Sehwag - and cost 67 runs. He went wicketless in Galle and didn't impress with the bat for someone with a Test fifty at Lord's against a quality attack.
Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo