Patience and hard work pays off for Kulasekara
Nuwan Kulasekara remains the highest-ranked bowler in one-day internationals, but is fast proving to be a force to be reckoned with in Test cricket. Opening with the new ball for the second time in Tests, Kulasekara ran through Pakistan with his second successive four-wicket haul of the series.
Having taken 4 for 71 in Pakistan's first innings in the Galle Test, Kulasekara rocked them with 4 for 21 in nine probing overs. The result - Pakistan were shot out for their lowest total against Sri Lanka. Kulasekara looked in line to bag his maiden five-for in an innings but narrowly missed out again. "You need a little bit of luck to capture five wickets in an innings," he said. "I have not had it so far."
The way he's bowling, Kulasekara's five-wicket haul may not be too far away. With his first spell of six overs he brought Pakistan down their knees by sending back Khurram Manzoor, Mohammad Yousuf and Misbah-ul-Haq. Kulasekara later returned to end the stubborn resistance of Abdur Rauf, who made a 34-ball duck.
In the absence of Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando and Lasith Malinga, Kulasekara has stepped in magnificently to become the spearhead of the Sril Lankan bowling attack. He's even managed to look menacing even though he bowls at a fast-medium speed. Along with left-armer Thilan Thushara, Sri Lanka's new-look new-ball pair has had Pakistan's batting line-up in all sorts of trouble.
"One-day and Test cricket are two different forms of the game. I've worked a lot on my bowling in the past few months to get picked for the Test side," said Kulasekara. "You have to take wickets to get selected to the Test side. I think my one-day performances helped me achieve that.
"The key to my bowling is line and length and I also straighten the ball that comes into the batsman. I am getting most of my wickets bowling that delivery. This is what I practiced in the last few months. It is now working to my advantage."
Kulasekara acknowledged the bowlers received some help from the first-day pitch. "In the morning the wicket seamed as it did in Galle when we were bowling. I made use full use of the conditions and was rewarded with four wickets," he said. "After assessing the pitch I stuck to my basics by pitching the ball in the right places. If you do the right things you get wickets.
"Only Yousuf got out to a loose shot when he played a ball outside his off stump but the others got out to good deliveries. The wicket seams here in the first two hours and I got wickets by making use of the conditions. I don't think the Pakistani batsmen got out to any rash shots."
In Kulasekara's opinion the pitch had eased out and was favouring the batsmen although there was some movement and bounce in it for the bowlers. "The pitch will favour the batsmen for the next one to one-and-a-half days," he said.