Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, 1st ODI, Hambantota March 23, 2013

The return of the rampaging Sri Lankan openers

For Sri Lanka, the blazing opening stand between Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kushal Janith Perera in Hambantota was a welcome throwback to the days of Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana

There was an age in Sri Lanka when everyone from captain to commoners summoned the notion of a "Sri Lankan brand of cricket". Its definition would change from series to series and from one leader to the next. For some, it was a batting strategy founded on unfettered strokeplay. For others, the singularity of a varied and vibrant attack capable of contriving dismissals at unlikely times, in unusual quantities. On occasion, it was the ability to rally in the field, and launch a fierce offence on the back of a single, sprawling save.

Like most things in the country's cricket, though, the "Sri Lankan brand" has its roots in the 1996 World Cup. It was there that Sri Lanka's modern sporting identity was born, and it is the benchmark every ODI side from Sri Lanka strives to achieve. Back then, the "Sri Lankan brand" meant two things: a breakneck start and fearlessness.

Against Bangladesh in Hambantota, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kushal Janith Perera tore open a portal to that past. The first ball, short and wide, scorched a trail through cover point. Next over, the batsmen hit four fours, and upon mistiming one that was hauled in just short of the rope, Dilshan kicked himself for failing to make it five. In 4.1 overs Sri Lanka clocked fifty with ten boundaries having been struck. The openers had been made to sit around for 85 minutes while engineers scrambled to get the floodlights back on, but when the batsmen finally took guard, they batted as if they expected the power to give out again any second.

That, between Dilshan and Perera, Sri Lanka possess all the attributes of the opening pair that revolutionised the format will not have been lost on Sri Lanka fans. There is a wicketkeeper-batsman, a leftie-rightie combination, a slow-bowling marauder and two ex-middle order men booted up the order. The components might be spread somewhat differently, but they're all still there.

What's more, Perera can hardly have adopted Jayasuriya's homespun technique more completely - the short-arm jab, the brutal bottom-hand, the punishing square blows. Only, Perera is a little more lightening than thunder. Swift bat-speed substitutes for bulging forearms, and fleet of foot for extraordinary hand-eye coordination. Jayasuriya bullied plenty to the fence through sheer power, but he can rarely have used the forward press as well as Perera did in the sixth over, when he rocked back to send Abdul Razzak screaming through the off side.

"It was a good opportunity to give a young player a go, and out of the openers I've batted with, I feel like Kushal will be valuable for the team in the years to come," Dilshan said after the match. "He hit the ball without making anything complicated, and that made it easy for me as well. That kind of start is terrific. When a new player bats like that, I feel that he will play for Sri Lanka for a long time."

By the end of the mandatory Powerplay, curtailed though it was, Sri Lanka had effectively made the result a formality. Their opponents' effort had not been encouraging to begin with, but it sagged a little more with each new act of violence, and when it suited Sri Lanka to wind down the assault at 83 for 0 after eight overs, they had bloodied the visitors to a mental state from which a recovery seemed unthinkable. Seventeen years ago, Sri Lanka knew the value of an early blitz better than anyone, and with two hyper-aggressive men in the vanguard again, they may find themselves retreading the paths cleared by the 1996 pioneers.

"The way these two guys batted, the Bangladesh bowling looked ordinary," captain Angelo Mathews said. "They actually demolished the bowling attack, which happens. Any attack can fall apart when these guys bat like that - especially Dilshan. The opening stand was vital for us. After that start I thought, 'We can't lose from here.'

"They put the team in control. We are in a transition period and it's always better to find a good youngster like Kushal who is fearless and who wants to attack all the time."

Though Perera's refusal to compromise on belligerence at the top level has brought his demise on several occasions already, mammoth first-class scores suggest he is possessed of astute judgement and a firm defence too. In his last three domestic matches, Perera has hit 203, 97, and a 336 from 275 deliveries. His time behind the stumps in Australia revealed him to be a sharp keeper as well, and given Chandimal's importance to the side as a batsman, Perera's second talent may be called upon in the years to come.

Sri Lanka will face far sterner limited-overs challenges than Bangladesh at home but a stunning start in Hambantota, which harked back to years gone by, may light the path ahead as well.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sinhhalaya on March 26, 2013, 18:23 GMT

    "Perera is a little more lightening than thunder."???? Does that mean he is into fairness creams? Or did you mean lightning, perchance?

    Who would have thought that Kusal Janith would make this big a splash when his contemporary Bhanuka Rajapakse with all the hype surrounding him was thought to be a shoo-in to the SL setup.

    Dilly is a class act but is getting a bit long in the tooth. Maybe SL should bring in a youngster especially in home games against Bang.?

  • Dummy4 on March 24, 2013, 12:31 GMT

    As wonderful as these two were, it was once again Sanga who had a huge impact. Replacing him is going to be far more difficult than people realise, especially in Tests. Yes there are some talented youngsters but Sanga will leave a hole almost as big as the one left my Murali (despite the presence of Rangana). Everyone in the side has to improve by 10% to somehow make up for it.

  • Dru on March 24, 2013, 12:29 GMT

    I must say last nights start did bring back memories of Sana and I do agree that Kusal played a few shots that were a throw back from Sana, specifically the thrash over the legside. I hope SL keep him in the side and why I make this comment is he came in rather by accident. If Chandiand Sanga didnt get injured in Oz we wouldnt be having this conversation. He showed glimpses in Oz and more yesterday and I note he has made huge scores in first class cricket so the guy can bat and must be given opportunities to prosper. We all know there is a huge difference between SL frist class cricket and international level so in my books Kusal must play and hopefully he delivers the goods. I really have no idea how some of you have ended up in the debate your having on Mushrafe ECT. What is going on guys, did you not watch the game.

  • SAIFUR RAHMAN DURJOY on March 24, 2013, 9:33 GMT

    @ JPNana & Baseball-Sucks...Who is Nazmul & Mashrafee !!!!! Mashrafee is the Bowler who has 14 wickets in 10 games vs Sri Lanka...Nazmul has 9 wickets in 4 games vs Lanka at an average of 14 .....You guys remember the match when Nazmul & Mashrafee made you guys cry ...[ 6 - 5 ,record low in an international match].....if u still have any doubt who they are check the match scorecard of the recent Asia Cup [ Nazmul 32-3 ].....

  • Sarah on March 24, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    @yohandf1984 ; I see your point. But a lil bit of hype is needed to give the lad some moral boost. I think SLC has made it very clear that It only expects him to go out there n do what he does best, giving a blistering start. So if you see how he goes after bowlers n tries to send every delivery to stands, it shows he is under no pressure. Relentless aggression, that's what made our Sana boy so dangerous, And I'm so glad to see Kushal is following the same path Sana followed. So a lil bit of hype could do no harm.

  • Siri on March 24, 2013, 7:41 GMT

    Like Kusal janith Perera, Withanage too is destined to do wonders in ALL formats. With the inevitable and imminent departures of our seasoned players, it is so comforting to know that batting is will be in safe hands. Sri Lanka really need to work overtime to get a formidable array of pacies and two spinners to assist Rangana in the bowling department. Good luck Sri Lanka! (Govt. Politicians - for hell's sake keep out and get back to your hole!)

  • Yohan on March 24, 2013, 7:25 GMT

    Lets be bit realistic here . Kushal is pure talent but lets not give him additional pressure by calling next Jayasuriya . let the man go on his own . hope he ll click big time . As Dilshan is already 36 1/2 yrs , we need stability in opening slots . Angelo - Kusal might do it .

  • Sarah on March 24, 2013, 7:11 GMT

    @JPNana ; beat me bro :))) as soon as I read the comment of abcdef_12345 , I wanted to say the same thing what you said. You just beat me to it. :P

  • samith on March 24, 2013, 6:56 GMT

    Never heard of nazmul...but i remember mushrafe getting hammer in each and every game BD played against SL..LOL world class?????@ abcdef u never watch cricket out side of BD.Last Australia series this kid proved he can play against australia.That my friend is some what world class bowling attack..But not ur 5 ft club level bowlers.

  • Rifath on March 24, 2013, 6:18 GMT

    I been watching the BPL and you think Mashrafe could put things under control. Mashrafe got hammered in BPL by 1st Class Bangladeshi Crickerters. abcdef_12345... Mashrafe could consider himself lucky for not been playing and I am sure he will take for the cleaners too...

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