Jayawardene hails 'confident' Perera
Isuru Udana, the left-arm fast bowler, had a forgettable ODI debut. His opening over contained five wides and two boundaries and went for 16. It was also the over that was to completely alter the course of the game. With India racing to 31 for 0 in three overs and Udana struggling to cope with the stiff breeze across the ground, Mahela Jayawardene handed the ball to Thisara Perera in the fourth. Perera started with three wicket-maidens taking out Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina in each. Three successive wicket-maidens. Almost unbelievable. He could have had a double-wicket maiden but for a dropped catch. Almost ridiculous. India managed 138.
Jayawardene said Udana's waywardness turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Sri Lanka. "Isuru strayed all over the place in the first over," Jayawardene said. "I felt he was a bit too nervous trying to fight with the wind. He bowled really well at practice yesterday.
"The other experienced bowlers I had were Thisara and Angelo [Mathews] so I just gave him the ball because the other day he bowled well from that end and did the job for us. He's improved quite a bit in confidence and I think the consistency is the most important thing which he is striving for. He's been consistent for us in the last six months to one year. Every day he keeps improving and he is putting his hand up to play Test cricket as well."
Increasingly, there is hardly anything that Perera cannot pull off on a cricket field. He slams sixes so effectively that he has already been compared to Lance Klusener and Shahid Afridi, by no less than his coach and captain respectively. Increasingly, defending sides, even if they are ahead, don't feel a total is safe against Sri Lanka till Perera is dismissed.
Increasingly, he is turning out to be that deceptive kind of bowler who can seem innocuous as he runs in, but can easily run through sides. He already has a six-for in ODIs. And he is a big asset in the field. Sehwag fell to the latter quality today, as Perera hung on to an acrobatic return catch.
There was not much swing in the air, but Perera bowled a difficult length, got bounce with his height, and managed some seam movement. Just enough to take Kohli's and Raina's edges.
Perera is having a memorable 2012. He has won games with his batting and bowling, he was Player of the Series in the ODIs against Pakistan and he has shared the new ball in a Test. What has done the trick for him? Tips from Shaun Pollock, the former South Africa fast bowler and Mumbai Indians' bowling coach.
"I think he is a good learner but I will be correct if I say he has worked closely with Shaun Pollock on his action during the IPL time because he wasn't playing much," Jayawardene said. "Polly has given him some good tips with his action. Polly is a great bowler to discuss those kinds of things with. I think [it is] a great opportunity for him so with that and with fast-bowling coaches he has been working hard to get his pace, to get his accuracy.
"Something that he lacked was accuracy in hitting the seam in that good area. He is a tall boy. If he can hit that good area he is always going to create opportunities so I think that's been the change and at practices he is with the ball doing something or with the bat, batting nets, throw downs. He wants to learn so good to see young guys doing that."
Perera said Pollock had asked him to be more upright in his delivery stride so that he could put more force into his bowling and hit the seam with more control. As Jayawardene said, "The IPL sometimes does help some of the players."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo