Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st Test, Galle, 4th day June 25, 2012

Kulasekara shows Test promise

The present Sri Lanka bowlers may not have the magic of Murali and Vaas, but the Galle Test showed they have it in them to run through teams

Sri Lanka's clinical bowling performance in the first Test in Galle is an indication that they are beginning to overcome two years of struggle. When Muttiah Muralitharan bowled his last ball in Test cricket in 2010, the question was how Sri Lanka would cope in the future. They didn't cope very well.

In 2010, the Sri Lankan attack that played India didn't look too bad on paper. Lasith Malinga was spearheading it, and Ajantha Mendis was their next big spin hope. Malinga, however, never played a Test after that home series and retired from the format a year later due to fitness problems. Mendis could never consistently recreate the form of his debut series against India in 2008 and fell out of contention. The scarcity of strike bowlers crippled Sri Lanka's ability to take 20 wickets in a Test.

Sri Lanka's performance since Murali retired was poor. After his last Test, they failed to win any of their next 15. They lost five and drew ten. Their bowling wasn't good enough to close out games. The turnaround, however, came in the most unlikely of countries - South Africa, where Sri Lanka had never won a Test.

After losing in Centurion, Sri Lanka hit back with a 208-run win in Durban. Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath took nine wickets and has been Sri Lanka's spearhead since. Herath played a part in setting up Sri Lanka's win against Pakistan in Galle, aided by contributions from Nuwan Kulasekara and Suraj Randiv.

Despite Kulasekara's success in one-day cricket, his Test career has been stop-start, playing 13 Tests over seven years. He lost his place at the end of 2009 and played a solitary game against West Indies in 2010. Suranga Lakmal became the preferred choice to partner Chanaka Welegedara. Kulasekara wasn't a part of the initial Test squad for South Africa in 2010-11 due to injury, but he recovered and was available for selection when the team was desperate for reinforcements midway through the series. He didn't play a Test in South Africa, though, and was not part of the home series against England earlier this year, despite his encouraging one-day form.

Kulasekara's performance in the limited-overs games against Pakistan made it hard for the selectors to not pick him for these Tests. In the absence of the injured Chanaka Welegedara in Galle, Kulasekara eased into his role as the pace spearhead and took five wickets. Speed is not his forte. Kulasekara relies on swing and cut, making him a tricky proposition especially for the right-handers. Like Chaminda Vaas, he has the sharp incoming delivery that forces the batsman to play, thereby creating opportunities for lbws and catches to slip. Batsmen often played down the wrong line and lost off stump.

All five of Kulasekara's wickets in Galle were of top-order batsmen. Four of them were early wickets and the fifth was that of Younis Khan, who had resisted and scored 87 runs during Pakistan's chase. His performance earned praise from Kumar Sangakkara.

"He [Kulasekara] is one of those quiet achievers who nobody notices," Sangakkata had said after the third day. "We missed him in the Test side. He has to become our Test spearhead. It's going to be hard on his body but he's got the character to do that. He moves the ball on almost every surface, pegs away."

Like Kulasekara isn't fast, Herath isn't a big turner of the ball, but has a mean arm ball. The 2009 home series against Pakistan was the making of Herath. He cut short his league cricket stint in England to join the squad as an emergency replacement for Murali and took 15 wickets. Like Kulasekara, Herath also took five wickets in Galle.

Sri Lanka's present Test attack is workmanlike, compared to the one led by Chaminda Vaas and Murali, which could blast through batting line-ups in home conditions. However, Kulasekara and Herath have improved and given Sri Lanka belief that they can start winning Tests more often.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dani on June 26, 2012, 19:47 GMT

    its a good win by SL, aided mainly by sanga.... SL bowling was good but i dont think it will b a major weapon in next matches or future... apart from herath , i dont think the remaining bowlers will disturb pak or some other batting line in future...although m really impressed with kulasekra..hes a genuine swinger who will always question any batsmen, especially pak batsmen, who r really weak against the swingers...but for the remaining 2 matches pak will definitely try to evade his swingers, taking away the depth from SL bowling line.

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2012, 14:06 GMT

    @Ram Purandhar Reddy Einstein: well said bro,its true that SL went to the finals of TRI SERIES but INDIA won it on the last occasion as far as I remember,btw could you please tell me hw many test SL has won outside sub continent (if u wish u can include ZIM in the equation), and in the name of GOD wen will SL win a TEST MATCH on Indian soil!!! THE 2011 WORLD CUP IS HISTORY NOW,so better look forward,btw wen did SL last won a bilateral ODI series against INDIA??? nyw IND is coming again to SL,hope they win this time....:)

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2012, 10:11 GMT

    some teams r tigers at home.this doesnt mean that sri lanka r only tigers at home lyk india.dey hav even gone to finals at tri series if remembered.dey can even win tests away from home if they strangthen their bowling with kulasekara n pradeep.both can swing the ball much in foriegn tours.

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2012, 10:09 GMT

    Good swing and seam bowling from Kulasekara....Expecting more wickets from him in remaining 2 matches as he is the most dangerous bowler with new ball from two sides....

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2012, 8:54 GMT

    now our bowling attack is good enough to win in pitches that suit our type of bowlers..Atatack is gradually getting batter..we have to improve even more if we are to beat Australia in autralia this winter..

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2012, 8:37 GMT

    Many say SL is a team that wins at home. But recent form has shown that SL have done better in England and SA than India

  • kiran on June 26, 2012, 8:26 GMT

    SL is building a very good team.. In ODIs they have quality players, particularly good all-rounders, very encouraging signs for the subcontinent cricket lovers!!

  • Satish on June 26, 2012, 7:21 GMT

    Herath and Kula should be the bowlers around whom the rest of two should bowl.. Herath was the best second spinner even during Murali era but was somehow ignored for unknown reasons.. And, Kula definitely is a perfect test bowler with good go to delivery and a very consistent line and length.. He should have been in the team ahead of probably everyone since Vaas and Malinga.. Wish SL doesn't miss out the key persons again..

  • Anver on June 26, 2012, 7:10 GMT

    Quiet a reasonable bowling attack for home conditions, but i don't think it will work in away matches... need to build a strong bowling attack, who can also take 20 wkts consistently in away matches.... Kulasekara's comeback in tests after a long layoff is admirable !!!!!!! The way Pak is playing at the moment, SL stands a real chance of whitewashing Pak in this series !!!!!

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2012, 6:29 GMT

    most teams are tigers at home. so nothing to cheer about SL's victory over PAK.

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