Thisara will be major part of World Cup squad - Mathews
As teams gear up for the battle royale in Australia and New Zealand next year, penetrative quick bowlers are at a premium. For months Sri Lanka's selectors and captain have been speaking of developing pace stocks for the World Cup, and they appear to have lurched closer to that goal in the series against Pakistan.
Lasith Malinga was seemingly lower on pace, but even with a quieter series for their usual spearhead, Sri Lanka's seam bowlers took 17 wickets to the spinners' eight, in the series.
Thisara Perera has been chief among the quick-bowling assets for Sri Lanka, in the first series since his differences with team selectors appear to have been ironed out. His nine wickets at an average of 10.66 were crucial to the series outcome, while his 65 from 36 balls helped seal the second ODI. A firing Perera adds balance and depth to the Sri Lanka side, giving Angelo Mathews the freedom to make changes to the XI depending on the conditions.
"Thisara has worked really hard with the coaches to get here in the past couple of months," Mathews said. "The support staff has been fantastic. Though he wasn't part of the team, he was working really hard and improving his fitness in batting and bowling. That's what we want, because going into the World Cup he is going to be a major part of our squad. We want him to improve day by day and he's been brilliant in this series."
Doubts over Perera's ability to accurately deliver his full quota of overs had seen him left out of the ODI side in recent months, but now visibly fitter, he has returned to batting and bowling form. Perera said the opportunity to bowl with the newer ball had also helped him pick up wickets, but credited the tough work put in with coaching staff.
"During the South Africa Test series, I practised alone with three coaches whom I have to thank. Anusha Samaranayake, Sumithra Warnakulasuriya and Ruwin Peiris worked with me for one month from morning till afternoon every day, practising bowling and batting. I am really indebted to them for helping me get back into the team."
Perera's 4 for 34 was instrumental to Sri Lanka's victory in the third ODI in Dambulla, where they dismissed Pakistan for 102. Three of Perera's wickets had come from the bouncer.
"We planned before the match that some Pakistan players can't hit the short balls, so we thought of using the short balls in this match," Perera said. "Umar Akmal's wicket was a big one because he is a dangerous player."
Although Nuwan Kulasekara has had a dip in form since the England tour, Sri Lanka have also seen the resurgence of Dhammika Prasad, who has been effective in the few Test opportunities he has been granted, and impressed in ODIs on Saturday, with his 2 for 25. Mathews said his opening spell set the tone for the victory in Dambulla.
"After the last win, the confidence had been really high in our camp," Mathews said. "After losing to Pakistan in the first game, we knew it was hard for us to come back into the series.
"But the boys showed a lot of character, especially Dhammika Prasad. He was given the opportunity and he grabbed it with both hands. The turning point of the match was at the start, when Prasad got those two early wickets. Malinga then chipped in, then Thisara came in and got us those wickets. Our bowlers in the first 16-20 overs were brilliant and that did the damage for the Pakistanis."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando