Need to unsettle Yasir Shah - Silva
Scoring more frequently off Yasir Shah may be Sri Lanka's best chance of neutralising him, opener Kaushal Silva said ahead of the second Test in Colombo, beginning on Thursday. Yasir had been excellent in the first innings in Galle, but was devastating in the second, claiming 7 for 76 to send the hosts spiralling to a 10-wicket loss.
Sri Lanka's batsmen were reticent against him in both innings, and did not score more than 2.6 runs off a Yasir over, on average. Frustrated by long scoreless periods, several batsmen also fell hitting out, but a more measured method may be effective against him, Silva said.
"I think when you have a good bowler, you have to put pressure on him to receive loose balls," Silva said. "As batsmen, we have to put him under pressure, because if we play the same way, he'll keep putting the ball in that same spot. If he does that, it's difficult to play the strokes we want. If we use our feet, we should be able to get singles and twos, and the odd four. We've got to rotate the strike. If we do that, he can't settle down and bowl at one batsman."
Siva said Yasir's control was the most impressive aspect of his bowling, though he did possess the usual leg spinner's variations as well. "His accuracy is excellent, and the other thing is that he bowls quite quickly. He's usually in the 85-90kph range, which is faster than most spinners. He does use variations - but he also uses speed well. He bowls his legbreak fast often, and slow sometimes - the googly is the same. He does use the flipper often as well. We have to wrestle the bad balls from him."
Silva had hit his second Test hundred in the first innings, and though he said the effort had not meant as much in a defeat, he took satisfaction in improving a modest conversion rate. Silva said advice from his father, who has coached him since youth, had been instrumental to reaching triple figures.
"Long before this tour started, my father told me to work on a couple of shots and implement that in the series, so I could be improving," Silva said. "So I began working on that about a month and a half before the tour. I worked pretty hard with [coach] Marvan [Atapattu] aiya, and it was important to me to perfect my cut and pull. That was an advantage to me in the last game. I got a lot of scoring opportunities that way. He also scolded me for the way I got out in the second innings, but that's pretty much to be expected."
With Kumar Sangakkara likely to retire after one or two Tests of the India series in August, Silva is set to be perhaps the oldest batsman in Sri Lanka's top six, at 29. He said the top order's familiarity with one another may help ease the loss of two great batsmen.
"Replacing Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene will take time. Only when a group of cricketers play together for sometime will things improve. That's when we'll get that experience. The good thing is, this group of players has been together for a while. We've played under-19 and 'A' team level together. So we know how to play with each other, what each other's needs are, where a particular batsman likes to score, where their release shots are, and all of that. I think that will help us develop quickly."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando