Silva fits into the Sri Lankan narratives

'We don't want to declare' - Silva (1:33)

Opener Kaushal SIlva talked after day 4 of Sri Lanka's third Test against Australia (1:33)

"The Sri Lankan fight" is a catchphrase increasingly fetishised by members and coaching staff of the national team. It is uttered so freely, and so rhapsodically, "fight" can seem better-regarded in this side than technique, or tactical aptitude, or runs, or wickets, or indeed victory.

Even in matches in which oppositions have amassed a total of roughly seven million, and Sri Lanka's top order has then been dismissed for a cumulative 0.5, coaches, captains and managers will still glowingly cite the 25-run tail-end partnership consisting largely of leg byes that come off quivering helmets, as evidence of a proud, age-old, indomitable Sri Lankan spirit.

The talk is often not of how well a cricketer performed, but of how poor the situation was that he performed in. "It was excellent that our No. 7 really showed us how to bat in conditions where the ball was teleporting around the pitch and phasing through solid objects," goes one fairly typical post-match comment. "It was wonderful to see our seamer get three inconsequential wickets given his team-mates fielded like they were being tasered, all through the innings," is the rough paraphrasing of another.

Small wonder that in the last eight Tests, including this present game, Sri Lanka have given up a first-innings deficit on six occasions. There is a growing admiration for "characterful performances", usually when team-mates' ineptitude has made things more difficult for you. There is admiration for gutsy innings when battling demons - either personal, or in the pitch, or James Anderson. And it is into this narrative that Kaushal Silva's excellent hundred fits.

Consider the numbers 0, 5, 2, 4 and 7. These are not, as would be fair to suspect at first glance, Kardashian IQs. They are Silva's previous scores in the series. Silva says the selectors "didn't put any pressure on him" through this trot. But the thing with selectors is that since they have invested in a set of players, it is in their interest that each of those players has the confidence to play well. Their expression of belief in a cricketer is roughly on par with a mother telling her son he is handsome, or a wife assuring a husband that his now-enormous belly is not sapping her will to live.

On social media at least, Silva's failures had attracted ridicule. One guy removed the lid from a coke bottle with his teeth, and proclaimed them to be "a better opener than Kaushal or Dimuth". Others suggested sending tail-enders in to face the new ball. If they cannot be spared, maybe plywood cutouts of the tail-enders would do.

His back thus up against an advancing bulldozer, Silva summoned a second-innings, dusty-pitch 115. Going into battle for his place for the second time in 10 months, he mustered what was probably the performance of his career.

In addition to the pressure of keeping his place, Silva also had to contend with a wound in his top hand, after getting six stitches on the webbing he had split while fielding. The injury clearly hampered his strokeplay, but he said it may have been a blessing in disguise.

"Normally, when you have an injury you tend to concentrate more," he said after play. "The split webbing also helped me as I couldn't go for my drives, and in the first few innings I had got out chasing deliveries outside off stump. The injury gave me the guts to go out there and show how capable I am - what I can do when chips were down."

If what Silva says is true, then this innings also fits another Sri Lanka narrative - one that has developed this tour - in which every injury sustained leads to better performance. Ahead of the Pallekele Test, Suranga Lakmal's injury forced the team to pick Lakshan Sandakan, who took seven wickets. In Galle, Nuwan Pradeep's absence meant fewer overs of seam bowling, while Australian batsmen raced each other to be humiliated by spin. At the SSC, Rangana Herath achieved his best figures of the series only after being struck in the box the previous day, and now it has taken a nasty tear to unlock Silva's runs.

If this trend of producing "fighting" performances despite injury continues much longer, coaches might consider shooting air rifles at batsmen who are headed to the crease. Maybe the long-standing fielding issues can be solved if they set fire to the 12th man before play.

Either way, on Tuesday, another player overcame yet another set of difficult circumstances to push Sri Lanka forward in the game. They are already well placed to push for victory, but Angelo Mathews' innate conservatism took hold again, and the evening session went on and on, and Sri Lanka continued to bat.

SLC's Thilanga Sumathipala had said on Monday that Mathews would remain captain until 2019. Selecting is not, strictly speaking, Sumathipala's job. But at least it was nice of him to let fans know when a declaration can be expected.