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Kumara, Lakmal a glimmer amid catalogue of pain

Lahiru Kumara appeals for the wicket of JP Duminy Gallo Images

7

Lahiru Kumara (two matches, 11 wickets at 26.45)

Bustling, intense, well-built, refreshingly cranky, Sri Lanka have unearthed a bowler of real potential here, and if they can salvage a long-term match-winning quick from the wreckage of this series, it might almost have been worth it. There are plenty of wayward balls for now, but also a good bouncer, some excellent inswing, and sometimes even a little away-movement off the seam. He has only played a single domestic first-class match, but will now be properly absorbed into Sri Lanka's system. You can almost imagine him coming out the other end a skinny plodder, a little dead in the eyes, and hairstyle like it was cut with a machete. Though, perhaps if he became a 120-kph line-and-length operator he might occasionally get to bowl first change.

Suranga Lakmal (three matches, 12 wickets at 30.83)

A breakthrough series for Lakmal, who took his first five-wicket haul in Port Elizabeth, and was effective at Newlands as well. A change in his action - he bowls with a straighter arm now - has envenomed him with a little extra swing and plenty more seam movement. Was unlucky to have chances spilled off his bowling when he was delivering good spells, but look, these are Sri Lankan fielders we are talking about, so expecting them to change is like asking an accountant to develop a personality, or a Colombo bus driver to stop running people over.

5

Nuwan Pradeep (three matches, 7 wickets at 43)

Bowled better through the series than his numbers suggest, though he pitched a little too short through the Newlands Test. It had looked to be a bleak series for him, until on the second morning at the Wanderers, Pradeep produced Sri Lanka's most riveting period of play in the series, taking four wickets for one run in the space of 18 balls. Used to have the batting competence of a coconut husk, but he has now made such strides in that area that he no longer looks like he will do himself an injury every time he walks to the crease.

Angelo Mathews (three matches, 178 runs at 29.66, 2 wickets at 64.50)

Played a promising innings at Port Elizabeth where he hit the short ball beautifully, and a 49 at Newlands as well. Though the best of Sri Lanka's batsmen, still did not make substantial impact with the bat, and was out four times to Kagiso Rabada. As ever with the ball, Mathews threatened to take wickets without actually ending up with many. There is no doubting his ability to keep batsmen leashed, but his early trips to the bowling crease have come under increasing scrutiny. His leadership on the field is also under the microscope.

Kusal Mendis (three matches, 138 runs at 23, 2 catches as wicketkeeper)

Maybe it is because he is still only 21 that when a full delivery wide of off stump is sent his way, Mendis' entire being lights up like a child presented with sweets. He played his team's most attractive innings at Port Elizabeth. His second dig at the Wanderers was an innings of admirable insanity: he charged the quick bowlers, took three different guards inside the same over, tried hooking, drove at every ball he possibly could, and in general was a refreshing change from his inert, fearful team-mates. Didn't outperform the other batsmen exactly, but with Mendis there is the trust that he will learn. Watching him with fans is especially interesting - Mendis seems to be more star struck by them than they are by him. Took an athletic leg-side catch while keeping as well.

4

Upul Tharanga (two matches, 88 runs at 29.33)

There were some soul-melting drives from Tharanga's bat, in virtually all his innings. But at the same time, if your spouse flirted as hard and as often as his outside edge, you would set up covert cameras around the house and quietly hire a divorce lawyer. In the few chances he's had, Tharanga has largely been good over the past two years, and he probably deserves a place in the XI for the upcoming home series. Maybe an opening spot might free up again.

Rangana Herath (three matches, 6 wickets at 48.00, 81 runs at 16.20)

What Herath went through this tour is tantamount to persecution. Upon arriving, he was hopeful he could get something out of a Port Elizabeth pitch expected to be slow and low, but instead, was discriminated against based on his style of bowling - curators and South Africa's captain conspiring against him. He became grumpier by the day, stamping around from position to position on the field, and perpetually needing to pad up - another top order collapse in progress. To end the tour, he was out to two vicious Wanderers short balls - a fate beneath his dignity, though you could argue that his having to turn out for this team at all sometimes seems the same way.

Dhananjaya de Silva (three matches, 125 runs at 20.83, 2 wickets at 85)

His mid-series move up to No. 4 remains contentious, given his success lower down the order. De Silva got several starts through the series, was once given out when the ball had been slipping down leg, and was tidy enough with his offspin. Two dropped catches in the gully hurt Sri Lanka, but he is a player Sri Lanka will feel is worth investing in, so blinding were his performances in two earlier series.

3

Dimuth Karunaratne (three matches, 128 runs at 21.33)

Got himself into good batting rhythm in the second innings at Port Elizabeth and the Wanderers, and both times surrendered his wicket - once through a run out, the other time by playing around a straight ball. Has been on the verge of being dropped from the XI for about a year now. Might just have saved himself from that fate with the Wanderers fifty, but it would also not be a great surprise if he was cut.

Kaushal Silva (three matches, 117 runs at 19.50)

His high-score of 48 coming at Port Elizabeth, Kaushal often found himself in trouble with the short ball though, at times, he seemed the only Sri Lanka batsman willing to occupy the crease for any length of time. His place in the side is at risk as well.

Dinesh Chandimal (three matches, 85 runs at 14.16, 15 catches as keeper)

So much more was expected of Chandimal with the bat, but his strokeplay was looser than New Years Eve in a Cape Town nightclub, and the wicketkeeping - though it had its moments - was not exactly immaculate either. Perhaps he will never be a reliable run-machine, but does need to chip in more half-centuries in between the dreamy big innings.

2

Dushmantha Chameera (one match, 1 wicket at 153)

Brought back too early from a stress fracture injury, Chameera was about 15kph slower in Port Elizabeth than he is at his best. For now, there is not much to him without pace. Sri Lanka fans dream of a future in which Chameera and Kumara operate at 145kph-plus at either end of the pitch. Sadly, the domestic system seems to be better at ruining young quicks than refining them.

Kusal Perera (one match, 13 runs at 6.50)

If you are a Sri Lanka fan that has read this far down this catalogue of misery without setting yourself on fire, well done. But please do yourself a favour: don't watch highlights of Perera's two Port Elizabeth innings.