Sri Lanka's captain Mahela Jayawardene has said that his left-arm spinner Rangana Herath has taken over the mantle of Sri Lanka's No. 1 bowler following his six-wicket haul against England on the second day of the first Test at Galle.
"Ever since Murali retired Rangana has been our No. 1 spinner and he has now taken the mantle of being the No. 1 bowler as well," said Jayawardene in praise of his largely unsung spinner whose bowling effort has placed Sri Lanka with a chance to force victory.
Herath took 6 for 74 to bowl England out for 193 and give his team a handy 125-run first innings lead which they had stretched to 209 by the close with five second innings wickets in hand.
"Rangana has played alongside Murali for quite some time. For eight years he has always been an understudy. When Murali is bowling from the other end you don't get much notice but Rangana showed that he's got the experience now and he's got the responsibility to lead a young attack," Jayawardene said.
"He is doing it brilliantly and all the other bowlers are responding really well. In the post-Murali era what we need to do is try and develop a unit which will pick up 20 wickets. That's what we are trying to achieve."
Herath said that he saw England playing against Pakistan and struggle against the off-spin of Saeed Ajmal and the left-arm spin of Abdur Rehman. "I realised that you need something on the wicket for the spinners to perform like they did today where 12 wickets went to them."
Herath, who made his Test debut at this venue against Australia 13 years ago, praised Muralithan for offering regular assistance to spinners like himself, Suraj Randiv and Ajantha Mendis which has helped them develop their game. It was his eighth five-wicket haul in Tests.