Prasanna Jayawardene, the Sri Lanka wicketkeeper, has rued not being able to avoid the follow-on against West Indies in Galle but said his team could finish on a positive note after the encouraging start provided by openers Tillakaratne Dilshan and Tharanga Paranavitana in the second innings. Prasanna, who was the last batsman to fall in the first innings, battled his way to 58 but holed out, top-edging a sweep, to Kemar Roach off the bowling of offspinner Shane Shillingford with the hosts just three runs short of avoiding the follow-on target of 381. But Sri Lanka finished the day on 89 without loss in the second innings, still 113 behind.
"We wanted to save the follow-on but unfortunately it didn't happen. Our openers have done well. If we can bat like this tomorrow in the first session we have a great chance to end up well," Prasanna said. "Against the offspinner we were trying to sweep because I thought if I defended, there was a chance of a bat-pad catch. So I kept on sweeping. I wanted to sweep and get a four. If there was a single I wasn't going to run. I was in too minds and as I swept the bat turned a bit and I got an edge.
"I know that (Thilan) Thushara (the No.11 batsman) can bat, but the issue was that the offspinner bowled the best. You have to handle the pressure and I thought against the spinner I had to take strike."
Prasanna admitted the batsmen initially found it difficult to deal with Shillingford, who picked up four wickets. "When others bowl the offbreak they flight, but Shane darts the ball sending it down. There is a change in the way he bowls," Prasanna said. "He was troubling us at the beginning, but as he got tired he failed to bowl a good line. Our openers had to issues tackling him in the second innings."
Sri Lanka had been struggling at 295 for 7 when Prasanna was joined by fast bowler Dammika Prasad, who supported him in a stand of 72 with a quickfire 47. "Dammika batted really well. There's no point in blocking thinking of the follow-on. You have to be attacking. I thought both of us could avoid the follow-on but once Dammika got out we got into trouble."
The key to winning the series, Prasanna said, was to dismiss Chris Gayle, who smashed 333 in the first innings, early. "The lower order is not batting well and if we get Gayle I think we have a very good chance in the rest of the series."
Prasanna also acknowledged he was under pressure to perform, though he has represented Sri Lanka in 34 Tests so far in a staggered 10-year Test career. He scored a century during the tour of India last year in Ahmedabad, made 29 in the first Test against India in Galle this year and failed in the final Test of that drawn series at the P Sara Oval. "I didn't get a chance to bat at SSC and in the third Test, I failed in both innings. Overall if you take my performances I have failed in those two innings only, but there's always pressure for me to perform ahead of a Test," he said.
"It doesn't affect me. I take it match by match and I try to give my best. My average is around 30 and if you can't handle pressure you can't play cricket. I started playing for the country in 2000 and I have always performed. It doesn't bother me. I am used to pressure and I try to do well at every opportunity I get."