Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lanka captain, has said the amount of pressure his bowlers built around New Zealand paid off and brought them victory on the final day of the first Test in Galle.
"It wasn't an easy victory, I think we had to work very hard for it," Sangakkara said after Sri Lanka won by 202 runs. "It's the amount of pressure we built around the New Zealand batsmen that really paid off. We kept the run-rate down at 1.8 runs an over and right throughout the game it didn't go beyond the average of 2.5 runs an over. Once we do that, especially with our first-innings total, we were always going to have them on the back foot and on the defensive."
Sangakkara said Dilshan's aggressive batting was another key factor behind the success. "Dilshan's batting in the first innings got us out of trouble and in the second innings he gave us enough time to declare.
"Everything Dilshan does have brought us results either with his bowling, a crucial run-out on the field, a brilliant catch or with his batting," Sangakkara said. "We asked him to take on a lot of responsibility this year and he's matured as a cricketer willing to take on the responsibility. Opening in this series is another task we've entrusted him with. He took it in the right spirit and made it a great success for himself."
Left-arm fast bowler Thilan Thushara was another impressive performer, taking six wickets in the match, but Sangakkara said Thushara had a long way to go before taking on the mantle of the great Chaminda Vaas. "Thilan is a different type of bowler. He doesn't get the same amount of swing that Vaasy does," he said. "What he does get is he is consistently at 140-plus kmph, swings and seams, and at that pace when that happens even on flat decks like this he gets batsmen into trouble. He is on the right track we just want to make sure he stays there and keeps improving. [Nuwan] Kulasekera and Thushara have been a huge bonus for us this year in all forms of the game."
The return of Prasanna Jayawardene as wicketkeeper was also a huge bonus, Sangakkara added. "Prasanna was amazing. I always maintained that he is the best wicketkeeper in the world by far and he just showed us why that is today. He was very tidy behind the stumps, took every single chance that came his way and exerted a lot of pressure on the batsmen by the way he went about his job. The real positive for us was the way he batted in the second innings."
Sangakkara said that if the New Zealand batsmen batted like their captain, Daniel Vettori (who made a battling 67), the game would have gone on for a longer period. "The character that Dan Vettori showed especially with his batting in both innings just goes to show that one or two partnerships like that could have stretched the game for longer but the pressure we put on them was relentless with Mendis, Murali, Thushara and occasional bowlers coming in and picking up wickets."