He has played the support act to a certain spin wizard called Muttiah Muralitharan almost all his career, but Chaminda Vaas's contribution to Sri Lankan cricket has been immense. The one Sri Lankan fast bowler who could hold his own against the best opposition batsmen, Vaas has toiled away with little fast-bowling support at the other end. His 300th Test wicket came in typically quiet fasion as well, against the backdrop of a seven-for by Murali, but the fact that the second-most successful fast bowler for them, Pramodaya Wickramasinghe, only has a tally of 85 wickets, indicates just what a colossus Vaas has been. (Click here for Sri Lanka's leading wicket-takers.)
As Vaas's career summary indicates, he has had his moments against almost all top-class. In 18 Tests against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, though, Vaas doesn't have a single five-for to his credit. The only other team against whom he doesn't have a single five-wicket haul is, quite ironically, India - in ten Tests against them, Vaas only has 22 wickets at almost 45, with a wicket every 100 balls.
The single most praiseworthy aspect about Vaas has been his ability to toil away on the lifeless tracks of the subcontinent and yet find a way to be among the wickets. In fact, a look at his record indicates that Vaas is a more effective bowler in the subcontinent than overseas. However, one of his finest moments in Tests came overseas, at Napier in 1994-95, when Vaas took five wickets in each innings, outdoing New Zealand's fast bowlers in seamer-friendly conditions to give Sri Lanka their first win abroad. It was Vaas's first ten-for - in only his fifth Test - and a performance he hasn't yet matched overseas.
If Murali has been the Sri Lankan talisman, then Vaas's contributions have been no less vital in the team's wins - in the 32 wins that he has been involved in, Vaas averages just 21 per wicket; in losses, that figure goes up to nearly 34.
As the table below suggests, Vaas got off to a superb start in Test, reaching the 50-wicket mark in just 13 matches at a fantastic average. The next 50 was a much bigger struggle - 20 matches elapsed before he got there, by which time his average had ballooned to 30. It has stayed in that region ever since, dropping fractionally over the last five Tests.
What has also been outstanding about Vaas's career has been his ability to nail the key batsmen more often than not - the list of batsmen he has dismissed most often tells the story. Even more telling is this statistic: Vaas is second in the list of bowlers with the highest percentage of top seven victims in his total tally (qualification: 250 wickets).