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Centurion Sadeera Samarawickrama 'learnt a lot after being dropped'

Returning as wicketkeeper-batter to the Test side after 2017, he hit his first hundred in the format

Sadeera Samarawickrama hit his first Test century, Sri Lanka vs Ireland, 1st Test, Galle, 2nd day, April 17, 2023

Sadeera Samarawickrama got 104 not out off just 114 balls  •  AFP/Getty Images

In his first eight innings in Test cricket, way back in 2017, Sadeera Samarawickrama's best innings were two thirty-odds. There was promise there for sure - his first knock, a sparkling 38 off 35 balls in a Dubai Test that Sri Lanka won, was especially good.
But then he went to India, as tough a place as there is for a 22-year-old batter to tour, and made 23, 0, 13, 0, 33, and 5. He was dropped, but has been on the fringes of the team ever since. Now, he's back as a wicketkeeper-batter, and struck an unbeaten hundred against Ireland in Galle - ostensibly a far easier challenge than playing India in India, or even Pakistan in the UAE.
His 104 not out off just 114 balls also came after Sri Lanka's top order set them on course for a big total. But regardless, Samarawickrama did as could have been hoped. He said it was the mental side of his game that needed working on, following his first foray in Test cricket.
"I learned a lot from being dropped," he said after the second day. "I was about 22 when I played three Tests against India, and they are the best team in the world. I wasn't able to do much in those matches, but I did learn from them. And what I learned there I brought here. I learned a lot about what's required at the top level. I tried to work on those things in the domestic competitions.
"I worked very hard on my batting. I batted in a lot of different spots in domestic cricket, the A team, and in provincial cricket. I think the biggest change is mental. I worked really hard on what I need to be doing and what I need to be thinking, and how to handle various situations."
Coming in at No. 8 is an unusual batting position for Samarawickrama, who usually plays in the top order even when he is the wicketkeeper, but was slated to come in at No. 7 against Ireland.
"This is the first time I was [to be] batting No. 7. Although I'd batted in many other spots, I hadn't batted in this position. Because we sent a nightwatchman out, I slipped down one more place - to No. 8. There was a bit of nervousness. But because I was positive in the middle, that went away quickly. Because I'd planned on how I'd build my innings, it became easier for me."
His unbeaten partnership with Dinesh Chandimal was worth 183, and came off only 217 balls. Sri Lanka declared soon after both batters had got to triple figures. Their stand turned a big total into a mammoth one.
"I've batted a lot with Chandi aiya in various teams," Samarawickrama said. "The wicket was a little tougher to bat on today than yesterday because it had got older. I tried to bat positively and hit the loose balls, because I knew we'd be declaring today. I have to think about the team as well as my milestone. I tried to get those runs quickly and get the team to a stable place.
"Ireland had been in the field a lot and what we talked about was to wait for the loose balls, and how to make the best use of that. Because we were positive, we were able to attack the bad ones. We got a lot of runs that way."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf