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Four learnings for second-string Sri Lanka

Can they help Hasaranga achieve his world-class potential, and can they fix their soft middle order?

Wanindu Hasaranga celebrates a wicket, Colombo, July 20, 2021

Wanindu Hasaranga has a T20I bowling strike rate of 13.20 after 20 innings  •  AFP/Getty Images

Hasaranga could become world-class (some would argue he already is)
It's been a sharp rise either side of the pandemic for Wanindu Hasaranga. It was in the ODI series against West Indies in early 2020 that he really announced himself, before becoming the Lanka Premier League's player of the tournament late in the year. Now, 20 innings into his T20I career, he's risen to second on the bowling rankings, and was easily the best bowler of the series. If Yuzvendra Chahal had been available for all three games, that contest might have been interesting, but in any case, Hasaranga now has an economy rate of less than seven against every team he's played against apart from Australia.
But Hasaranga doesn't just keep batters quiet - he's also now got a strike rate of 13.20. It's the googly he is known for, but lately his legbreak and slider have also been dangerous. On top of which he can also bat, as he showed on the recent tour of England.
As a legspinner who just turned 24 on Thursday, Sri Lanka should be thinking about him as a player that could play for another 12 years. But can they manage promising young talent? The way in which the careers of the likes of Kusal Mendis have gone suggests they've not made the most of their superstar potential in recent years. Hasaranga may be in demand in franchise leagues around the world over the next while. Can Sri Lanka hold on to him and develop him?
Chameera has got into the groove
Since emerging in 2015, Dushmantha Chameera has gone through tough phases. He's had stress fractures and other injuries that have kept him out of the game for months. Every time he seemed to be making a comeback, another injury would set him back. Now, for the first time in his international career, he's had some serious continuity. He played each of the three ODIs against Bangladesh in May, in all six matches against England (though Sri Lanka didn't have to bowl in the last ODI), and now all six games in this India series. He's not had a bad game right through that stretch.
During these two series, he was unlucky not to have taken more than six wickets. He was frequently the best new-ball bowler (across both teams), though he wasn't quite as effective through the middle overs as some of India's seamers. He also bowled quicker than anyone else, sometimes cranking it up past 145kph, and often delivering menacing bouncers. He's packed on a little muscle since his early years, and perhaps this long uninjured stretch means the body has become accustomed to the rigours of the international game (fingers crossed, touch wood, pray to all the gods). If he stays fit, Sri Lanka have the makings of a good fast-bowling spearhead.
The soft middle order
Even in the days of Kumar Sangakkkara, TM Dilshan, and Mahela Jayawardene Sri Lanka's middle order was not especially strong. Now, with Angelo Mathews also out of the side, there is a particular flimsiness to it. In this series, this has been exaggerated by Dasun Shanaka's lack of form with the bat. But then he's never been a consistent batter. Sri Lanka have hoped to make a batter out of Hasaranga, but you suspect that for now, bowling is his focus, and you can't expect big innings, particularly when the top order fails.
In the T20Is, this was especially apparent. Dhananjaya de Silva was able to anchor two modest chases, but do Sri Lanka have the firepower to hit 180-plus, if the situation in the forthcoming T20 World Cup demands it? With Shanaka out of form, Hasaranga and Chamika Karunaratne largely unproven, and Isuru Udana's batting having fallen away, this is among their major concerns.
Kusal Perera was missed
Thisara Perera retired early, Angelo Mathews isn't being picked, and the Durham bio-bubble trio got themselves suspended, but the player Sri Lanka missed the most was Kusal Perera.
Out through injury right through this tour, Perera would have added some much-needed experience to the top order. Although he has toned down his aggression in the last year, perhaps the unbridled version of Perera is what Sri Lanka needed the most. In the ODIs, there was a lack of urgency in the top order. In the T20Is, they could have done with more boundaries. He should slot right back into the XI if fit for the South Africa series in September.

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