Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
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Avishka Fernando, long considered one of Sri Lanka's finest limited-overs batting prospects, was left out of the squad entirely for Sri Lanka's first two limited-overs assignments this year (in the Caribbean, and in Bangladesh). The omission wasn't down to runs or form, but because of failed fitness tests - coach Mickey Arthur having made fitness a non-negotiable for players this year.
Although clearly stung by being overlooked, Fernando eventually worked his way back into the national side, having used his months out of the team to improve his fitness. In the last four ODI innings, Fernando now has scores of 33, 50, 76 and 118. Thursday's match-winning century in sweltering conditions, was made easier by his improved fitness, he said.
"I missed a couple of tours because of my fitness, and I tried to learn from that," Fernando said. "I managed to improve my fitness. Because of that it's actually much easier for me to bat and to field. I see a big improvement there."
Fernando's fielding, particularly, in the ring, has also been better over the past two months. He was especially impressive during SLC's Invitational T20 League in August.
"I didn't do a lot of specialist fielding training, but I think when you improve your fitness, everything becomes easier. I think a lot of the improvements to my game are just down to better fitness now."
Fernando struck up three productive partnerships during his 115-ball 118 on Thursday, the best of which was the 97-run stand for the fourth wicket, with Charith Asalanka, who hit 72 off 62. Fernando and Asalanka have been batting together in Sri Lanka's age-group teams since they were teenagers, and also play for the same domestic side - the Sinhalese Sports Club. He said the familiarity he and Asalanka share at the crease was a boon to their partnership.
"Since we were 15 or 16 we played a lot of cricket together," Fernando said. "We know each other's games really well. When he's batting, I might have something to say to him, and when I'm batting he'll talk to me as well. There's a good connection between us. When he and I got together, we'd lost three wickets, so we talked about batting together until the 41st or 42nd over. We knew that then it would be easier for the hitters lower down."
Fernando also revealed that the winning total Sri Lanka eventually put up exceeded the score he thought the team should aim for, early in the innings.
"When I started batting, I felt it was a good pitch to bat on, and what we had targeted was a score of about 270 or 280. But because we batted well we were able to go past that to 300."