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'Emotional' Arthur lauds 'outstanding' de Silva and 'Brian Lara' Embuldeniya in his final game

"I'm going to get emotional when we eventually say farewell, because the characters who are in that dressing room are remarkable."

Outgoing Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur acknowledges the cheers of fans in Galle, Sri Lanka v West Indies, 2nd Test, Galle, December 3, 2021

Outgoing Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur acknowledges the cheers of fans in Galle  •  AFP via Getty Images

Ramesh Mendis kept Sri Lanka in the hunt with first-innings returns of 6 for 70. Dhananjaya de Silva turned the game emphatically in Sri Lanka with his second innings 155 not out. These were the gleanings of Mickey Arthur, after he coached Sri Lanka for the last time, in Galle.
His was the type of happy farewell that few Sri Lanka coaches get. The team won the match by 164 runs, and the series 2-0 (though they did also win both tosses). In the first innings, West Indies had been 24 runs behind Sri Lanka's total with only three wickets down, when Mendis imposed himself on the game, and sparked a collapse.
"The game did see-saw. After day one I thought we were in prime position (Sri Lanka had been 113 for 1)," Arthur said. "And then they knocked us over the next day. And then, they themselves had a good partnership. We did know that wickets fall in clumps here. It was tough to start. Once you got in, it became a lot easier to bat. Ramesh Mendis' spell in the first innings brought us back into the game. A lead of 40 (actually 49) was not insurmountable."
Sri Lanka also began their second innings with the bat poorly, however, and had been three down with a lead of only 24 when de Silva came to the crease. He helped Sri Lanka recover with a 78-run partnership with Pathum Nissanka, put on 51 runs alongside Mendis, and then really changed the game for Sri Lanka with the 124-run 10th-wicket stand he managed with Lasith Embuldeniya, who hit 39.
"Dhananjaya de Silva's innings was simply outstanding," Arthur said. "On a pitch like this, the ease with which he played was incredible. It just shows how talented he is. That, for me, was the defining moment. I knew that once we got a lead of 250, our spinners would do the job for us. So that innings of Dhananjaya de Silva's was paramount. He couldn't have played it without Lasith 'Brian Lara' Embuldeniya at the other end.
"In terms of pressure of match situation, and in terms of pitch condition, the innings Dhananjaya played here, it was one of the better innings he's seen. It was remarkable. That's testimony to the amount of work he's put in. And it's testimony to his talent and what a wonderful player he is."
Mendis was the Player of the Series in the first full series he has played for the Test side, taking 17 wickets across the two matches, in addition to his contributions with the bat. Although at the lower levels, Mendis has been thought of as a batting allrounder, it is with the ball that he has announced himself at the top level. He has 26 wickets now at an average of 21.53, after eight bowling innings.
"One thing Mendis does do is he spins the ball really big," Arhtur said. "We've just had to work on him being really consistent with his lines and with his lengths - the attacking lines that he's worked on. I was just sitting next to [batting coach] Grant Flower out there and we were watching the guys out in the field. And I was saying, which guys have really made an impression on you? For both of us it was Ramesh Mendis.
"He's toured with us almost since when I started two years ago. He didn't play many games at the start, but every tour, he's the guy that's training the hardest. He wanted more and more throw-downs. He always wanted to bowl. He's worked hard at his fielding. And I just think he's getting his just rewards now. I couldn't be happier for him. He's an attacking cricketer, and he's going to be an asset for Sri Lanka."
Arthur has been with the Sri Lanka team for two years now, and given the travel restrictions to Australia, has spent almost that entire time either in Sri Lanka, or with the team as they traveled. With many players going straight into a Lanka Premier League bio-bubble on Saturday, the series-winning celebration on Friday night is Arthur's last opportunity to spend time with many of the players he has coached in that time.
"I'm going to get really emotional tonight, when we eventually say farewell, because the characters who are in that dressing room are remarkable. They're really a wonderful bunch of players and bunch of people."

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