Herath looks forward for fun in Galle


by Rex Clementine

This weekend could be a massive one for Sri Lankan cricket. The national cricket team has never laid their hands on Warne-Muralitharan Trophy since it was initiated in 2007 and the home team will head to their favourite hunting ground expecting to seal the three match Test series against Australia. A series win is vital for Sri Lankans for many reasons.

To start with, this has been an awful year for Angelo Mathews’ side and they have slipped to number seven in ICC Test rankings. The series win against world’s number one ranked team will help them to get a higher ranking, possibly in the top five.

Mathews will bank heavily on his most trusted bowler – Rangana Herath. The left-arm spinner claimed nine wickets in the opening Test at Pallekele won by Sri Lanka by 106 runs and in Galle, the most spin friendly track in Sri Lanka, Herath could be deadly.

Of Herath’s 313 Test wickets, 78 have come in Galle, which is one fourth of his total wickets. Herath’s average of 24 at Galle is significantly impressive than his career average of 29.

"I have a very good record in Galle, but I have to start from scratch when the game gets underway on Thursday and stick to my basics. I have to work hard and if I have a good game, the team will do well too. It will be a tough Test match and we are expecting Australia to come hard at us," the 38-year-old told The Island yesterday.

At Pallekele, after setting up Australia a target of 268, Herath bowled brilliantly. He conceded less than two runs an over during Australia’s second innings bowling with nagging accuracy. Of Herath’s 33 overs half were maiden and he finished with five for 54.

"Beating the number one team is always special. It will remain in my memory forever. Obviously we beat them after 17 years. Before this, I had played in eight games against Australia without winning any," Herath said.

"The last time we beat them was in 1999, I was in the squad on that occasion. I was only 21 then and although I didn’t play that game at Asgiriya I remember it very well. It was our first win against Australia," Herath recalled.

"That side had loads of experience. Sanath was captain and then we had guys like Arjuna, Aravinda, Murali and Vaas. They knew how to beat a top side like Australia," Herath remembered.

"If you take the present side, we have very little experience. We were down and out in the last few months. We had some very poor performances, but we tried really hard. A lot of credit should go to our coaching and management staff for their determination.."

"As captain, Angelo had got a lot of stick as we struggled. But we were together and we are pleased with what we have achieved. I knew it was just a matter of time before we turned a corner."

Sri Lanka, however, will seek improvement after a less than impressive batting performance at Pallekele. They were bowled out for 117 in the first innings and the victory was largely due to Kusal Mendis’ stunning 176 in the second innings.

"We were disappointed with the effort with the bat. If you take the first two Tests in England, we were dismissed for less than 150. Then the batsmen put up a good show in the second innings at Durham. We were alright at Lord’s but were back to square one at Pallekele in the first innings. We have to put up a better show."

"Young Kusal Mendis was unbelievable in the second innings and there were other noteworthy contributions from Dinesh Chandimal and Dhananjaya de Silva. But it was Kusal who took all the responsibility His shot making was absolutely spot on. He has a very clear mind and knows what to do and what not to do."

Herath received excellent support in the first Test from Chinaman bowler Lakshan Sandakan, who picked up match haul of seven wickets. "As a Chinaman bowler, Sandakan has impressed everyone with his control. When you have such control, you can be devastating. Not only can he bowl at one spot, he can also bowl the googly. Then more than anything, he gets turn. That’s the complete package you expect from a spin bowler. He has them all."

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