Herath is on the verge of being the second left-arm spinner after Daniel Vettori to take 300 wickets in Test cricket © AFP
Rangana Herath is on the verge of being the second left-arm spinner after Daniel Vettori to take 300 Test wickets © AFP

Asian cricket teams have produced quality spin bowlers since time immemorial. Anil Kumble, Muttiah Muralitharan, Harbhajan Singh and Saeed Ajmal are only a few of established spinners who have ran through the top-order of overseas players over time and again. After the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan, one man rose to the occasion and took over the burden of the spin department almost single-handedly. It was none other than the 38-year-old, Rangana Herath. The left-arm spinner has been the captain’s go-to-man when in search of wickets and he has responded more often than not.   LIVE CRICKET SCORECARD: England vs Sri Lanka 2016, 2nd Test at Chester-le-Street, Day 1

Herath broke into the big league when he debuted for Sri Lanka against Australia in 1999. He did well against the mighty Aussies and took 6 wickets. He came into prominence with his ‘mystery ball’ that darted the other way back and the Aussies failed to read his deliveries succumbing to his spin. Despite a decent outing in his first match he could not cement his place in the national side for long. The legendary status of Sri Lanka’s premier spin bowler Murali dented Herath’s growth as a spinner. His full potential was not brought notice by the selectors. It was only after the retirement of Murali that Herath grabbed the vacant position of a spinner in the team with both hands and did not let it go. ALSO READ: Eng vs SL, 2nd Test: Preview and Predictions

Making a comeback in the Test team, Herath picked up 15 wickets in the 3-match series against Pakistan. He rattled through the opponents with disciplined bowling and earned the Man of the Match award in the first test. Next in line of facing Herath’s onslaught was New Zealand. He picked up 8 wickets in the 2-Test series and led his side to a series win. In conditions conducive to spin or a rank turner, he turns into a match-winner for his team and performs consistently. As a result, when Sri Lanka play host to other teams in their own den, he makes them an automatic favorite before the start of a series. His performances was not only restricted at home: he contributed to Sri Lanka’s first ever Test win versus South Africa in their own backyard.

One big thing about Herath has been his ability to read the pitch and accordingly set up traps for batsmen.  He does not shy away from tossing the ball up, revealing his aggressive mindset. In ICC World T20 2014 in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka had to play a virtual quarter-final against New Zealand. Defending a paltry 121, Herath —playing his first match of the tournament — went back with near-insane figures of 3.3-2-3-5. He was unplayable, crushing New Zealand’s hopes of winning the title in that edition of World T20. Herath ended his career in colors with 74 wickets in 71 ODIs and 17 T20s with 18 scalps.

The highest Test wicket-taker in 2012 and 2014, Herath has taken 9 for 127 against Pakistan in a single Test, the most by a left-arm spinner. On the verge of taking 300 scalps in Test cricket, Sri Lanka should rely on him to trap in English batsmen in their ongoing tour of England. Herath has come a long way since Muralitharan’s retirement and maintained the Asian tradition of producing quality spinners.

(Aditya Sahay is a journalist with CricketCountry who is completely into sports and loves writing about cricket in general. He can be followed on Twitter at adisahay7)