"Thilan Samaraweera has been fantastic for us since his return to Test cricket in 2008 — averaging an unbelievable 69.21 in those three years — and has easily been our most consistent Test batsman both at home and overseas" © Getty Images
“Thilan Samaraweera has been fantastic for us since his return to Test cricket in 2008 — averaging an unbelievable 69.21 in those three years — and has easily been our most consistent Test batsman both at home and overseas” © Getty Images

 

By Mahela Jayawardene

 

Winning the last Test against Australia was our only chance at securing a face-saving draw in the Test series. While we did give ourselves a chance to do so in the third Test, not being able to achieve this meant a very disappointing series loss at home. The previous visit by Australia was way back in 2004, so we really wanted to be at our best. Sadly we weren’t.

 

After poor starts in the first two Tests which saw us having to play catch-up cricket for the most part, we did well to bowl out the Aussies for 316 at the SSC on what was the best batting pitch of the series. Our three pacers did a great job. We were particularly happy with the performance of debutant Shaminda Eranga, who bowled with great heart to capture four wickets in his first innings. He looks a great prospect.

 

We knew that we had to bat really well and that we needed to get a substantial lead to have any chance of winning. While we did achieve this to an extent with some decent partnerships and with the top five all making good starts, we needed one or more to go on to make a big hundred. I was really furious to get out when I did and felt I let the team down.

 

By the time the top five were back in the pavilion we had only just passed the Australian total which placed a huge responsibility on the shoulders of Angelo Mathews and Prasanna Jayawardene as the last frontline batsmen.

 

With the pair steadily building up a lead, Australia packed the on-side with close-in fielders and bowled a middle and leg stump line after tea on the third day, particularly to Prasanna. This made run-scoring very difficult and in addition to slowing down the run rate, the Aussies received a bonus with the wicket of Prasanna just before the close of play.

 

With a lead of just over a hundred going in to the fourth morning, Angelo was under instructions to bat normally as we were ideally targeting a 150-200 run lead. But this equation changed fairly early with the wickets of Eranga and Herath in quick succession and Angelo was forced to farm the strike once Chanaka Welegedera and then Suranga Lakmal joined him.

 

This is not easy with nine men back on the boundary and very few loose balls to hit. We felt that criticism of Angelo for the slow pace of scoring on day four was therefore misplaced and the team was certainly very appreciative of his contribution, celebrating his century with great delight. Angelo was our most consistent batsman in the entire series and his performances have undoubtedly stamped him as a Test quality batsman.

 

On the bowling front, Rangana Herath stood out and his 16 wickets in two Tests was a brilliant effort. I am also encouraged by the performance of Shaminda Eranga who bowled with plenty of commitment in his debut match. He’s generally a pretty quiet sort of person but having played against him on several occasions in our domestic competitions; I have always noted his fierce competitiveness on the field. Suranga Lakmal also bowled with a lot of heart and has been steadily growing in stature since the England tour.

 

On a closing note, the dropping of Thilan (Samaraweera) for the third Test and the forthcoming Test series against Pakistan is something that caught me by surprise and he’ll naturally be very disappointed. He’s been fantastic for us since his return to Test cricket in 2008 — averaging an unbelievable 69.21 in those three years — and has easily been our most consistent Test batsman both at home and overseas. Knowing Thilan, though, I am sure he’ll be determined to win his place back and hopefully he will have a good constructive discussion with the selectors about what they require from him.

 

Our focus now shifts to the forthcoming Pakistan series and it is essential that we re-group and perform with greater consistency and commitment after the losses in our last two Tests and ODI series.

 

I am taking a few days off with my wife Christina and hope to recharge the batteries. It’s going to be our last chance for a short holiday for a long time given the action-packed schedule for the next nine months or so.

 

We resume training next week with the new coach Geoff Marsh. He’s vastly experienced and I am looking forward to working with him.

 

(Mahela Jayawardene is arguably the greatest batsman Sri Lanka has produced and one of the greats in the history of the game. A former captain of Sri Lanka, the classy Jayawardene has scored close to 10,000 runs in both Tests and ODIs while represented his nation in almost 500 matches. The articulate Jayawardene pens his thoughts at http://blog.mahelajayawardena.lk/ )