Sanga’s great endurance and the immortal Varsi

It was a fascinating performance! I think the 3rd test was the best game of the series without the slightest of doubt. If I am allowed to go a step further I would say that the 5th day of the 3rd test was the best day of the entire series. Not because Sri Lanka lost just one wicket or saved the game or for Sangakkara’s century. To me it was the best day because the intensity was so high and it was just brilliant Test cricket!

It was a battle between bat and ball at its very best on a pitch that appeared to have some turn for the spinners, where batsmanship would matter more than anything else! It was all there. The match had the spin bowling from Kaneria and Ajmal and the great counter attacking cricket of Samaraweera, the grinding hundred of skipper Sangakkara and finally the stroke filled half century of the young Angelo Mathews. I think it had everything in it. True the bat dominated the ball, but it was done by quality craftsmen with a high degree of class.The Test match as usual started with Pakistan in the fray but with Thilan Thushara getting back to his great bowling form, it was a case of an old story being repeated. Pakistan’s batsmen’s procession to the dressing room is was a feature in the series and what was witnessed that day was no different. With Sri Lanka also crumbling for the first time the Pakistan batsmen came to their own in the second innings. The century of Malik was a class act and with Misbah Ul Haq and Kamran Akmal stroking contrasting half centuries the stage was set for something special for Sri Lanka.
Two greats of two generations, guess who?
Having said that chasing 492 for the batsmen on a pitch that was definitely turning was an uphill task and the way the openers Warnapura and Paranavithana set about their task was exemplary. As for Warnapura his approach to this innings was most refreshing. Unlike in the previous knocks, he looked solid and most importantly was willing to play waiting cricket, which is a hall mark of good opener. He was willing to leave the ball and to also play defensively. Paranavithana on the other hand as always been every bit the opener he is. If Warnapura was the basher, Paranavithana was the grafter willing to bide his time and play some delightful strokes on both side of the wicket. Sangakkara’s majestic innings however was the cornerstone in the Sri Lankan second innings.

It was a strong performance built on solidity with so much of concentration spread over 300 balls with just 7 fours qualifies him for a test of endurance! Having the additional responsibility of being captain never appears to weigh him down and I get the feeling that he will like Jayawardane thrive under pressure. The other notable innings was from Samaraweera. His innings had aggression which included some delightful on driving against the leg spinner which was high class. It was a huge blow to see Samaraweera depart as one got the feeling that had he stayed up to Tea Sri Lanka would have made an effort to get to the 492.

The fact that Sri Lanka didn’t have all the batsmen fit could have been the reason why Mathews decided to take things easy barring the occasional big hit. His great maturity as a cricketer was very much on display in the manner he coped with a challenging situation batting as well as he has done in the series. The fact that Dilshan had to pay a high price for doing something he is not accustomed to very much was the major negative that came out of the series. Having kept wickets with a fractured finger which he picked up trying to take a catch, Dilshan’s bravery should be commended for the manner he batted. It is never easy to bat with a fractured finger as you could always feel the impact of the ball striking the bat, but Dilshan had no such issue and his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good of the team resulted in him receiving a gash which needed 14 stitches.

Besides the top quality batting in the second innings the bowling of Rangana Herath continued to be in its ascendancy and the five wicket haul in the second innings would have only given him the confidence he lacked and help him to propel himself to the next level. He is definitely ready to step in to the spinners boots when the need arises.

The test match also marked the end of a great career of a great cricketer! Chaminda Vaas after almost 16 years of honest service finally decided that enough was enough. With a record of 355 wickets and 3000 plus runs Varsi as he is fondly known will enter the record books as one of the greatest cricketing sons of Sri Lanka. His quality as a fast medium bowler was unmatched and respected and always spoken of. His record on the sub continental wickets will only show the world of his quality and capability. Sri Lanka will struggle to find a bowler and a player of that quality. Willing to toil on the most difficult tracks and to take on the most destructive batsmen in world cricket was never an easy task. Varsi the cricketer will live long in the minds of the cricket crazy people of the world, however it’s Vaas the great human being and the sporting ambassador of Sri Lanka that will simply be immortal.
Roshan Abeysinghe is a leading cricket promoter and an international cricket commentator
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