Second choice replacement turns stellar pick

By Damith Samarakoon reporting from the SCG | January 4, 2013

Photo
Lahiru Thirimanne was Sri Lanka's highest scorer in their first innings at Sydney. © AFP

Sydney — Sri Lanka's horror tour of Australia continued in Sydney, where they lost yet another to injury. Thankfully though, Shaminda Eranga’s injury was sustained before the start of the third and final Test. This left Sri Lanka with the opportunity to experiment in this New Year’s Test, while approaching the match as a new beginning, with fresh perspective and attitude, in hope that the debacle in Melbourne can be quickly forgotten.

Sri Lanka must prove that they are still a worthy Test side, and that all the hard work from their last full Australian tour in 1995, which had earned them a name as a side to be reckoned with, will not been entirely undone on this tour.

It is understandable then that the Sri Lankan community in Sydney had reservations about making the journey to the SCG for the opening day.

Although Australia finished the opening day on a high, Sri Lanka would be encouraged with their day’s work, given that their batting was expected to collapse once again in spectacular fashion.

The first day belonged to Lahiru Thirimanne, the young left-hander who replaced the injured Kumar Sangakkara. The 22-year-old was plucked from his club side, where he was playing 50-over cricket just four days prior. He finished the day as Sri Lanka’s highest scorer with a hard-fought 91.

"I found out that I was coming to Australia about four days ago, and had one net session which went well for me," Thirimanne said.

"Once I got here, I knew that I would be in the playing XI.

"Kumar is a great player and one of the greatest cricketers in the world. It’s was a great opportunity for me to replace him, and play a Test in Australia.

"I think I've grabbed that opportunity with both hands."

Having been in and out of the side over the last couple of years and playing his first Test in 10 months, Thirimanne appeared uncertain with his footwork against both pace and spin. He managed to get through the initial nerves, getting gradually accustomed to the conditions and playing in front of nearly 30,000 people with a strong Australian bias. He was particularly successful against Nathan Lyon, despite struggling against the spinner initially. Thirimanne’s elegant cover-drives, deft touches and late cuts against the spinner were particularly pleasing on the eye. He was equally competent against the quicks after getting his eye in.

The day however started for Thirimanne with his heart in his mouth, when he was given out LBW in the first ball he faced from Jackson Bird. Interestingly, Thirimanne thought it was out, but Bird revealed that he thought it was going down the leg side when he first appealed. The decision was eventually reversed following a review, which showed the ball to have pitched marginally outside leg stump.

"It was a great ball coming back in, a yorker, and I thought that I was out," Thirimanne recalled.

"I turned to my captain and he said it's going down leg side. Then, I straightaway asked for a review."

Having spent the last few days flying to Australia, and the large portion of the morning session sitting in the dressing room, and then to go from have been given out first ball to having the decision reversed; Thirimanne showed great maturity, composure and a solid temperament in his innings in front of a raucous Australian crowd who so badly wanted Bird to be on a hatrick.

Thirimanne established himself worthy of the expectations that have been attached to his name — he had been tipped as a future batting star for Sri Lanka for some time now. That it was around a young batsman Sri Lanka built their entire innings is significant and encouraging. Thirimanne shared in stands of 62 with Mahela Jayawardene, 33 with Thilan Samaraweera and 55 with Angelo Mathews to save Sri Lanka from yet another major embarrassment.

And for a brief moment, when Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal were together in the middle, you could envisage a time in the not-too-distant future when these two take on the roles of Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene. But both approach the game from an angle that their more illustrious heroes have almost certainly long forgotten. When Sangakkara and Jayawardene are batting, they seem to be weighed down by the thought of the consequences of their dismissals.

It is perhaps what Sri Lanka needed - fresh minds without the burden of expectations, responsibility and accountability. Thirimanne did play carelessly at times, but he batted with an unclouded mind, which sometimes only the exuberance of youth can bring.

Thirimanne was not in the minds of the selectors prior to Sri Lanka's injury woes, and he has largely been used as a utility player who floats up and down Sri Lanka’s limited-over batting line-up. He has also been tasked with opening in Test matches, which could suggests that Sri Lanka are unsure about where he fits into the scheme of things.

The shot that led to Thirimanne’s demise, when a hundred was his for the taking, was a lazy slash outside off. It was a missed opportunity to put his country in a better position, while recording a century in Australia under special terms. But Sri Lanka will hope that he will learn from this performance, as many more opportunities are sure to come.

With seniors set to retire, Sri Lanka will undergo significant changes to the make-up of their side in the next couple of years, and Thirimanne will be a big part of their future plans. One good innings in a dead rubber certainly does not mean that he inherits a cloak of invincibility or a shield from scrutiny, but while Sri Lanka's future might not be entirely bright, Thirimanne’s innings suggests that it can be a little less dark.

© Island Cricket

Comments

Praveen's picture
Member since:
7 October 2009
Last activity:
15 weeks 1 day

well done muga.good read.

Anonymous's picture

Next Sanga!

sanjee's picture

litlle sanga

sachi's picture

Please don’t destroy this cricketer by calling him next sanga. This will make him another Mathews. Mathews got the praises and recognition as the next arjuna or future captain of SL a bit early. This made Mathews strive less and he is no more the great player he used to be. Thirimanna doesn’t need to be a sanga. He can be more than that, (hopefully an aravinda :D). Still he hasn’t earned it.

Sachina's picture

End of superb innigs. Mike heysmen talked about Thirimanne's innigs between sf vs nz 1st test after brownlie got his maiden test century. U was unlucky Thirimanne couldn't get 1st century.

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