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Sri Lanka’s formidable pace attack is reason for excitement

by Rex Clementine

Although spin has been Sri Lanka’s key weapon for success in World Cups, pace has played a critical role as well. There were the good old days of Chaminda Vaas running through the opposition and Lasith Malinga with his hat-trick taking abilities turning games on its head. But overall, spin had been Sri Lanka’s strength.

Muttiah Muralitharan had been the star performer with countless match winning performances while Ajantha Mendis humbled some of the world’s best batting line-ups with his mystery. Then there was Rangana Herath. Although he had his impact mostly in Test match cricket, there were a couple of deadly spells in T-20 cricket as well like in the must win clash against New Zealand in the 2014 T-20 World Cup where the left-arm spinner claimed five wickets for just three runs to bowl out the Kiwis for 60 runs. That was a virtual quarter-final and that victory gave much confidence to the team and they went onto win the title beating India in the finals.

Currently, Wanindu Hasaranga is Sri Lanka’s go to man; outsmarting batsmen with his googlys and leg-breaks. There’s also Maheesh Theekshana, who like Mendis bamboozles batsmen. But on Australian wickets it remains to be seen how effective he will be. Hasaranga though will be quite a handful on the bigger grounds where leg-spinners have had an impact over the years.

There will be a lot of attention on Sri Lanka’s pace bowling during the World Cup. The return of Dushmantha Chameera is quite exciting as he bowled some unplayable deliveries during the last World Cup in the UAE. On wickets where there is pace and bounce, he can be devastating. Chameera is no longer a one-trick pony. He’s got a good short ball, excellent yorker and a well disguised slower ball.

When Chameera first came onto the scene he was lethal as he possessed extra pace. He impressed many people during the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. However, a series of injuries sidelined him and since making a comeback 18 months ago, he has won the team some games. SLC’s medical staff headed by Professor Arjun de Silva need to be commended for looking after him well.

The quickest among the Sri Lankan bowlers is Lahiru Kumara. He can be wayward at times and there was the heartbreak against South Africa last year when David Miller smashed him out of the park in Sharjah as the Proteas snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. He is sure to have learned from that experience. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and we can discuss various options that Kumara could have taken that night. But that experience would have done him a world of good now that he has learned what will work and what will not work defending runs in the death overs.

When Chaminda Vaas told us a couple of years ago that Dilshan Madushanka is going to be the real deal among the young fast bowlers, we didn’t get his point. There were other left-arm quicks who were impressive and you weren’t sure why the coach would highlight him. But during the Asia Cup he proved that he’s a smart customer. There’s no better sight in cricket than when fast bowlers think and set up batsmen. Madushanka did it a couple of times last month. He’ll do that more often in Australia. Sri Lanka’s fast bowling prospects certainly look exciting.

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