Rex Clementine in The Island, with this title “Prabath Jayasuriya; COVID’s gift to Sri Lanka”
We all agree that COIVD has caused havoc all over the world. The country has lost some of its finest statesmen, musicians and entrepreneurs to the virus. Some of us have lost our loved ones while some of us have lost our livelihood. It’s been a tough couple of years. But COVID also has done a good thing or two, like gifting Prabath Jayasuriya to Test cricket.
World cricket would have never heard of the left-arm spinner if the Sri Lankan camp had not been struck by the virus on the eve of the second Test against Australia.
Despite taking heaps of wickets in domestic cricket, Jayasuriya, who was educated at the rural Christchurch College, Matale never got a look in. He didn’t have any godfathers in cricket. Last year, he was on the verge of representing Sri Lanka but was dropped on fitness grounds. At the age of 30, Jayasuriya wasn’t the most fancied spinner in the country as those who matter were fascinated with their flawed and fraud youth policy. But life gives you moments that you are not ready to deal with.
After four players tested for COVID during the Australian series, the selectors were left with Hobson’s choice. They had to set aside their pride and call up Jayasuriya.
Throughout these four Tests in Galle, the spinners that Sri Lanka chose have failed to make an impact despite the conditions suiting them. The reason being that they gift away too many freebies faulting with their lengths. Jayasuriya, however, with ten years of First Class cricket behind him can keep bowling at one place for hours. He has been a sensation having taken 29 wickets in his first three Test matches.
Jayasuriya’s 12 wickets in the second Test against Australia was followed by eight scalps in the first Pakistan Test and nine in the second game that ended yesterday including a five wicket haul in the second innings.
The final day’s play yesterday started with Pakistan on 89 for one chasing a target of 508. It was an improbable target. The realistic goal was for them to bat out three sessions. With bad light having ended play early on the previous two days, Sri Lanka had to rush things and possibly finish it off by tea. There was the occasional drizzle as well but Sri Lanka wrapped it up before play could be halted.
The 76 run stand for the third wicket between Pakistan’s most experienced pair – Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan was threatening to take the game away from Sri Lanka. Jayasuriya then provided the breakthrough with a clever piece of bowling. Rizwan left one expecting the ball to turn away from him. But he was foxed. It was the straight one and instead of going away it followed the batsman and hit the stumps.
Soon, from 176 for two, Pakistan collapsed to 188 for five at lunch. A few batsmen were indecisive while there was a comic run out involving Babar and Fawad Alam.
Babar was the key for Pakistan and nemesis for Sri Lanka. Jayasuriya was smart though. Again setting up the batsman with a straight ball. Babar reviewed more in hope than conviction. But it was plumb. There was not much resistance from Pakistan’s tail as Sri Lanka wrapped up a 246 run win to square the series. Jayasuriya was Player of the Series having taken 17 wickets.