A little over three weeks ago, Prabath Jayasuriya was not in the Sri Lanka squad, let alone the XI. But when Lasith Embuldeniya was dropped following a poor Test against Australia, and Praveen Jayawickrama got Covid-19, Sri Lanka needed fresh spinners in the camp, and captain Dimuth Karunaratne insisted on Jayasuriya. What Karunaratne wanted was Jayasuriya’s experience – he’d played 62 first-class matches at the time, even if he’d never been part of the Test squad. And tied to that experience was the control Jayasuriya offered.
Unlike the Sri Lanka spinners who had failed to maintain sufficient pressure on Australia’s batters in the first of the four straight Galle Tests, Karunaratne wanted a bowler who would continue to probe even when hit for boundaries.
Now, three Tests into his career, Jayasuriya has played a leading role in winning two of those. He’s taken 29 wickets in six innings, at an average of 20.37, with four five-fors. The control he brings is reflected in his economy rate of 2.73, but even Karunaratne might not have imagined he could be such a consistent wicket-taking threat.
Having taken eight wickets in Sri Lanka’s series-leveling win against Pakistan, Jayasuriya reflected on his path to the top level.
“It hasn’t been an easy journey. It was tough to come to Colombo for cricket [from the inland town of Matale, just north of Kandy], because I had no family there and I was alone. Lots of people helped me. Coach Dinesh Weerasinghe helped me, and I played for Colts and SSC. I had financial problems as well. I had to balance all that, and didn’t want to put pressure on my family either. I had opportunities to play outside the country, but my motivation was to play for my country and play Tests. I gave my everything towards that goal and have some success now.”
Where Jayasuriya has excelled is through his straighter delivery, which as for many good left-arm spinners, brings lbw and bowled dismissals into play. On day five of the second Test, he broke the big third-wicket stand with that delivery, rattling Mohammad Rizwan’s off stump as the batter shouldered arms, expecting the ball to turn. (ESPN)