By Amindha de Alwis
The Sri Lankan cricket team’s return to the international arena after a nine-month hiatus did not quite go to plan with hosts South Africa recording two thumping victories on their way a 2-0 whitewash of the visitors.
The tour was one to forget for Dimuth Karunaratne’s men with the squad being plagued with injuries and several players failing to hit their straps in what was the team’s first Test match assignment since January last year.
However, the series was not totally bereft of positives for the Sri Lankans with a few players seizing the opportunity to make a decent account of themselves.
Below is a look at how Sri Lanka’s Test side fared in the two-Test series.
Dimuth Karunaratne – 5/10
Innings: 4, Runs: 133, Average: 33, H/S: 103
The Sri Lankan captain was scratchy to start off the tour but found his touch in the second innings at Johannesburg with a boundary-laden 103 that kept Sri Lanka in with a glimmer of hope. Karunaratne ran into a captain’s nightmare in the first Test with four of his six bowling options picking up injuries, and while Wanindu Hasaranga eventually returned to bowl, the absence of the rest completely derailed any plans the skipper would have had.
Kusal Perera – 5/10
Innings: 4, Runs: 145, Average: 35, H/S: 64
The hero of the previous tour of South Africa, Kusal Perera was tasked with opening the batting and appeared to have been given the license to play his own game. He did manage fifties in two innings – knocks that consisted of both exquisitely struck boundaries as well as several ungainly swings and misses – but it is likely that the middle-order would be a more suitable position for him if he is to play for Sri Lanka in this format.
Kusal Mendis – 1/10
Innings: 4, Runs 12, Average: 3
Kusal Mendis endured a dreadful series with the bat. He scored 12 runs in his first innings of the tour but that was all he would make as he followed it up with three ducks. He collects one point for pouching three catches.
Dhananjaya De Silva – 7/10
Innings: 1, Runs 79, H/S: 79 not out
His one incomplete innings was comfortably Sri Lanka’s most impressive of the tour. He looked imperious for his 79 runs before a thigh injury ended his tour.
Dinesh Chandimal – 7/10
Innings: 2, Runs: 110, Average 55, H/S: 85
Chandimal associated in a valuable partnership with De Silva in the first Test and was comfortable playing at his own pace while the rest of the batting order were scoring at a much faster rate. He displayed good temperament in his knock of 85 but a groin injury would ensure that he too would only play one Test.
Niroshan Dickwella – 6/10
Innings: 4, Runs: 102, Average 25, H/S: 49
Dickwella made a useful 49 in the first dig at Centurion but could not make any telling contribution with the bat. He showed admirable heart trying to keep the team’s spirits up when close to half the starting XI went off with injuries while in the field during the first Test and performed his primary role of wicket-keeper competently which gives him six points despite under-par returns with the willow.
Dasun Shanaka – 5/10
Innings: 4 Runs: 84, Average: 28, H/S: 66 not out, and 4 wickets at an average of 37 with the ball
Shanaka made an enterprising 66 not out on his return to the Test side but got out to loose strokes in his next three innings. He was steady with the ball, evidenced by his economy rate of 3.16 being the lowest among regular bowlers from both the sides, and rose to the task in the first Test when injuries to other bowlers meant that he had to bowl much more than would have been expected.
Lahiru Thirimanne – 3/10
Innings: 2, Runs: 49, Average: 24, H/S: 31
Thirimanne played one match and did more or less what his career average of 22 after 36 Tests suggests he does. He did however combine for a decent partnership with Karunaratne in the second innings at Johannesburg.
Minod Bhanuka – 1/10
Innings: 2, Runs 6, Average: 3
It was not the best of debuts for Bhanuka who fell to single figures in both knocks. His first dismissal was an ill-advised punch to what was the last ball before lunch while the second also came attempting to pull a ball that was outside the line of the body.
Wanindu Hasaranga – 5/10
Innings: 4, Runs: 122, Average: 30, H/S: 59, and 4 wickets at an average of 52 with the ball
The all-rounder made a few rapid contributions with the bat down the order and while he started off inaccurately with the ball, ended up with 4 wickets in the first innings at Centurion.
Vishwa Fernando – 8/10
8 wickets at an average of 31. Best of 5 for 101
Sri Lanka’s best bowler on tour; Fernando was made to toil hard following injuries to Kumara and Rajitha at Centurion but he kept coming back for his skipper and while the frequent spells allowed him little rest and may have consequentially impacted his intensity, he was rewarded in the next Test as his 5 for 101 orchestrated a South Africa collapse on day 2.
Lahiru Kumara – 2/10
1 wicket for 103 runs
Kumara could only get through 21 overs at Centurion before going off injured. The right-arm quick struggled for control in the only innings he bowled in and went at 4.8 runs per over.
Asitha Fernando 7/10
2 wickets at an average of 40
While the stats do not speak too much, Asitha Fernando bowled very impressively for a man on debut, hitting good areas and getting appreciable movement.
Dushmantha Chameera – 3/10
1 wicket for 53 runs
Chameera came in for the second Test but was only called upon to bowl 13 overs and lacked a great deal of rhythm.
Kasun Rajitha sent down just 13 balls before injuring himself at Centurion.
For South Africa: The stars of the show for the hosts were opener Dean Elgar who aggregated 253 runs with a top score of 127, Faf du Plessis whose 199 was the highest individual score of the series and paceman Anrich Nortje who topped the bowling charts with 11 wickets at an average of 23 runs per dismissal.
Photo: Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne (L) scored his team's only century of the series. AFP via Getty