Though the year 2013 didn’t go according to the plans for Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan cricketers produced some spectacular display of incisive cricket to attest the existence of some soul in a rather dying sport in Sri Lanka.(or more accurately a sport being killed).
Here are the top 10 performances by Sri Lankan cricketers in 2013 in all three formats of the game.
#10 Jayasuriya Version 2.0
Nobody knew that his shots draw parallel to one of the greatest ODI players in cricket history when he slammed a six in his first ODI, nor when he outlived 6 of Sri Lanka’s batsmen to score 22 in the bowling rampage at the Gabba. It was when he made his T20 debut that the world including his coaches knew that this man is a reincarnation of Sanath Jayasuriya. During the early half of his career he did live up to his expectations, but as it is the case with most players who make a swashbuckling debut, Perera too drooped and faded away. His dazzling aureole petered out gradually. It may be too harsh on him to say that he ‘failed’, but the truth is that this man found the “Next Jayasuriya” tag too ponderous to deal with. After a good start to the year, and falling out in the middle, Perera made a decent return to the International circuit with a half ton against the Kiwis in the 2nd T20. With Sri Lanka struggling to find a partner for Dilshan to make the opening partnership gain venom, Perera practically cemented a place for himself with a 59 ball 84 that included 4 sixes. This was the highest score by a Sri Lankan in T20 this year.
#9 Lahiru Thirimanne’s 91 against Australia in Sydney in the first innings of the 3rd match
When there were persistent questions about post Mahela-Sanga era of Sri Lanka, Lahiru Thirimanne proved that there is light at the end of the tunnel by compiling a classy 91. In the absence of injured Kumar Sangakkara, Thirimanne withstood the pace of Mitchell Jhonson, Starc and Siddle to take Sri Lanka to 294. He could have got the honor of scoring a century at the prestigious Sydney ground but fell 9 short, when he edged a drive to Warner who took a blinder.
#8 Dimuth Karunaratne’s 85 against Australia in Sydney in the first innings of the 3rd match
If Thirimanne’s score of 91 in the first innings was born out of labor, Karunaratne showed how effortless scoring can be by striking 85 off 109 balls scoring 10 fours and a six. Unlike other Sri Lankan batsmen, Dimuth met the Aussie bowlers with disdain and offended them rather than defending. he repealed the apprehension and almost put Sri Lanka in a position to look for their first test victory in Australia before wickets started to tumble.
#7 Chandimal seals the game for Sri Lanka
There had been consistent queries about Chandimal’s place in the team, let alone his Position as Vice-Captain when he continued to fail with the bat. His performances lacked the luster that is usually associated with his innings, and he continued to continue without the fifties. Chandimal missed out twice on a fifty in the series against Pakistan. But he seemed to have waited for a golden opportunity to prove his worth in the team when he came to Sri Lanka’s rescue in the final ODI of the series. He batted with the tail with the immense maturity to take Sri Lanka home. He showed glimpses of a good finisher when he guided Mendis, who could bat when luck favors him to attack Saeed Ajmal who had taken 4 wickets.
#6 Upul Tharanga’s brutal onslaught against India
Being dropped out of the team for the Champions Trophy, Upul Tharanga marked his come back with an entrancing 174, the second highest score by a Sri Lankan to take Sri Lanka to a robust 348. Tharanga, initially playing second fiddle to the belligerent Mahela, cut loose after the Dismissal of Mahela, surprising everyone. Tharanga played out of his skin launching an unexpected but well-deserved attack on the Indian bowlers. Having been known as a run grafter, Tharanga switched gears unpredictably shattering the hood that usually pesters him in building match-winning innings.
#5 Sangakkara makes the English know his Prowess
In the Champions Trophy, after Sri Lanka had lost to New Zealand, and England had piled up a mammoth 293 in a wicket that was non-Indian, with the rookie Kusal back in the pavilion Kumar Sangakkara arrived wielding the willow ready to maul the English, who eventually became the runners-up. Sangakkara knew exactly who should be targeted and who should be spared, as he built steady partnerships with Dilshan and Mahela before Nuwan Kulasekara came out firing at the English from all cylinders. Sanga not only anchored the Sri Lankan chase but also accelerated at the end to make sure Sri Lanka reached home comfortably. Sanga scored 134 off 135 balls, but that wasn’t the only big score to come from him that year.
#4 Impossible is nothing with Malinga
Sri Lanka began their Champions Trophy against one of their favorite foes, New Zealand. Having done extremely well for an immaculate record against New Zealand, winning the match was just a formality for Sri Lanka. But New Zealand, on the other hand, epitomised their Supernatural performances in ICC held tournaments by defying the Sri Lankan batsmen, restricting them for a paltry 138. Having to chase 138 in as many as 300 balls in a world where even 200 off 60 balls isn’t an impossible task, the Kiwi batsmen would have eased out into the middle, but that was before the-yet-to-be-drama unfold. Eranga got rid of the openers, flaying the New Zealand batting lineup to be eviscerated by Malinga. Malinga came with laser-guided toe crushers and abrupt bouncers to make the Kiwi batsmen look like kindergartners. Malinga’s bowling on that day could have been barely bettered only by the patched bowlers in EA cricket. Malinga darted in balls at the toes of the batsmen getting 3 LBWs. Sri Lanka fought hard, with all Malinga balls being potent enough to earn a wicket. The Slinger hardly bowled a non-wicket taking ball that day, that Mahela and Dilshan were fined for excessive appealing. With one wicket in hand and Malinga’s quota coming to an end, surviving Malinga would earn New Zealand a win. Such was the bowling performance of this man as the whole world, maybe the entire Universe wondered the Superhuman ability of bowling six yorkers an over. Malinga finished with the figures of 10-2-34-4-3.40
#3 Kula swings the ball square
On a sweltering, humid day in the Woolangabba stadium, Nuwan Kulasekara, the man with an innocuous smile that can wreak havoc on the batsmen, gave Australia the taste of their own medicines. Kula moved the ball prodigiously, swerving in balls from well outside off to the middle stump, clean bowling two of the Aussie batsmen including Clarke, and making another leave a ball well outside off, only to see it coming in fabulously defying physics and striking his leg to be ruled out LBW. Kulasekara ran through the Australian batting line-up bundling them up for a petty 74. Kulasekara picked up his first 5 wicket haul in his career giving away only 22 runs in his 10 overs.
#2 Sanga erupts against the Proteas
Sangakkara is a man who finds routines boring and regular humdrum. He is not somebody who would learn something and sit the rest of the life doing it. He is somebody who loves evolving. Sanga exhibited his new incarnation in the ODI against South Africa slamming 169, the highest score by a Sri Lankan in Sri Lanka. He revolutionized the Sri Lankan bating with his new evolution playing lap sweeps and paddle sweeps even against the pacy South African bowlers, adding to their already existing trouble of finding a place to bowl to him. Sanga had already expressed his humility in saying that he would never belong to the club of Sachin, Lara, and Ponting, calling them Players who dominated attacks and regressing him to a mere grafter. But since then, what has transpired is history. Sanga has started to let aggression reign his batting and that was vouchsafed in the six sixes he hit in that innings when he scored 169 of just 137 balls.
#1 Thisera Perera assassinates Robin Peterson
Perera is always known for his big hitting ability, but nothing could have been eloquent as his 35 runs off one over to vouch for his affection for sixes when he slammed the African orthodox bowler for 5 huge sixes and a four to make it the second most expensive over in ODI cricket. Sri Lanka had lost 7 wickets earlier, but Perera’s onslaught ensured that a Sri Lankan win was not improbable. This is an excerpt from the Cricinfo commentary during Perera’s brilliance against Peterson.
|Peterson to bowl, from round the wicket.|
|32.1||Peterson to NLTC Perera, SIX, Perera’s smashed it! Plonked his front foot forward and brought up Sri Lanka’s 100 by smashing the ball over the square leg boundary, he even took his bottom hand off the bat during the follow through|
|32.2||Peterson to NLTC Perera, 1 wide, that’s fired wide outside off stump|
|32.2||Peterson to NLTC Perera, SIX, and again, Perera’s decided Peterson’s got to go. Once again he takes his bottom hand off the bat while mowing and carts the ball over the midwicket boundary|
|32.3||Peterson to NLTC Perera, SIX, boom! Perera sees a shorter ball coming his way and this time he stands his ground and pulls over deep midwicket even though there are two fielders on the boundary|
|32.4||Peterson to NLTC Perera, SIX, Perera has exploded on Peterson! He’s dragged that from wide outside off stump and sent the fans beyond the midwicket boundary scurrying|
|32.5||Peterson to NLTC Perera, FOUR, a full and fast ball, Perera gets under it and lofts it over the bowler’s head for a four|
|32.6||Peterson to NLTC Perera, SIX, a tremendous over for Sri Lanka ends with a tremendous blow! We won;t be seeing Peterson in the attack while Perera is batting anytime soon! the last hit is the biggest, sailing into the night sky before disappearing into the fans beyond deep square leg. 35 runs off the over, the second costliest in ODIs|