When Tharanga Paranavitana steered the ball to third man to take a couple of runs and post his maiden Test century,not only did it give the 28-year-old the confidence that he belonged to the highest level but it must have pleased the selectors as well.
The knock came after 10 Tests and four fifties. Paranavitana is widely considered as the batsman who can seal one of the openers slots in Sri Lankas Test batting line-up. Ever since Sanath Jayasuriya faded out and Marvan Atapattu fell out of favour,Sri Lanka havent found a steady opening pair in Tests.
In 2008 when India toured here,Malinda Warnapura made a century in the first innings of the first Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club. Mahela Jayawardene,Tillakaratne Dilshan and Thilan Samaraweera also reached three figures in that innings as Lanka posted 600. The hosts will want Paranavitanas unbeaten 110 to also help build a strong total.
Two years ago Warnapura was still finding his feet in international cricket and that century was his second. He played another nine Tests before being sidelined for the lack of runs. Michael Vandort,Upul Tharanga,Warnapura have tried to make the opening slot their own,but havent enjoyed much success. Finally,Dilshan agreed to play at No.1 to add balance to the side before the New Zealand series last year but he is yet to find a steady partner.
Paranavitana is from Kegalle and was first spotted seven years ago. His progress has been steady rather than extraordinary. His skills were polished under the guidance of former batsman Anura Tennekoon at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo. However,it was not until Sunday that Paranavitana converted his potential into big runs. The selectors had clearly sent out a message to him to start converting his fifties into hundreds.
On Sunday,he found his first two boundaries through outside edges and was fortunate when a couple of tough catch offered by him didnt stick. Yet,he played a steady innings and added 181 with skipper Kumar Sangakkara for the second wicket,a partnership that frustrated the Indians.
I am extremely happy to get a maiden hundred because prior to this innings,I had got five fifties but was unable to convert them into a hundred. In domestic cricket I score big hundreds…150-200 but at international level I couldnt do so. But with experience and advice from the coach and senior players,I was able to do so and I am confident I can go forward with my game plan.
The selectors and team management too will be hoping this is just the beginning of a purple patch for Paranavitana at the top.