Thilan Samaraweera thrives on county cricket

Tim Wigmore, in ESPNcricinfo

THILAN SAMARAWEERA Thilan Samaraweera may have played for 12 years for Sri Lanka but his first season in county cricket, where he is fulfilling “one of my dreams”, is bringing its own challenges. Samaraweera’s enthusiasm, after fielding for Worcestershire, is in stark contrast to Manchester’s rain, wind and unrelenting chill, which are enough to make anyone question the sanity of organising first-class cricket at Old Trafford in April. “You get tougher and tougher when you field in this cold weather,” he said. “It’s not easy. You get tougher and tougher living away from home.”

Samaraweera’s international career may have been overshadowed by those of Sri Lanka’s big beasts, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. Yet in his own charmingly unobtrusive way he averaged 48.76 in Tests and there is a very legitimate case for him being Sri Lanka’s third-best Test batsman, even ahead of Aravinda de Silva and Sanath Jayasuriya.

He earned a deserved reputation as Sri Lanka’s stylish man for a crisis – their VVS Laxman – cemented by a pair of centuries in South Africa in 2011-12, including 102 and 43 in Sri Lanka’s Boxing Day Test win. Not bad for someone who began cricketing life as an offspinner. While Samaraweera laments neither winning a Test Match in Australia nor scoring a hundred against them, what particularly grates – because it was so out of character – is the way his Test career ended: an aberrant slog when on nought in Sri Lanka’s defeat in Sydney in January.

“Because of desperation I came down the track and tried to hit over the top and got caught at mid-on,” he said. “Every time I go to Sri Lanka people ask and remind me about that shot – that’s a little annoying because I did a lot of things for Sri Lankan cricket but still people remember that shot. Because every time the team needed me I did better every time – in South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand.”

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