Sri Lankan skipper Dinesh Chandimal showered praise on veteran spinner Rangana Herath who sparked his team to a nail-biting 21-run win over Pakistan in the first Test in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
The 39-year-old left-armer grabbed six for 43 — taking 11 wickets in the match — as Pakistan slumped to 114 all out chasing a target of 136 to win.
“He is a wily old fox and I have to say Rangana is a team man and an asset to the team,” Chandimal said after Sri Lanka secured a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
The second Test — a day/night affair — starts in Dubai from Friday.
“He is supportive to me and the players, with what he has learnt from cricket,” added Chandimal of Herath, who also racked up his 400 wicket in his 84th Test.
“Every young player goes to talk to him about his bowling and experiences. Looking to the future, yes, he is 39, a little bit old now, but he always tries to do his best.
“I just want him throughout my career. I have no idea how long he is going to play, but I am sure he will do what he can for the team.”
Herath compiled Test 100 wickets against Pakistan in his 20th appearance against them, becoming the first bowler to achieve the feat.
Chandimal also hailed wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella whose battling 40 not out took Sri Lanka to 138 in their second innings after Pakistani leg-spinner Yasir Shah recorded five for 51.
“Dickwella was outstanding in the second innings to get us to the 138 mark. We all knew the legend Rangana would come into play, and finally he did his best.”
Chandimal vowed there would be no let-up from his team despite claiming the series opener.
“We all know Pakistan are a very good team. We never underestimated them nor will we now. This win will boost our morale.”
– ‘Take him on’ –
Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur was disappointed with the performance of his batsmen.
“We should have chased this target,” said Arthur, who saw Pakistan slide to a 10th defeat in 16 Tests since he took over last year.
“We did a lot of homework against Herath. But obviously on the last day he was always going to be a factor and you’ve got to give him more respect.
“But I would probably have liked to see our batsmen take him on. I would have liked batsmen to attack him, once you take him on and that goes for any bowler, the game sorts of settle down.”
Arthur said Pakistan needed a good partnership which never came, notwithstanding a 42-run stand for the sixth wicket between top scorer Haris Sohail (34) and Sarfraz Ahmed (19).
“We wanted a good partnership up front but we didn’t get that and that put us under pressure. We were always going to be under pressure as the game goes on because we couldn’t expect the tail to get us over the line.”