Samaraweera thrilled about hundred but victory is key

Published: Sunday, April 6, 2008, 16:11 [IST]
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Thilan Samaraweera believes the new-ball will hold the key, when Sri Lanka chase victory on the fourth morning of the second and final Test against West Indies on Sunday at Queen's Park Oval.

Samaraweera collected his sixth Test hundred of 125, as Sri Lanka, trailing by 16 runs on first innings, were dismissed for 268 in their second innings just before the scheduled close on the third day at Queen's Park Oval to leave West Indies two whole days to gather 253 for victory.

"The pitch is still allowing the bowlers to seam the ball around, and the bounce is up and down," he said.

"If we can get two or three wickets with the new ball, we can put some pressure on them, since we have a World-class spin bowler. Chris Gayle was getting the ball to turn a little bit, but the new ball will be the key."

The West Indies fast bowlers exploited the lively pitch and partly cloudy conditions early in the day to send Sri Lanka crashing to 32 for four and then 99 for six before Samaraweera and Chaminda Vaas rescued them with a seventh wicket stand of 138.

"My approach when I went into bat was to play as straight as possible," Samaraweera said. "I played a bad shot in the first innings - a 'nothing shot' - and found playing straight and playing off the front foot was the key.

"My strategy was to bat through the innings, but I think Chaminda helped a lot with this knock, since he was batting so well at the other end. When I came to the crease, we were 32 for three and I felt that we could still get a good score since Tillakeratne Dilshan, Chamara Silva, and Vaas were still to come."

With the departure of Aravinda de Silva and Hashan Tillakeratne from the national side, Samaraweera has made strong claims for a middle-order place with his "patient, no-risk approach" which provides the perfect foil for his more enterprising teammates.

But he lost his place in the side two years ago, following the tour of England, and he was recalled after more than a year for the tour of Australia, so he is anxious to cement his place in the side.

"This innings is important for me, since there is a lot of Test cricket coming for us this year - we have about six Tests remaining - and I feel strongly that I can establish myself in the side again," he said.

"I have a key role to play in the side. I have to play among a host of stroke-players, and I can play the long, patient innings which I did a few years ago when we were in a similar situation and I scored a hundred against Pakistan.

"I also thought this innings was crucial because I had set myself the goal in this series to take the pressure of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, since they have been tremendous for Sri Lanka over the last three or four years.

"We want to win this series and it is important that every player scores runs, since we want to create history by becoming the first Sri Lanka team to win a Test series in the Caribbean, and whitewash West Indies in a series at home for the first time in their history.

"I think everybody has batted well and I am happy with the form that has been shown by the other players on this trip."

Sri Lanka lead the two-Test series 1-0, after they won the opening Test at the Guyana National Stadium by 121 runs.

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