After debuting back in 1999, Rangana Herath is finally living up to the prodigious talent he is capable of. In a country dominated by right-arm spin options, Herath offers Sri Lanka a point of difference with his left-arm orthodox spin. He has been their most successful bowler since making a permanent return to the side in 2011.
Herath made his debut as a 21 year old alongside the great Muralitharan. It was a promising performance from the spinner, with Herath taking 4/97 against Australia. However, selection became an all too rare occurrence for the talented tweaker, with Herath only playing a handful of Tests over the next decade.
It wasn’t until the Boxing Day Test against South Africa in 2011 that Herath really impressed the world. The Sri Lankans had never won a Test match in South Africa, and hadn’t won a Test match in general for over 18 months. However, nine wickets to Herath, including five in the second innings, led to a comfortable 208 run win. It was a pivotal moment in Herath’s career that sounded him as a genuine Test prospect.
A career best 12/171 helped Sri Lanka to a famous win against England at the start of the 2012 season. Figures of 6/74 and 6/97 made him an easy choice for Man of the Match. His well-flighted bowling style had proven too much for the English batsmen, with Herath feasting on their indecision. Kevin Pietersen, who had always struggled against left-arm spin, was very happy to see the back of Herath at the end of the tour.
Herath continued to lead the Sri Lankan attack with another dominant display against New Zealand in November 2012. His 20 wickets in the two Test series helped Sri Lanka to a 1-1 result. Herath took 11/105 in the first Test victory and 9/169 in the second Test loss.
His economy rate is a major reason behind his success, with the spinner able to pin down batsmen for long periods of his time. Even in the T20 arena, he only goes for 6.72 an over, making him one of the tightest bowlers in the game.
Herath will be keen to impress in Australia, especially given their occasional susceptibility to spin bowlers.