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Who is Sri Lanka’s new spinner Lasith Embuldeniya?

by Yas Rana
@@Yas_Wisden 5 minute read

22-year-old left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya announced himself on the international stage with a five-wicket haul and crucial lower order runs that contributed to Sri Lanka’s extraordinary one-wicket win in the Durban Test match. But what’s his story?

Who is he?

A tall left-arm spinner whose potential was evident for all to see from his very first ball in Test cricket. He squared up South Africa’s captain Faf du Plessis with a ball that drifted in, spun and bounced sharply away from the right-hander and was unlucky not to take his wicket.

Embuldeniya found his stride immediately in the Test arena

What’s his story?

His rise to the Sri Lankan national side has been a rapid one. Despite having only made his first-class debut two years ago, he was one of the star players in the 2017/18 Sri Lankan domestic game – his first full season of first-class cricket. He finished it as the third leading wicket-taker on the first-class circuit, taking 63 wickets at an average of 16.20. Embuldeniya has since represented Sri Lanka A, impressing in their recent series against Ireland A before winning his first Sri Lanka call-up for the tour of South Africa.

Lean times?

Despite being a prodigious wicket-taker at schoolboy level, Embuldeniya never made an appearance for the Sri Lankan Under-19 side. He probably won’t be losing too much sleep over that though considering how well he’s done in the intervening three years.

A five-for and a cameo of 24 marked a memorable debut for the 22-year-old

Challenges?

The mid-series retirement of Rangana Herath in late 2018 left a gaping hole in the Sri Lankan Test XI. Replacing a man whose Test career spanned 19 years and had 433 Test wickets and 11 Player of the Match awards to his name is an unenviable task, but a necessary one from Sri Lanka’s point of view.

Others have tried and failed before Embuldeniya. Dilruwan Perera had a nightmare tour of Oceania – he averaged an eye-watering 94.33 with the ball – while Malinda Pushpakumara’s prolific domestic record has yet to translate into anything worthy of note on the international stage. There are other young Sri Lankan spinners in the reckoning for selection that Embuldeniya will have to fend off too. Akila Dananjaya has been given the green light by the ICC to resume bowling in international cricket, while Nishan Peiris is another young finger-spinner full of promise.

Final Word:

“Embuldeniya is our future, most probably if he plays another season of domestic cricket and another two or three ‘A’ team tours he will be ready to play Test cricket.” – Sri Lanka A’s head coach Avishka Gunawardene after their series win over Ireland A earlier this year.

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