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Chanaka Welagedera - successor to Vaas

Chanaka Welagedera is the latest arrival in Sri Lanka’s pace bowling lane. It is after a 1 1/2-year-long lay off that the left-arm pace with strong likeness to former Sri Lanka paceman Chaminda Vaas that young Welagedera aged 28 has at last arrived with some impressive performances in the December 2009 Test and the ODI series against India.

In fact, Welagedera would have made his presence felt long before this, but for an ankle injury that kept him out of cricket for 1 1/2 years since his Test debut against England in a home series at Galle during 2007-08. He impressed with a telling action and brisk pace with a handful of wickets prising out some top order England batsmen. It singled him out immediately as the successor to Chaminda Vaas whom Welagedera was then quick to appreciate. He had imparted to him some finer points in the pace bowling lane.

But the 2009 Indian tour was to be Welagedera’s platform to step back into contention when he was selected from the sidelines to play in a Test match replacing regular bowler Dhammika Prasad. He was quickly into his rhythm once again accounting for some key Indian wickets including that of master batsman Sachin Tendulkar. From there onwards Welagedera, a product of St.

Thomas’ College, Matale, shouldering an injury hit Sri Lanka pace bowling department performed remarkably being among the wickets in the Test matches and ODI’s. Interestingly, Uda Walawwe Mahim Bandaralage Chanaka Welagedera born on March 20, 1981 in Matale and representing Moors SC and Wayamba, was a late starter to cricket. He learned to play the game for his college at the age of 17, but made quick progress performing in provincial matches.

When fine combed and brought to Colombo he was selected by Australian fast bowling coach Daryl Foster to the Sri Lanka Academy headed by former Sri Lanka fast bowling coach Rumesh Ratnayake in 2000. Not long after Welagedera was sent to the MRF Pace Academy in Chennai to further develop his skills.

Representing Moors SC in 2002 he bowled his club to the Premier League title in 2002-03 claiming 34 wickets at an average of 24.14 in 13 matches. But his career best performance came the following season when he claimed an outstanding nine wicket match haul to anchor his club to a comprehensive 10-wicket win.

His strong point has been his penetrative inswing bowling that has often trapped batsmen plumb leg before wicket. Welagedera toured Sharjah with the Sri Lanka Academy and claimed seven wickets against the UAE which earned him a place in the Sri Lanka A XI.

Having played in four Test matches he has claimed 10 wickets with career best figures of 4 for 87 at an average of 47.30 and economy rate of 3.90 and strike rate of 72.6.

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