With both Boxing Day Test matches ending inside four days, it is no surprise to find that it is a bowler who takes the first Cricket World Player of the Week award of 2012. Indeed, there were five different bowlers who took five-wicket hauls last week, whereas only two batsmen – Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera – reached three figures.
Ben Hilfenhaus (five for 75 in the first innings against India); Machant de Lange (seven for 81 in the first innings against Sri Lanka); Chanaka Welegedara (five for 52 in the first innings against South Africa); and Dale Steyn (five for 73 in the second innings against Sri Lanka) all returned impressive hauls as did James Pattinson (match figures of six for 108).
However, it is Rangana Herath who takes this week’s award thanks to his match-winning performance of five for 79 that followed his first innings haul of four for 49. His combined figures of 50.3-14-128-9 played a pivotal role in his side securing their maiden Test triumph in South Africa, and his performance was made all the more remarkable by the poor performance of opposition spinner Imran Tahir, who could only manage match figures of three for 165 from 48 overs.
Herath, who was born in Kurunegala in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka, made his first-class debut in November 1996 for the city’s Youth Cricket Club at the age of 18. He went on to represent his country at Under-19 level that winter when they hosted India, before moving on to play for Moors Sports Club at the end of that decade. Overall he has played for Moors in 86 first-class matches - the bulk of his Sri Lankan domestic career – and has taken 353 wickets at an average of 18.19 for the club.
His international debut came in 1999 against Australia, but his spell in the team was short-lived as he was forced to make way after just three matches. A four-year spell on the sidelines then followed as Muttiah Muralitharan took centre stage, although he did make several appearances as second spinner throughout 2004 and 2005, before another 30-month period of non-selection.
Eventually he was selected for his third spell in the side in 2008 and, following the decline and subsequent retirement of Muralitharan, as well as the passing of the false dawn that was Ajantha Mendis, he has established himself as Sri Lanka’s leading spin bowler.
His statistics since his return demonstrate his success, and over the past 12 months he has taken 48 wickets at an average of less than 28, which compares favourably with his career record of 119 wickets at 33.71.
© Cricket World 2012