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Saturday, 8 December, 2001, 09:44 GMT
Leader of the lefties
BBC Sport Online's Oliver Brett considers the burgeoning career of Sri Lanka's record-breaking seamer Chaminda Vaas.
Question: Who is the best left-arm seamer in world cricket?
Answer: Wasim Akram. But Sri Lanka's Chaminda Vaas is fast breathing down his neck and, at 28, is seven years younger than Wasim who is arguably past his very best.
The man whose full name is Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas made his debut in August 1994 in the Kandy Test against Pakistan.
Regular observers of Sri Lankan cricket will know that Sri Lanka have a poor record at Kandy in recent years.
And this was no exception - the tourists won by an innings and 52 runs.
For Vaas, then aged 20, it was a forgettable debut - 22 wicketless overs and scores of nought and four with the bat.
But this left-armer has made an inexorable progression since than and has now crept into the league of the world's leading bowlers.
Sri Lanka have frequently been a side who have set out to bat opponents into submission before relying on Muttiah Muralitharan to spin them to victory on the final day.
But that is hardly a complete strategy - and not one that is likely to make a team capable of winning series on a regular basis away from home.
It's different now, however, because Vaas gives Sri Lanka a real opportunity of doing some damage with the new ball.
In the recent Colombo Test against the West Indies, for example, he removed both West Indian openers in both innings in the first half hour.
He went on to take 14 wickets in the match, for once putting the great Murali in the shade.
And a year ago, though Sri Lanka were ultimately edged 2-1 by England, Vaas put the mockers on no less an opening batsman than Michael Atherton.
Atherton found himself quite unable to judge whether to play the ball pitching outside off-stump.
Either, with the angle created by Vaas's arm it would arrow into his pads to dismiss him lbw.
Or on another occasion the ball would offer to swing away and a despairing Atherton bat would nick the ball to keeper or slips.
Five times in six innings, Iron Mike was Chaminda's bunny.
The apotheosis of Vaas's talents was of course his exceptional display in the Colombo Test.
Or at least that was the thinking until he obliterated Zimbabwe in the first match of the triangular one-day series - the West Indies are staying on for more torture.
Eight for 19 from eight overs are the ebst figures ever in one-day cricket - and it's a record he may hang onto for a while.
And if he can start to prove formidable on a consistent basis at home, goodness knows what he could get up to elsewhere from now on.
Three Tests in England beckon next year, for example.
So while Muralitharan - he and Vaas are streets ahead of any other Sri Lanka bowler - may not find the greenish wickets to his liking, Vaas undoubtedly will.
A strict Roman Catholic, Vaas once disclosed his desire to become a priest, but his bowling success ultimately diverted his attention.
Less than a year after his debut, he took 10 wickets in a match in New Zealand to give his side a huge win there.
And he was a crucial part of the side who beat Australia in the three-match series at home in 1999 - taking three for 15 in Kandy, when the Aussies were bowled out for 140.
Over the years his batting has developed and he is sometimes considered to be a genuine all rounder. But his average is still below 20, although he has three fifties to his name in Tests.
If, somehow, he could get that side of his game to come off more regularly, he would truly be an awesome prospect.
And if Sri Lanka could unearth another high quality seamer they would be a team to inspire fear into any opposition.
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