Sri Lanka skipper Dasun Shanaka lavished praise on the ‘skillful’ Maheesh Theekshana, who spun a web around the South African batsmen on debut, and insisted that no team in the world will find it easy to read the mystery spinner.
Playing his first ever international match, Theekshana unfurled his variations as he, with an Ajantha Mendis-esque action, challenged both the edges of the South African batsmen with his off-spinner and carrom ball.
No Proteas batsman was able to read him, and eventually the 21-year-old finished with figures of 4/37 - the best ever by a Lankan bowler on ODI debut - to bowl his side to a deserved series win.
Speaking in the aftermath of the third ODI, Shanaka revealed that he took a gamble to slot the youngster into the side for the decider, and asserted that his element of mystery provided a ‘big advantage’ to the hosts.
"I actually brought Maheesh Theekshana into the team to play T20s. But I knew that on a track like this where it turns a lot, it's going to be hard for South Africa to read someone like Theekshana out of the hand. I took that risk as a captain and the selectors and coaches supported me. And that became a big advantage for us,” Shanaka said on Tuesday.
"He's played a little bit at the higher levels - not internationals - but he's played league tournaments like the T10 and the LPL," Shanaka said. "It's not easy to read him because he's now got the googly, and the carrom ball, and his offspin as well.
“Because he's got several variations, I don't think it'll be easy for any team to read him. But it's because he has some skill that we used him. It's not just how difficult to read him, we also know that he's a skilful bowler."
But despite the mystery-spin of Theekshana guiding the Lankans to a series win, Shanaka asserted that his side still have a long way to go in the batting department. The Lankans played spin only marginally better than South Africa, and Shanaka insisted that the team will need to learn more effective ways of tackling spinners in order to post 300-run scores on a consistent basis.
"Batting is where we have a weakness still. We don't play enough sweeps or reverse sweeps against spin, and we've got to do that in future. We might win series, but we have to focus on how we're going to score 300 or chase 300 going forward. We also need to figure out our death bowling a little more. Those are the big areas for improvement,” Shanaka said.
At the same time, however, the Lankan skipper said that there is a mitigating factor in the form of inexperience, and asserted that the individuals - and in turn the whole group - will get better once they get more matches under their belt.
"But in this team, the only players who had played more than 50 matches were Dinesh Chandimal and Dhananjaya de Silva, so I think that as a team we should be able to hit our targets in the future. When you get experience, your game develops. I have a lot of belief that with that experience this group of players will perform well in the years to come."
The series win on Tuesday took Sri Lanka to fifth place in the ODI Super League table.