Avishka Fernando, who struck his third ODI ton on Thursday to help Sri Lanka take a 1-0 lead over South Africa, revealed that improved fitness levels have had a positive impact on his game, both with the bat and on the field.
Considered one of the brightest young talents in the country, Fernando, despite racking up scores, was not considered for the tours of West Indies and Bangladesh earlier this year due to not meeting the required fitness standards.
It was only against England that the opener made his comeback, and, since then, his batting has been a revelation, with him averaging 48.33 across six games. The century on Thursday, in fact, was Fernando’s third consecutive fifty-plus score in ODI cricket.
Speaking in the aftermath of the game, the 23-year-old revealed that his batting and fielding have touched new heights since he took a conscious decision to work on his fitness levels.
"I missed a couple of tours because of my fitness, and I tried to learn from that," Fernando said on Thursday.
"I managed to improve my fitness. Because of that it's actually much easier for me to bat and to field. I see a big improvement there.
"I didn't do a lot of specialist fielding training, but I think when you improve your fitness, everything becomes easier. I think a lot of the improvements to my game are just down to better fitness now."
Fernando’s 118 helped Sri Lanka post 300, but he had able support from another rising star Charith Asalanka, who struck his second ODI fifty. Together the duo put on a 97-run stand, and the timely partnership deflated the Proteas bowlers, whose dreams of rolling the Lankans out cheaply were dashed.
Fernando singled out his chemistry with Asalanka as the reason behind their partnership thriving, and asserted that he enjoys batting with the southpaw.
"Since we were 15 or 16 we played a lot of cricket together," Fernando said. "We know each other's games really well. When he's batting, I might have something to say to him, and when I'm batting he'll talk to me as well.
“There's a good connection between us. When he and I got together, we'd lost three wickets, so we talked about batting together until the 41st or 42nd over. We knew that then it would be easier for the hitters lower down."
The 23-year-old further reckoned that his side ended up scoring 20-30 runs above par. Despite having wickets in hand, the 300 posted by Sri Lanka proved too much for South Africa, who fell 14 runs short of the target.
"When I started batting, I felt it was a good pitch to bat on, and what we had targeted was a score of about 270 or 280. But because we batted well we were able to go past that to 300."