The last time Australia went on a cricket tour of Sri Lanka, Shane Warne marked his comeback from a 12-month ban for using a banned substance by dominating the hosts.
Warne claimed 26 wickets in the three Tests at 20.43 as Australia won the series 3-0.
Now in 2011, a Sri Lankan player looks set to play a similarly crucial role in Australia’s tour of the island nation on his own return from a drugs ban.
Upul Tharanga, the opening batsman whose strong World Cup performance was blighted by a failed drugs test following the semi-final win over New Zealand, spent three months on the sidelines before his ban ended on the eve of the first one-day international in Kandy.
And the softly-spoken 26-year-old appears to have lost none of his form during his time on the sidelines, guiding Sri Lanka to victory in the third match in Hambantota on Tuesday with a plucky 111 off 139 deliveries. Tharanga paid tribute to his captain Tillakaratne Dilshan and the Sri Lankan cricket board for supporting him during his ban – which he blamed on a herbal remedy to ease discomfort caused by a long-standing shoulder injury.
“I think the last few months have been very tough but I think the selectors and captain have faith in me,” Tharanga said of his ban.
“They called me straight after my ban began (and gave me support).
“I’m really happy I’m back in the team and I’m looking forward now.” Tuesday’s ton was Tharanga’s fourth ODI century in 2011 and his first against Australia, a point that brought him particular pleasure.
“As a player, I always wanted to score a hundred against the Australians,” he said.
“The difference between the other teams and the Australians is if you take their fast bowlers, they have speed and ability to swing the ball and, more than other teams, they pose a massive challenge.
“That’s why scoring a hundred against the Australians is special.”
Sri Lanka made alterations to their squad on Wednesday with young batsman Dinesh Chandimal, all-rounder Thisara Perera and spinner Rangana Herath dumped for the final two ODIs.
Leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna has been added to the squad, rushed home from England where he has been impressing on a tour for Sri Lanka A.