Pocket dynamo: Rangana Herath is Sri Lanka's key man. Photo: Reuters
HE HAS taken more Test wickets than Dale Steyn and James Anderson in the past two years, and sits second in the world rankings but few will be able to name the spinner who Sri Lanka has pinned its hopes on this summer.
The Australians ultimately could not withstand the might of South Africa's all-star pace attack and now must overcome the guile of Rangana Herath, who has emerged from the considerable shadow of the great Muthiah Muralidaran.
Herath might not be as exotic as Saeed Ajmal and Sunil Narine, who have both caused Australia its share of troubles in recent years, but there can be no doubting the potency of his brand of left-arm finger-spin.
No man has claimed more Test victims than Herath's 96 at an average of 24 since the start of 2011 - a period in which he has nine five-wicket hauls, more than any other player.
He will arrive in Australia in white-hot form after befuddling New Zealand with 20 wickets in two Tests last month in Sri Lanka.
The Australians suffered for not paying due respect to South African left-armer Robin Peterson in Perth but are unlikely to make the same mistake against the 34-year-old.
Herath is capable of turning the ball either way and, like most finger spinners, boasts a mystery ball that spins the opposite direction to his stock delivery.
Tom Moody, a former coach of Sri Lanka, is not a fan of ICC's rankings systems but believed the world No.2's welter of wickets in the past two years was evidence he deserved to be rated highly.
''He's a very clever bowler … he's got the tools,'' Moody said.
''He's only short so he doesn't get [much] bounce. He turns the ball both ways and he's got wonderful control and control of his pace as well - he changes that very, very cleverly.
''He's a classical finger spinner who uses every bit of his skill to his advantage.''
Although height can play a factor in a spinner's success in Australia, the 168-centimetre Herath's diminutive stature might be a help rather than a hindrance in the coming series as the lower bounce he extracted increased his chances of getting lbw decisions.
Of bowlers with more than 150 Test wickets, Herath sits third for the highest proportion of victims (28.73 per cent) coming from lbw, behind Pakistan great Waqar Younis and Terry Alderman.
''If Rangana Herath hits someone there [on the knee roll] you can guarantee there'll be questions asked and third umpire will come into play,'' Moody said.
''In a way the DRS will favour him because he's skidding on and not bouncing over.''
Just as Stuart MacGill was starved of matches by Australian champion Shane Warne, Herath has also been deprived of opportunities at international level by Muralidaran.
But Moody believes this has helped Herath to develop his craft.
Despite being a late bloomer, Herath, with 174 wickets from 42 Tests, sits third behind Muralidaran and Chaminda Vaas on Sri Lanka's all-time list.
''He possibly could have played another 30 or 40 Tests but it's a bit like Mike Hussey,'' Moody said yesterday.
''He spent longer honing his skills in the shadow of Murali, which may well have worked to his advantage over time, instead of being thrown into the lion's den, so to speak, and have to work it out on the run.
''He's been able to work on it slowly and with bowlers like Murali around him and captains like Mahela [Jayawardene] and Sanga [Kumar Sangakkara] over time.
''He's probably a better bowler for having served a longer apprenticeship than most.''