Sydney: As Mark Twain might have said, rumours of the death of Sri Lankan spinner Rangana Herath which spread like wildfire across social media late on Friday proved to be greatly exaggerated.
Far from lying in a Sydney morgue alongside former Test bowler Chaminda Vaas after perishing in a car crash as the reports had suggested, Herath was very much alive when he pitched up for work at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday.
The most prolific wicket-taker in Test cricket last year, the 34-year-old legspinner claimed two Australian wickets to seal a haul of 4 for 95 and then contributed 9 runs with the bat.
Team-mate Dimuth Karunaratne told reporters at the conclusion of the day's play that the team had been dumbfounded by the rumours. "I heard about it when we were having breakfast but I had no idea where that came from," he said with a laugh. "Guys from Sri Lanka were calling us asking 'when is the funeral?' and stuff like that. Rangana is alive," he added, somewhat unnecessarily.
Herath's efforts were not enough to prevent Australia taking an iron grip on the third Test match on Saturday and move to the brink of a 3-0 series sweep. That could all change, however, if he and Dinesh Chandimal, who finished the third day unbeaten on 22, are able to dig in on Sunday, inflate their lead beyond the current 87 and give Sri Lanka a decent target to bowl at.
The Sydney track has traditionally offered a lot of turn for spinners in the last couple of days of a Test and, as Herath's 60 wickets last year showed, there are few better spinners operating in Test cricket at the moment.
"The wicket is turning a lot now and the Aussie guys are playing the fourth innings, so I think Rangana... can do something," said Karunaratne.
Vaas has no position with the Test team and remains, also unharmed, in Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan reporters said.