Although Herath made his Test debut back in 1999, he never came to the prominence as a leading spinner until the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan. Herath made a successful comeback to Test cricket in 2009 against Pakistan and took over the mantle of Sri Lanka's main spin bowler from Muralitharan. Former Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene rated Herath as Sri Lanka's number one bowler after the retirement of Muralitharan.
Rangana Herath ascended to prominence against Australia in 1999 with a "mystery" ball. He broke into the national side after an impressive A tour to England. Herath while playing in two test matches in the series, deceived the visiting Australians with a delivery that darted the other way. He took six test wickets against the Australians.
Herath played only in the test at Galle during the home series against India. Though Sri Lanka won, he only managed to take the wicket of Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh in that match. Herath was recalled for the second test match against the West Indies in November 2010. In that match played at the newly renovated R. Premadasa Stadium, he took three wickets in the first innings.
In the second Test of Sri Lanka's tour of South Africa in December 2011, Herath took nine wickets and won the Man of the Match award. Sri Lanka won the match by 208 runs; it was their first Test win in South Africa.
Herath took 12 Wickets during the first test match of the 2012 England Vs. Sri Lanka Test Series. His match winning performance helped him to secure the "Man of the Match" award in Galle. Rangana Herath was England's latest spin tormentor with 6 for 74 during the first inning and he took another 6 wickets for just 97 runs and confirmed the Sri Lanka's victory against the touring English team.
In the first innings of the second Test, Herath took nine wickets for 127 runs, the best figures for a left-arm bowler in Test cricket. He was man of the match in both Test matches and also man of the series.