'Tried to keep my mind fresh to score runs' - Sangakkara
A long-time purveyor of Test cricket's grind, Kumar Sangakkara says it was a refreshed focus on positivity that helped him score the third-highest match tally of all time, against Bangladesh. His 424 runs - 319 in the first innings and 105 in the second - were struck at a collective rate of 67.7 and 55% of his runs had come in boundaries.
Sangakkara's 319 also featured eight sixes - the most by a Sri Lankan batsman in a Test innings. One of those, a pull over midwicket, had brought up his triple century, and that stroke was also a hallmark against the spinners. The same shot carried him into triple figures on the fourth day. In between, Sangakkara had made calculated advances down the pitch, and mined outfield gaps efficiently in both innings.
"I think I managed to keep my intent pretty positive right through both my innings and that's what probably worked very well for me," he told ESPNcricinfo. "Rather than just staying out there, it was important to get into a rhythm and look to rotate the strike and score boundaries. As a team, as well as personally, it was about scoring runs, making sure that, without getting negative, we go out there and look for singles and twos and run really well between the wickets."
This deluge had come after a somewhat frustrating series in the UAE, when he had made numerous promising starts but did not progress to a substantial score. For the first time in seven series against Pakistan, Sangakkara failed to hit a Test ton, after he had also had a mediocre ODI series.
"I was batting well, it's just that I wasn't going on with it," he said. "Maybe I have been taking the wrong option at times and just losing concentration at an important time. It was just a case of getting that in mind, leaving really well, knowing where my off stump is, and then pacing my innings really well. Rather than being too tense and trying to concentrate all the time, I tried to switch on and off at the right time, and keep my mind fresh to score runs. That was really the difference for me."
Bangladesh's efforts to dismiss Sangakkara took various forms on the fourth day, including one field that had six men on the leg side and three on the off. The major challenge for Sangakkara, however, was a deteriorating Chittagong surface that had produced shin-high grubbers and moderate turn since the first morning.
"There was a bit more turn in the wicket and it was keeping even a bit lower than on the first two days," he said. "That was about it. Otherwise it was a case of just getting in and then taking the initiative to get a lead of 400, which is what we needed to declare."
Sangakkara struck up a 145-run stand with Dinesh Chandimal, stretching Sri Lanka's lead beyond 300 after they had come together when three wickets had fallen relatively cheaply. Having had a lean eight months, Chandimal reached a resurgent half-century while Sangakkara was at the crease, before going on to get a ton himself in the third session.
"I think Chandi batted beautifully. He's batting with a lot of control, great intent, great rotation of strike," Sangakkara said. "He's been batting very well but unfortunately he's been getting out after taking a few poor options and maybe putting himself under a bit too much pressure to get big runs. It was just a case today of concentrating on the basics and running well between the wickets."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here