England v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Headingley July 1, 2011

Jayawardene shows Cook the way, with no sympathy

A perfectly paced one-day innings set up Sri Lanka's victory and opening could now be Jayawardene's role for a while

Before the second one-day international, Mahela Jayawardene said he had sympathy for Alastair Cook as he tries to find his feet as England's captain. However, there was none of that sentiment on show at Headingley as Jayawardene ensured Cook was pushed to his limits in the field by a majestic career-best 144. It is a mark of the longevity of his career that Jayawardene set a new high 11 years after his previous best made in 2000.

And he could go on for a while longer yet. At 34 - a spring chicken compared to the now-retired Sanath Jayasuriya - he could carry on batting for at least another four years if the hunger remains and 10,000 runs in both formats is within touching distance. If he carries on as long as Jayasuirya a whole mountain of milestones are still his for the taking, but in a volatile set-up such as Sri Lanka it's always possible that a player may decide to quit sooner than expected. Jayawardene must be savoured while he's around.

He struggled during the Test series, which was a surprise because, with a pair of Lord's hundreds in 2002 and 2006, he was the one Sri Lanka batsman to arrive with an impressive record in England. However, since the change to one-day cricket he has looked much like his normal self. Either side of being lbw to James Anderson for 5 at The Oval, which has happened to many batsmen, he has toyed with the English bowling in the Twenty20 at Bristol and now at Headingley.

"We all had a chat after The Oval about what our roles were and our plans," Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lanka captain, said, "We said one of either myself, Sanga or Mahela had to bat a long time and Mahela did a great job. That's why we got 300."

Being on the end of a Sri Lankan hundred in Leeds is not a new feeling for England. In 2006 their whitewash was completed when Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga added 286 for the first wicket. Three England players survived from that day - Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Tim Bresnan - and yesterday Bresnan was asked about his memories of his two overs for 29. He played down the impact, of course, but the home side probably wouldn't mind not having a one-dayer here next time Sri Lanka visit.

On that occasion the damage to England's bowlers was done largely by brute force, but it was difficult to remember anything approaching violence from Jayawardene in his innings. Yet the results were just as impressive for Sri Lanka. It was much the same story with his elegant hundred in the World Cup final which, purely as an innings, didn't deserve to finish on the losing side. In fact, the most anger he showed at any point was a momentary confrontation with Jade Dernbach who, Jayawardene felt, had tried to get in his way.

Jayawardene's final score of 144 actually sits behind Jayasuriya's 152 on this ground in 2006 and Viv Richards' 189 at Old Trafford as the third-highest score against England on their home soil. As he has shown many times in one-day - and Twenty20 - cricket there is more than one way to build a limited-overs innings. He had his luck by being dropped at slip by Graeme Swann on 7 but was experienced enough to allow the opening bowlers a few tight overs before opening up as the innings progressed.

It was only the seventh time in his 343-match career that Jayawardene had opened the batting but he now has three hundreds in that position. In this series Upul Tharanga is absent due to serving a doping ban and Jayasuriya has now retired after the opening match. However, as Jayawardene has shown in Twenty20 cricket, it's a position that fits well with his natural game of building an innings and he is likely to get the job on a more full-time capacity.

"We are looking to have Mahela open for us on a permanent basis," Dilshan said. "But he wants to play for another three or four years so may need to be rested for some matches which means we'll need to rotate players. We have about four openers who we can rotate which will allow us to give other people a chance."

Jayawardene hit 14 boundaries but didn't clear the ropes, a clear sign of how progressing at a run-a-ball can be achieved by manipulating the field. Cook, who is trying to develop as a one-day opener, should keep a copy of this innings as reassurance of how traditional batting still has an important role to play. At the moment, though, the England captain will be hoping he doesn't get another first-hand example in this series.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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