March 31, 2012

As a captain, you love to be challenged

The win against England didn't come easy for Sri Lanka; which made it that much more special

Having had time to reflect on our victory in the first Test it feels even more special. We knew how important the opening match of a short series would be, and it was a huge challenge to take on the No. 1 team having not had much preparation because we were coming straight from the Asia Cup. There is a sense of relief that it didn't cost us, but we had to dig very deep and it's credit to all the players for the work they put in in the days before the match.

We made a few mistakes, but probably fewer than England. Good teams capitalise on mistakes, so you have to keep them to a minimum.

I thought we won the crucial moments. We managed to get a decent score on the board in the first innings and then bowled them out cheaply while the pitch was still good. When we collapsed again in the second innings, we managed to get some good partnerships from the lower order, which proved vital. The extra 60-70 runs we had was the difference.

I was delighted to make a significant contribution to the victory, and my hundred in the first innings will certainly go down as one of my best. When I look back on my centuries it's the ones that contribute to victory I savour the most. You can score doubles or triples, but if you do not win the game it does not feel as great. This time we were in trouble when I came in and we really had to pull ourselves through. But it wasn't just me. I could not have done it without help from the lower order; credit should also go to them. It was a good team effort. Even some of the guys who didn't do well with the bat pulled off fantastic catches, which were just as important.

Since Murali retired we have had to adapt to how we play Test cricket. It has taken time but I think we are making some real progress. We now need to squeeze every last run we can out of the lower order, which is why their performance in this Test was so pleasing. Everyone understands the value of their wicket and that they can have an impact. There is added responsibility on each player; bowlers need to score runs and in the field everyone needs to work that little bit harder do get us through. We have put in a lot of hard work and it's starting to pay off. As a unit we will improve.

Having a bowler like Murali certainly made captaincy easier, but I am really enjoying the challenge in front of me. It motivates me. As a captain you love to be challenged. You need to have a game plan and ensure your bowlers stick to it. Sometimes it will work and sometimes it won't. I hadn't captained the team for a long time and touring Australia was a great challenge, and that helped me during the first Test.

I know people were discussing the tactics I used in the second innings by putting fielders deep to cut off the boundaries. If we had lost I would probably have been criticised for being defensive, but I couldn't let the game run away from us

I knew I had Rangana [Herath] as my most experienced bowler and I spoke to him before the match to tell him there would be a lot of responsibility on his shoulders but that he had to enjoy it. I said that whatever happened, whether we won, lost or drew, he needed to enjoy the contest and not put too much pressure on himself. He responded wonderfully. Suraj Randiv also did a great job. He has been in and out of the side of the last 12 months and this will give him a lot of confidence. It's tough in our conditions for fast bowlers, but Chanaka Welegedara and Suranga Lakmal ran in all the time. Overall I'm quite happy with what I've got and the challenge it gives me.

I know people were discussing the tactics I used in the second innings by putting fielders deep to cut off the boundaries. If we had lost I would probably have been criticised for being defensive, but I couldn't let the game run away from us, especially when there was an attacking batsman like Matt Prior in the middle. We had also dropped a couple of chances earlier; if we had taken them I would have been able to attack for longer.

Although the bowlers dominated the match it was a good pitch, and when the ball got softer, around the 60-over mark, it became tough to take wickets. I needed to buy us some time before the new ball, which I knew would create more chances, and so it proved. Jonathan Trott played superbly, but he's not an attacking batsman, so I wanted to try to dry him up for as long as possible. It was a wonderful innings from him, but I always knew we'd get a chance.

We are very confident going into the second Test but know we have to improve. We certainly didn't play the perfect game. It will be a historic occasion at the P Sara Oval next week, the ground where Sri Lanka played their first Test 30 years ago. However, it's not just about the last 30 years but the many years before that, when cricket was so important to Sri Lanka and for all the cricketers who played for Ceylon, who helped put us where we are now. I'll be very proud to be on the field on Tuesday and even prouder if we can claim a series victory.

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene is the country's leading Test run-scorer

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