Mahela Jayawardene
Sri Lanka's captain and leading Test run scorer

Didn't want to jeopardise our hard work

Mahela Jayawardene on why Sri Lanka decided to settle for a draw in Pallekele, and the factors that helped his side beat Pakistan

Mahela Jayawardene

July 14, 2012

Comments: 40 | Text size: A | A

Mahela Jayawardene with the series title, Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Pallekele, 5th day, July 12, 2012
Mahela Jayawardene: "Nobody gave us a chance." © AFP

Some people have argued that we weren't ambitious enough to push for a win in the Pallekele Test to seal the series 2-0 instead of 1-0. We would have loved to finish with a memorable victory, but unfortunately that was not possible in the end. Nevertheless, we came out on top against Pakistan, who had beaten the No.1 Test side in the world (England) 3-0, by playing positive cricket in tough situations. Nobody gave us a chance, even in the one-day series. I still remember the press conference at the start of the series, when a couple of Pakistan journalists asked Misbah-ul-Haq if they were going to win the series 3-0, 3-1 or 4-1. Even before the Test series nobody gave us a chance.

Our mindset was to win but 270 is always a challenging target. We told the openers to bat positively. Tharanga Paranavitana batted with intent. We always knew that if it didn't materialise, we could always fall on our backup plan and save the game. We had asked Dinesh Chandinal to play his natural game. As soon as he did that, Pakistan went on the defensive. We batted really well until tea, but Chandimal suffered a brain freeze. We still had 30 odd overs left with around four and a half runs per over needed. Importantly, we couldn't lose too many wickets because we had to get into a position where we could accelerate. It was important for me to bat those ten overs with Kumar (Sangakkara), and when the rate increased to more than five an over with 23-24 overs remaining we thought we could push it.

When I went to bat, the idea was to play at least ten overs without losing wicket. But we failed to rotate the strike because Pakistan bowled really well. When they set negative fields, we decided not to risk it either. They were 0-1 down and everything to play for. If we had needed around 90 runs at just under six an over, we would have promoted Thisara Perera. When you are up against a quality bowling attack like Pakistan's, if you give them a sniff, they could run through the batting. We had to ensure we cut out unnecessary risks, because we played close to 15 days of grueling Test cricket.

I don't want to argue with armchair critics who give their views on what we should or shouldn't have done. I had to make a decision for millions in Sri Lanka who haven't experienced a Test series win for nearly three years Mahela Jayawardene

We had done a lot to get to the position that we were in. I don't want to argue with armchair critics who give their views on what we should or shouldn't have done. I had to make a decision for millions in Sri Lanka who haven't experienced a Test series win for nearly three years. When I took over as captain, my job was to get the ship back on track. Slowly but surely, we are winning matches, executing our game plans and a young team is taking greater responsibility. I didn't want to rattle that because of what a few people want me to do. Obviously, common sense prevailed. I didn't want to jeopardise the hard work put in by this bunch for an hour and a half of Twenty20 cricket.

Pakistan, to their credit, batted really well on the fifth day. The way the two youngsters, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq batted, was commendable.

There were several factors that clinched the series for us. Over the last few months, we've been trying hard to get that winning mentality back. If you see the two bowling attacks, there was a gulf. Pakistan's was much more experienced and talented. We had injuries to the seamers Chanaka Welegedera and Suranga Lakmal before the Tests began so I had to work with the bowlers we had. Rangana Herath and Nuwan Kulasekara hadn't played Test cricket for some time. We had to come up with a different game plan on different surfaces. Our batsmen were put under pressure by their bowlers in certain situations and I thought they did well.

The way we handled Saeed Ajmal was a key factor. We didn't give him too many opportunities. He dominates teams more often than not, taking in excess of 20 wickets in a three-Test series, but he took 15 against us. A few of those were our tailenders, not our main batsmen. Junaid Khan is a much-improved young bowler and he troubled most of our top batsmen.

Regarding the state of our middle order, I wouldn't want to tinker too much with the Test line-up. We go to Australia at the end of the year. If we are going in with an inexperienced bowling unit, we need to balance it with an experienced batting group. I thought Thilan Samaraweera's role was crucial in this Test. He handled the swinging ball well and had a strong stand with Paranavitana, which set the platform for Thisara to attack. He hit two centuries in South Africa in very tough situations. We are trying to be flexible with Dinesh Chandimal, using him in different batting positions whenever necessary. We should let time decide, rather than rushing into anything drastic.

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

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Posted by applethief on (July 17, 2012, 18:51 GMT)

@Sinhaya No idea what you're on about mate. Have you forgotten what happens to your side when you get a dozen decisions go against you? I'll explain - it makes the opposition look "destined" to win. Average cricket + medicore umpiring handed SL the series win, simple as that

Posted by   on (July 17, 2012, 5:51 GMT)

we needed a series win desperately but we should have tried bit more. at least should have sent thisara and see

Posted by   on (July 17, 2012, 3:12 GMT)

You are a such good leader... Go ahead with your own way.. If we lost the 3rd test ..critics would have been so different.... Team SL need a great captain like you.. armchair critics will never come to an end..& useful .. A tough series (India) ahead us.. Get ready ur Boys and be on the winning way.. Cheers

Posted by randikaayya on (July 16, 2012, 10:46 GMT)

@maddy20: Being quite the expert you've rationalized 270 as being just over 250 and chasing that at 4.5 runs an over should have been achieved with ease in home conditions.. Can you point out other such occasions from the illustrious and long history of test cricket? TEST CRICKET? No you cannot. This being the last day of a long long series, having already won it, I wouldn't blame Mahela for playing it safe a bit. I was dissapointed yes, but I will trust his judgement on the course to take the SL team over mine or yours anyday of the week

Posted by satish619chandar on (July 16, 2012, 10:35 GMT)

Am not sure what makes Mahela say this.. He just hampered his own reputations.. Yes it is a fifth day pitch but a played like a second or third day one.. Plus, they were in very comfortable position by tea and had some of big hitters who proved in shorter format and also some guys who can shut shop later if the aggressive approach fails and saves the game.. It would have been a risk worth taken.. Personally thought Mahela missed a trick..

Posted by   on (July 16, 2012, 9:41 GMT)

@ Sandun very few people remember Cardiff - as i remember what happened there I agree that the approach SL took was the right one.

Posted by VarunaRatnaweera on (July 16, 2012, 8:31 GMT)

Congratulations to Mahela for leading the team to this series win. The way you have explained your decision to give up on chasing that target is admirable. The hopes of millions in Sri Lanka against one and half hours of entertaining but risky cricket. Lets move on. Wish you and the team all the very best in the series against India

Posted by maddy20 on (July 16, 2012, 7:15 GMT)

If you cannot chase a little over 250 at 4 runs per over on your home turf, then you have to make silly excuses like this to save face.

Posted by   on (July 16, 2012, 6:07 GMT)

defensive skipper...they rare happy in draw...

Posted by sAiyAnstAr on (July 16, 2012, 5:15 GMT)

Excellent article, especially putting us mere spectators into perspective. We aren't out in the middle, the "what if's" are just that, they are what if. What if they did this, or what if they did that. In the end, the series was won, our first ever since Murali departed. That in itself is an achievement. Sri Lanka went in as the underdogs, and prevailed in both true forms of the game. Sri Lanka is slowly building, and I can't wait to watch them when they come out here to Australia. There is a big chance that they can win the series. They are no longer the sub-continent specialists, and the last one day series here proved that they can play on bouncier wickets. Chandimal will have a good series here, he seemed to have loved the bounce and pace that the Aussies bowled at him. Then when he went back to the low, slow pitches of Sri Lanka he struggled. Interesting few months coming up for Sri Lanka, indeed.

Posted by Tusker17 on (July 16, 2012, 2:56 GMT)

Oh by the way, Mr. Jayawadena should know better than calling SL cricket fans who constructively critise him as "arm chair critics" Those so called arm chair critics are the fans and without them cricket wouldnt exist. After all the team belongs to all Sri Lankans and its also not like Mr. Jayawardena the great gets everything right all the time. 2nd test at the SSC was a classic example !

Posted by   on (July 15, 2012, 23:29 GMT)

Well said Captian Jayawardene. As they say in the US, "Monday night quarterbacking" which is the same as us "arm chair pundits", love to be experts. You and your experienced team knew what you were up against; ypou knew the game; you knew the pitch and you knew Pakistan's deadly attack better than any of us. Well done for winning a tough series. In the record books that is all that matters. But above all for the diehard Sri Lankan fans across the world, who support SL whether you win or lose, winning I must is better and thank you to you,Sanga, Thisara, and a host of others for engineering this series win and winning the ODIs as well. I watched the second T20 in Hambantota at the impressive new Stadium and was a bit disappointed at the loss but this is far better. Thank you for always being a class act a gentleman of the game.

Posted by yorkslanka on (July 15, 2012, 21:10 GMT)

absolutely agree 100% with you Mahela, your job as captain is to get us winning series again and there was no need to risk that in any way to try and get a 2-0 rather than 1-0.. its still a series win..well done and good luck for the same series result versus India..

Posted by AjayB on (July 15, 2012, 18:25 GMT)

There is a simple reason he is the captain. Mahela is the best person to lead the team. The arm chair critics do not really add value most of the times by questioning every single decision every time. Most of their comments are a waste of space, but in this internet era where a GB of space is less than a dime, we will get opinions aplenty. Mahela did the right thing, because he was entrusted with leading the team and making decisions. Nature of test cricket is different in that it allows for a draw. People should understand that test cricket is a test of one's skills and nous and temperament. When you mix these three in the right proportion and have the right team is what leads to a win or a draw. A draw with being in front, is as honorable as a win. The arm-chair critics should understand that a series win is more important than mind-less bludgeoning in test cricket. Mahela did it right, as it was his right to do so.

Posted by playitstraight on (July 15, 2012, 17:15 GMT)

Guys, please chill out. Read the full article before commenting, otherwise don't comment. MJ says that he was looking to just bat and keep wickets in hand for 10 wickets, and then counter-attack. It may be wrong in the eyes of some, but I as an Indian fan, know that it was a good move. Unfortunately, it failed as MJ got out, but he did try. Dhoni, Mahela, and even Clarke are all risk-taking captains, that's why they may lose, but they win more often than not.

Posted by NALINWIJ on (July 15, 2012, 14:14 GMT)

There are many examples of India playing out a tame draw but SL did go for a win and Pakistan did the right thing by keeping it tight with defensive fields and Ajmal picked wickets and after the dismissals of Jayawardene and Samaraweera they chose to salvage a draw and win the series. Pakistan to their credit did earn the draw!!!

Posted by   on (July 15, 2012, 12:25 GMT)

what happened in 1st test in cardiff?i think what mj did is exactly right thing.

Posted by   on (July 15, 2012, 11:37 GMT)

"I don't want to argue with armchair critics who give their views on what we should or shouldn't have done. I had to make a decision for millions in Sri Lanka who haven't experienced a Test series win for nearly three years " so true and well done..Keep the good work up guys..

Posted by MurVis on (July 15, 2012, 10:33 GMT)

As an Indian fan, I feel that most subcontinental fans dont respect risk-taking captains enough that they are encouraged to go for a win. Adding to that people queue up to criticise and throw stones/slippers for any loss irrespective of how close the match was....

Posted by nipo10847 on (July 15, 2012, 5:22 GMT)

Funny how kids nowadays watch T20 and think test matches should be approached like T20. No wonder why I have always thought it would be cancerous for cricket. I can't believe someone really said winning a test series doesn't mean anything special...WoW! Anyways, Mahela is one of the most dynamic, shrewd, and smartest captains of all time. Cricket history has seen only a few tacticians like Mahela. He knows his job better anyone else on the planet.

Posted by   on (July 15, 2012, 5:05 GMT)

if i had to meet mahela i will straight forward say to mahela we lost the third test on the 5th day of the 1st seassion coz had we put pressure on pakistan 1st up in the morning seassion and got the last 2 wickets for a total of less than 350 lankans would have won for sure and thissara perera should have been sent at number 3 to go for the attack coz nothing to lose its all about trying to win and fine had thissara got out going for the hots we should have been happy to step back and go for a draw and finally its better to have tried and failed rather to have failed without trying.we are sri lankan cricket supporters and we all love sri lanka cricket win or lose but sometimes the supporters have there own knowledge too of the game been passionate of sri lanka cricket,its not about arm chair critics its about discussing among our friends and collegues asking at each other if only lankans have gone for a win, if only thissara had been promoted top the order to go for shots coz a quick

Posted by Sinhaya on (July 15, 2012, 3:14 GMT)

@jimmy2s and Tanvir Iqbal, we were by all means destined to win at Galle. Sangakkara never got any reprieves. Pakistani batting was the worse in Galle of all the 3 tests. Please admit Pakistani fielding also cost the 3rd test. Sri Lanka were clearly the better side. We have beaten you all 6 times before in test matches in Pakistan so nothing can stop us from beating Pakistan in our soil.

Posted by mohanan on (July 15, 2012, 2:52 GMT)

Well, Well, It is all about the series win then. But, I would like to consider every game separate and play to win it. There is something we need to understand: A 50 is not very different from 49. 50 is just another number as 49. But people have this thing in their heads that 50s are something special. Just like that, a series win has nothing special in it. You have to take it game by game.

Posted by Ramansilva on (July 15, 2012, 2:38 GMT)

Mahela is always praised as a good captain. However, he is nowhere near Arjuna Rantunga when it comes to take bold decision. Arjuna would have asked his team to chase the gettable target.

Posted by Maamlotia on (July 15, 2012, 2:25 GMT)

First of all I am a Pakistani. I would agree with Jayawardene. Most critics are "armchair" versions and have no idea of the "on the field" scene. Sri Lanka did try to press for victory but one has to realise the opposition is not just waiting. Pakistan is a strong side and had a few more wickets fallen in the chase Sri Lanka would have faced defeat also. A lot has been spoken about umpiring but these all even out in the long run and are part and parcel of the game. Every team has had their good and bad days so that can be no reason for victory or defeat. In the end the better side won on that day. Well played Sri Lanka

Posted by   on (July 15, 2012, 2:02 GMT)

So he meant to say Pakistan was better side, but out of luck, because given a break from bad umpiring and the rain abandoned days they would have leveled the series? those were the two biggest reason Pakistan was unsuccessful during this tour. To me Sri Lanka did not win neither did Pakistan, but the rain and umpires. Not to be taken wrong, if Pakistan isn't playing Sri Lanka is my favorite team in the world. Yet Sri Lanka deserve better captain looking at the results and decisions made.

Posted by True_SriLankan on (July 15, 2012, 1:34 GMT)

Congrats Mahela and Sri Lanka! It's not our fault that Umpires made the wrong decisions. If Pakistan had won the first test, we would have fought hard to win the other 2. After winning the first test, all we had to do to win the series is, not let Pakistan win the other 2. Look at the whole series and you will agree that Sri Lanka was the better side. Pakistan was under pressure many times. We got the job done and that's what counts! We will win more series in the near future. We bat until #10, have good bowlers and a great captain! Pakistan are our good friends and wish you good luck!

Posted by Chrishan on (July 15, 2012, 1:17 GMT)

MJ is full of talk! How can there be 15 days of gruelling cricket when rain washed out most of the 2nd Test? The bottom line is that SL was very lucky in winning this Test series. Umpire decisions helped SL win the 1st test and rain helped SL draw the 2nd test. Pakistan was very unlucky! I was shocked to see SL settle for a draw after a fantastic start to the chase. This is why we will never be a great Test side, unlike Australia, South Africa and now England who have that killer instinct.

Posted by MaheshND on (July 14, 2012, 23:10 GMT)

I believe that Mahela's decision is correct. We can watch the match taking a seat. But they had to bat at the 5th day and to score 270 from 71 overs. We can see it as a easier one but taking a risk, loose the match??? Then someone can say that Sri Lanka lose the match as well as the Seires because of poor batting...They are human beings, aren't they?

Posted by Shehanrk on (July 14, 2012, 22:05 GMT)

Mahela is anyway a really negative captain when it comes to test matches. Ardent fans would have loved to have had an aggressive captain like Ranatunga who would have gone after the target even with 8-9 wickets down.

In the end it's the umpires who won the series for SL...

Posted by   on (July 14, 2012, 21:09 GMT)

If there was a DRS in the series the result might be 100% different....One bad decision can cause a match to a team and in 1st test there are more then 10 decision going against pak.... so the win was quite obvious in these circumstances...

Posted by Tusker17 on (July 14, 2012, 21:00 GMT)

.....a piece of paper or read media reports.

By then you had the world's one no. batsman on 74 n.o and our future captain at the crease. Plus we had Prasanna, Thisara and Kule. If you think they cant get the job done then they should'nt be playing cricket at the highest level.

By the way I still think Chandhimal is better captaincy material than Mathews !

This was'nt the World Cup of Test Cricket Finals ! GAMES HAVE TO BE WON - AND WON - PERIOD !!!!!!

From an "Arm Chair Critic" and Yes I do know what the "corking" is and what the "V" position is on a bat grip ! Thank you.

Posted by Tusker17 on (July 14, 2012, 20:43 GMT)

Winning a series will eventually boil down to just a score line like 2-0 or 1-1.

What matters is winning that respective game. Keeping the spirit up. Keeping the winning ways going. Building momentum & encouraging positivity. This is a very negative example being set for the younger lot.

This was by no means an impossible target & nor were we in any danger of being bowled out & if you think that just by exposing your middle to lower-middle order to pakistan is a great danger well then you should expose it, assess its flaws & fix it. Hiding it will not fix anything. What you did during the 2 previous games is immaterial.

That respective game has to be won, that respective challenge has to be met and that respective "potential win" was made "lost" to millions of Sri Lankans by adopting Band-aid type negative mentality!

The great teams of yesteryear like the W - Indians & the Aussies played every game to win it. Not to go back to the dressing room & see the score line on....

Posted by AdrianVanDenStael on (July 14, 2012, 19:00 GMT)

I wouldn't argue with Jayawardene's captaincy on the last day. I think he is right that this is a big step forward for Sri Lanka that was worth protecting; it's their first test series victory post-Murali, and a victory against a very tough opponent (now ranked no.4 in the world, when immediately after Murali's retirement Sri Lanka failed to beat the West Indies, the no.7 team in the world, in a home series). I would however criticise the way he batted on that last day; having decided to shut up shop, Jayawardene still got out when there was work to do to save the match. Perhaps if he'd batted in a more characteristic mode, with a more attacking mindset, he wouldn't have got out? Either way, Jayawardene is a great batsman and has been a great servant for Sri Lanka, but that's exactly why one might expect better of him.

Posted by applethief on (July 14, 2012, 18:35 GMT)

"There were several factors that clinched the series for us." Some on MJ, when you're talking about what clinched the series, there's something pretty obvious missing here. Here's a hint - it's what gave you the only win in the series.

Posted by   on (July 14, 2012, 18:32 GMT)


Posted by   on (July 14, 2012, 18:27 GMT)

That even Pakistan captain Misbah was caught off guard by early finish in this Test was telling. "Chasing 270 in 71 overs is not an easy task, but after the start [Sri Lanka got] and being 150 for 2, and when you need less than four an over, that was the time they could have taken the game away from us," Misbah said. "I was really surprised they put the shutters down and never tried to go for the runs. I don't know what happened … the way the wicket was behaving, scoring was really easy on it, they could have gone for the target."

Posted by   on (July 14, 2012, 18:20 GMT)

M J MAGIC : Even after the fine start given by young gun Chandimal, and even with Sanga well settled, with 8 wickets in hand, the captain refused chase a reachable target, killing 40 deliveries for his 11 runs. Patheitc

Posted by amilag on (July 14, 2012, 17:06 GMT)

Totally agree with Mahela! Captain Cool!

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (July 14, 2012, 17:05 GMT)

Good decision in the end. You never want to risk something, especially against a team like Pakistan. If you look throughout history, Pakistan has always done last minute bursts against Sri Lanka. The main thing was the series win,

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Mahela JayawardeneClose
Mahela Jayawardene Elegant and prolific, Mahela Jayawardene is easily one of the best batsmen around. By a fair margin he is the highest run-getter for Sri Lanka, and on his way to becoming an all-time great. His excellent slip catching, and sharp captaincy - until early in 2009 - made him a big contributor to Sri Lanka's cause. He and Kumar Sangakkara hold the world record for the highest partnership in Tests, 624 for the third wicket, against South Africa in Colombo. Jayawardene is one of cricket's gentlemen: well-mannered, humble, intelligent and articulate.

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