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December 17, 2007
Mahela Jayawardene has said the motivation to win the final Test against England starting Tuesday in Galle is to move up to the No. 2 spot in the ICC Test team rankings. Sri Lanka are leading the three-Test series 1-0.
"We haven't been there [No. 2] for quite some time and I can't remember when we were there last," Jayawardene said. "It's a very good incentive for us to go out there and play our best cricket and win this Test."
Sri Lanka are currently at fifth place in the rankings, with four points less than Nos. 3 and 4, South Africa and India, who have 109 each. Jaywardene said his side had been performing consistently and had beaten the top teams of the world, home and away. "We haven't stopped from there, but we improved on it. We got a younger group of players who are coming through. We need to guide them and make sure we push forward."
Out of 21 Tests they have played in the last two years, starting from the series in India in December 2005, Sri Lanka have won 10 and lost seven. Six of the ten wins have come at home. During this period they have won three series, two in Sri Lanka and one in Bangladesh.
Jayawardene's own record in Galle is impressive. He scored his maiden Test hundred here and has three centuries and six half-centuries from 11 matches at the venue. In the last Test he played here in 2004, before the tsunami devastated Sri Lanka, he made 237 in a draw against South Africa.
"It's an emotional comeback. We've seen the changes that have taken place three years after the tsunami. There are a lot of memories on this ground and a lot of people who probably have seen us play here three years ago are not with us. We have moved forward very well after the tsunami and made a lot of leaps and bounds in their lives as well. It's a celebration moment to come back here and play a Test match. It's been a historical venue for us over a period. I am very happy to be here and play another Test, hopefully we'll have new fans."
Jayawardene said he would wait until tomorrow to finalise the XI. "We fairly have an idea what the wicket could do. Usually the square tends to have some bounce we have a fairly good idea of what we want to do. Around 9AM to 9.15AM the ball was doing a bit, but once it got dried up it was playing really well, the odd one would do a bit because of the dampness."
He confirmed that Tillakaratne Dilshan, who replaced Jehan Mubarak in the squad, will bat at No. 6 and was not too worried about the toss result. If you can really knuckle down in tough situations and get the advantage going for you, you should be able to turn things around, like we did in Kandy."