'I am happy with what I have achieved' - Jayawardene
Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene hid his disappointment at not being able to pass West Indian batting great Brian Lara's highest individual score of 400 by focussing on becoming the first pair (with Kumar Sangakkara) to share a 600-run partnership in Test cricket.
In an eventful third day of the first Test against South Africa in Colombo, Jayawardene became the highest scorer for Sri Lanka in Test cricket with an innings of 374 which surpassed Sanath Jayasuriya's score of 340. He also put on a monumental 624-runs partnership with Sangakkara for the third wicket which was a world record for any wicket in Test and first-class cricket. Both batsmen went onto make their career best scores with Sangakkara scoring 287.
On overhauling Jayasuriya's record, Jayawardene said: "I am proud to pass Sanath's record. He is a great cricketer. It is something everyone wants to have. I am delighted. One day somebody will come and break this record as well. Right now I have it and it's a nice feeling. The disappointment is that I didn't get the 400. But what I have achieved I am very satisfied."
Jayawardene who came to bat 41 minutes after tea on the first day was eventually out an hour and six minutes after tea on the third day. He showed great resolve and concentration in a chanceless display in batting for 762 minutes (572 balls). At the end of his marathon tenure Jayawardene said that he was still fresh to carry on batting.
"I was tired yesterday but today I was much fresh. I don't know why but I wasn't feeling physically or mentally exhausted today. When I got back into the dressing room I let everything go and then I started to feel the soreness, muscle cramps and things like that," said Jayawardene.
"Even at the time I got out I was very well focused with the job in hand and it was a very good delivery. Once you bat for two days you tend to drain out a bit but I wasn't really tired. I am lucky I got that delivery (from Nel) when I was on 374 and not when I was 10 or 12. You can't complain that's cricket."
Jayawardene said that when they resumed on the third day their focus was to put the advantage they already had beyond reach of the South Africans. "We batted till lunch which was brilliant. We set ourselves targets and got 100 runs and there onwards we were getting to what we wanted for a 500 runs lead. After that we carried on," he said.
"We never had any individual targets. But when you are batting so well and going through the motions you tend to get those runs. I am very happy to have those milestones. At the end of the day what matters is the team is in a very good position. If we can push forward we can get a win.
"Tom [Moody] and I had a chat at lunch. We wanted to have a plan. It wasn't about individual records. Tom said let's bat till tea and see where both of us are and let's make a decision. When I came for tea I was something like 357. He said go for it, you won't get an opportunity like this. We've got enough time in hand. Whether I got there or not I am pretty happy with what I've done. Brian has set a score which is not easy to break. One day somebody will."
On becoming the first pair of batsmen to share a 600-plus partnership in Test cricket, Jayawardene said: "I was very happy, the feeling was fantastic. We are good mates and it's a pleasure to have the company of Kumar at the other side when we achieved that."
Jayawardene's partner Sangakkara said: "Mahela batted brilliantly and everyone was disappointed for him that he couldn't get that 400 mark. We realized that (600 runs partnership) once the four byes went. It's a great feeling to have done something which no one has done before. That's what records are there for to inspire you and break them.
"My priority was to bat with Mahela and see how far I could go. Once I got to 280 to be honest I was thinking of passing 300. But it was not to be. I have got more Test matches and effort in me to keep going and doing it. It's a matter of going out there and doing the hard work and scoring as many runs as possible. At the end of my career I want to look back and feel that I have contributed something to Sri Lanka cricket."
Coach Tom Moody said neither the team nor the players were focused on Lara's record but they were focused on making sure they had a substantial advantage going into South Africa's second innings. "It just happened to be that we had two players who achieved an amazing thing out there yesterday and today to get us into a good position.
"As I said to Mahela at tea time he had already achieved something amazing in passing Sanath's record which was incredible at 340, he was close enough to have a crack at Brian's record. If it wasn't going to happen so be it."
Referring to the record partnership Moody said: "These guys have a lot of cricket left in them they will have another opportunity. They have shown that as cricketers they can bat for a long time and they've got the hunger and the determination.
"Both Sanga and Mahela are players who like to bat for long periods of time. It was a pleasing thing from my point of view as coach because we talk about batting in pairs at a time, about batsmen capitalising and getting exposed, about getting big hundreds. This pair has taken it to the extreme and given the team a great opportunity to go into the second Test match one up."
Left-arm spinner Nicky Boje who returned the worst figures by a South African bowler in Test history when he went wicketless for 221 runs off 65 overs said: "I've bowled worse in my life and taken five wickets. I actually felt that I bowled quite nicely here and there's been no reward for it. It's hard if you bowl 65 overs and you don't take a wicket. The wicket is so good. It's not a normal wicket where the whole area breaks up.
"But you can't take it away from Sangakkara and Jayewardene. They played awesome cricket and batted quite well. They just kept scoring runs all the time. If you feel as fielder and as a bowler you get tired, as a batter you get tired as well. To bat that long time out there in the heat the whole time with the helmet on your head, pads, thigh pads everything it was good going by them."
Boje said the two Sri Lankan batters had shown what concentration is and South African batsmen would have to come close to emulating them in the remaining two days if they are to save the Test.