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August 8, 2006
Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene heaved a sigh of relief after his team had beaten South Africa by one wicket in a nail-biting finish to win the second Test played in Colombo.
Jayawardene who led the run chase with a scintillating century fell for 123 with his team 11 runs shy of the target of 352. It was finally left to the last pair Farveez Maharoof (29) and Lasith Malinga (1) to see Sri Lanka through and with it achieve a 2-0 series victory.
"By far this was one of the best Test matches I have been involved in. I've lost a few hairs on my head and a couple of nails. It was definitely not a boring Test match. It was brilliant one," said Jayawardene.
Describing the tension in the dressing room after he got out, Jayawardene said, "We were very nervous when Murali got out. But Maharoof showed a lot of character for a young allrounder and batted really well.
"When I got out I was definitely disappointed because I wanted to be there at the end to finish it off. It was a bit careless of me to play a shot like that and get out because I had done so much of hard work.
"When you are chasing a big score and you get really close you don't want to spoil everything by not getting there. That's why the last 15 runs were huge for us. It was like trying to score 150."
Jayawardene praised the role Prasanna Jayawardene played with his knock of 30 out in a valuable stand of 78 for the sixth wicket.
"When he came to bat with me, he took the initiative, rotated the strike and played his shots. You have to give credit to guys like him who do all the small work or what you called dirty work for the team," he said.
"We never gave up from the third day onwards. When we were pushed to the wall we had to do something special which we did and chase a record score for Sri Lanka. We haven't chased this much before. Hopefully we can take this forward."
Viewing the progress his team has made in the past ten months, Jayawardene said, "A lot of hard work is being done by the support staff. The guys are working very hard. When you do that the results will definitely show. It just didn't happen overnight."
Jayawardene became only the fifth batsman to make over 500 runs in a two-Test series after Wally Hammond, Sanath Jayasuriya, Andy Flower and Matthew Hayden. He said he didn't want to categorise his hundred or call it his best. The last few big hundreds I made I managed to get the side into winning positions to win matches," he said.
Ashwell Prince, South Africa's first coloured Test captain, couldn't hide his disappointment after his team had come so close to pulling off a dramatic victory. "Coming so close and not drawing level in the series is a bit of a disappointment. The biggest thing that I got is 100 percent support from everybody else. The guys knew we were missing some big players and we all had to pull together and that's what happened," said Prince.
"I said to the boys at lunch you never know if we get a quick wicket after lunch we could get the last three for less than 10 runs because there was a lot of rough up there and with Muralitharan being the last guy anything can happen," continued Prince. "That time there is a lot of pressure. You don't want to make a mistake and you don't want to play any big shots."
"Nicky [Boje] created enough chances out there. He took four wickets and a few chances went down off his bowling. It's hard to criticise him," he said.
Prince said the way his team played in the first Test and in this Test showed they had improved a lot. "We got more used to the conditions and if we had taken a few chances that came our way we could have won the match."
South Africa were handicapped in their attempts by a hamstring injury to their strike bowler Makhaya Ntini who did not take the field on the final day. "We tried to keep Makhaya on the ground yesterday afternoon if the new ball becomes available so that he could take it. We were hoping that with some treatment he would pull through. Unfortunately he still had a niggle," said Prince.
The South African captain rated Sri Lanka as "a very good side playing in their conditions" and rated Muralitharan as a "world beater".
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?