Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Galle, 4th day March 29, 2012

Jayawardene cherishes victory over England

ESPNcricinfo staff

Mahela Jayawardene's manner was as unassuming as ever, but he knew the importance of Sri Lanka's Test victory against England in Galle. "This was a big win," he said. "It's been a tough period for us."

Twenty months earlier, on the same ground, the ancient walls of the Dutch Fort were lit up by fireworks as Muttiah Muralitharan ended his Test career in momentous fashion, the first man to 800 Test wickets, achieved in Bollywood style: India's last pair at the crease, Sri Lanka's president on hand to bestow congratulations, and finally a catch at slip by Jayawardene himself to ensure a perfect finale.

At last, after this victory, their first on home soil since Murali's perfect send off, Jayawardene dared to imagine a bright future for Sri Lanka without the bowler who sustained them for a decade. "Any Test win is important, but to do it against the best side in the world is a moment to cherish," he said. "It's been tough for us to get things right but the boys worked really hard to improve as a team and today we showed a lot of character."

Jayawardene is a reluctant Sri Lanka captain, a respected performer who had contentedly handed the leadership over to his close friend, Kumar Sangakkara, only for Sangakkara to resign after Sri Lanka lost the World Cup final a year ago. The uncertain reign of Tillakaratne Dilshan was aggravated by Sri Lanka cricket's financial meltdown because of overspending on their World Cup. Not only was there no Murali, there was no money. After receiving requests from high places to come to the country's aid, Jayawardene realised that his leadership days were far from spent.

Sri Lankan cricket needed something in which people could show faith and that something was Jayawardene. Such faith was needed when England were 233 for 4, 108 short of victory. The new ball was six overs old and Sri Lanka's desperate need for their first home victory since the retirement of Murali was by no means certain to be answered. This time nobody had planned any fireworks.

"The England line-up is top class so we had to just wait patiently," Jayawardene said." After 60 overs the ball got really soft, there wasn't much for the bowlers with the slowness of the wicket so we had to wait for the second new ball. We tried to not give too many runs away so we had a comfort zone. We knew we'd be able to create more opportunities and that's what happened. There were a couple of really good catches to turn things around for us and then the bowlers took over."

Jayawardene's praise of Rangana Herath, his stock left-arm spinner, after he took six wickets in the first innings had been interpreted by some as a depiction of Herath as "the new Murali". Anybody who knows Jayawardene would recognise that was not his intention. The aim has been to give Herath a stable environment in which he can forget comparisons with Muralitharan and concentrate on reawakening his own more modest potential. Match figures of 12 for 171 suggested that mission has been accomplished and made him only the fifth Sri Lanka bowler to take 10 wickets in a Test: they have achieved it 27 times, but 22 of those were down to Murali.

"Herath has been around a long time and is a class act," Jayawardene said. "He's the most experienced bowler I have right now and he's taken responsibility not just here but away from home when he bowled us to victory in Durban. He's showing a lot of class and showed a lot of patience. We knew had to be patient and Rangana kept it going. It was a long spell for him but he kept on going and took crucial wickets for us. I'm very happy with the performance.

"We know England are very good opposition so we will cherish this one. It was a good challenge for us to go against the No. 1 team. We knew we had to work really hard to get a result from them so I'm quite happy with that. It gives us an idea of where we are right now and where we need to improve. Now need to maintain consistency.

"We can still improve overall. As a batting group we need to be more consistent and as bowlers all four guys need to chip in to get 20 wickets. We will never be the team where everything works. We have some youngsters in the side and they need to have time to develop. There is a lot of hard work to do over the next 6-12 months. We did not have a complete game, but very close to that."

Edited by David Hopps

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rajinda on March 30, 2012, 19:47 GMT

    @ITJOBSUCKS: Mahela was NEVER forced to quit the captaincy. True there were couple of series defeats towards the end of his reign, but he informed he'd step down after the PAK tour. SLC at the time asked him to reconsider, something a forced captain would not be asked. His reasons were a combination of few things. MJ is very shrewd on an off the field, can spot the change & read the game as well as realize certain media were after his head. He is also no fool to give in to political interference. Had he stayed longer he would have been kicked out like Marvan, the guy he replaced. So he took the opportunity to also let Kumar take over for the next WC. He was sure just as some of us were, that SL would realize his value after he gave up the captaincy, which they ultimately did. But don't be surprised if he gives it up just as easily after the 1 year he took it for, because unlike some he is not looking to stay on beyond his expiry date, which I believe may come within the next 2-3 years.

  • Max on March 30, 2012, 16:29 GMT

    Congratulations to all the players involved in this game. It was a really absorbing, see- sawing four days of cricket. Mahela's captaincy & batting, Trott's century & Herath's 12 wickets were quite exceptional. Outstanding advertisement for test cricket. SLC, please get your act together re-ticket prices!

    Stormy16, whilst I agree Dilshan did nothing with the bat, he took one exceptional catch & recovered well to take another catch on the second attempt. He is an outstanding fielder, whether it is catching, shying at the stumps or ground fielding. In fact it was the 3 really good catches (including Thirimanne's) that turned the tide for SL when England seemed fairly comfortably set for victory, with just 107 to get with 6 wickets in hand.

    Just a question for the selectors. Why don't you'll try Tharanga for the opening slot in test cricket too?

  • Neranjan on March 30, 2012, 13:48 GMT

    @ITJOBSUCKS ; defeat in 4 seasons might have counted for Mahelas step down from captaincy , but that's not the MAIN reason. The main reason is he had differences with the selection panel, and also the political handling of selection, which gave a wide media hype on how bad Mahela with his own performance. Mahela had enough with media coming after him, and realized it's not worth fighting a losing cause, with stupid people. Still now the same people are blaming him, and saying the wins in AUS is not that a greater achievement.. so I when ever he fails again, which cannot be avoided, he may well be dragged out by the "same" old gang.

  • Dinusha on March 30, 2012, 12:57 GMT

    @ Shan16966 - no beef with you , But you should go take up coaching indain team.

    and pls tell shewag to move his Feets in to possition .. Humm may be everytime he plays a shot :P

  • Robert on March 30, 2012, 10:24 GMT

    This is one of the more sensible comments I've seen by a victorious captain, shame he had to re-take the captaincy almost by force, but he's shown he's a man, and the right man for this job. Hondai, Mahela.

  • Ruwantha on March 30, 2012, 10:15 GMT

    ITJOBSUCKS : Mahela retired from his captaincy because he wanted to hand it over to his good friend Sangakara. Well here is a fact. Do I need to remind you why Manoj Prabakar was forced to retire? He couldn't handle the brutality from Sanath Jayasooriya! I really hope cricinfo post this because in any article some indian fan will post about INDIA when the article is not even about it INDIA!

  • Steve on March 30, 2012, 9:47 GMT

    Well done SL, and well done Mahela - the most respected and gentlemanly figure in the game.

  • Manesh on March 30, 2012, 9:36 GMT

    Poor England...they were just lucky to be no:1!

  • John on March 30, 2012, 9:05 GMT

    @Jared Hansen on (March 30 2012, 04:50 AM GMT) That's your opinion. Had Australia gone on to have a fantastic test record since that series I could go with you on that , but the fact that between the decent results vs SA and India they lost a home test/drawing the series against NZ. I'm not trying to pretend that we beat a great Aus side with Warne,Mcgrath etc - My response was purely to point out the facts that we have played Australia and SA to a commenter who decided to put loads of anti stuff about Eng only playing bad sides in our back yard

  • raj on March 30, 2012, 6:50 GMT

    Great win SL! WOW, LOOKS LIKE ENGLAND'S REIGN AT NUMBER 1 WILL BE SHORTER THAN INDIA'S!!! ;) As a matter of fact India's reign at number 1 is only second to Aust in RECENT times. SA was number 1 for only one series and lost the reverse series to Aust. Looks like England will last only two series. India was number 1 for 2 years! Not to take focus away from a great SL win though - SL is the team of the future!

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