Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st Test, Galle, 2nd day June 23, 2012

'There are bigger things than getting out or not out on 199'

Kumar Sangakkara's nine-hour innings ended with him being stranded on 199. He was angry then, but cooled off soon enough

Kumar Sangakkara refused to articulate what had gone through his mind as he stormed back to the pavilion. "I don't think I can tell you," he said, and burst out laughing. He had had enough time to cool off and gather his thoughts by the time he was asked to relive his 562-minute innings.

He wasn't laughing, though, when he watched Sri Lanka's No. 11, Nuwan Pradeep, get bowled by Mohammad Hafeez's offbreak. Sangakkara had become only the second batsman, after Andy Flower, to get stranded on 199 in Tests. Cricket, being such a numbers obsessed game, will probably remember his innings for the one run he didn't get, rather than the labour behind the 199 achieved in just under two days in sultry Galle.

At one stage, the scoreboard had indicated Sangakkara was one big hit away from 200. He obliged with a massive slog off Saeed Ajmal over deep midwicket and celebrated, only to be told he was actually one short. That scoreboard error, which had him on 194 instead of 193, fooled nearly everyone at the ground. Sangakkara's team-mates in the dressing room gesticulated wildly, suggesting his celebrations were premature, and he needed a few seconds for the embarrassment to settle.

Sangakkara had an opportunity to take the single off the last ball of the same over, but ended up pushing too hard to the cover fielder, thus exposing Pradeep in the following over. He admitted his adrenalin levels had dropped.

With wickets falling at the other end before tea, Sangakkara had had to farm the strike. The fielders were placed deep, so it was always going to be a slow graft in the energy-sapping heat. He didn't have much confidence in Rangana Herath and hence had to choose his singles wisely. When push came to shove, Sangakkara punched hard wide of long-off and rushed Herath for the second run. Umar Gul's throw to the bowler's end was too quick and accurate for Herath to make his ground. With only Pradeep for company, Sangakkara charged Hafeez but miscued the loft, only to be dropped by the bowler himself.

Sangakkara said there was no point beating himself up for what had happened. "I was thinking about getting as close as possible [to 200] so if I'm a shot away, I'll take that shot on," he said. "It was a case of trying to farm the strike with the tailenders, with the hope that we could get to a total of 500. I don't usually count until I'm six or seven short of where I want to be.

"The scoreboard showed 194 and so did the screen, so what can you do, that's life. It [the scorecard error] was an honest mistake. You've got to learn to live with disappointments. I'd rather be on 199 than 1 or 2 or 0."

There were references to his heroic 192 against Australia in Hobart, where he was denied a double-century due to an umpiring error, for which Rudi Koertzen apologised later. Sangakkara said experience had taught him to deal with such setbacks.

"You need to be on your own for five minutes, take a few deep breaths, calm yourself," he said. "It's strange how you change as a player. When you're young, you're angry and you throw the bat in the dressing room. Now, when you go back and take a breather, you realise there are bigger things than getting out or not out on 199. As long as you put everything in perspective, you'll be fine. You just have to stay calm.

"It's also my dad's birthday today, and he's been coaching me since I was 14 so I might not have to buy him a gift."

There was plenty to be satisfied about. During his unbeaten 199, Sangakkara became the quickest to 2000 Test runs against a single opponent, reaching the milestone in 26 innings. He was faster than Sunil Gavaskar (28 innings v West Indies), Brian Lara (28 v England) and Don Bradman (29 v England).

Sangakkara has been Pakistan's nemesis from the first time he took guard against them in Lahore, during the Asian Test Championship final in 2002. His 230 set up Sri Lanka's win. His other massive scores against Pakistan include a 185 in Colombo in 2006 and 211 in Abu Dhabi last year.

He rates his Lahore knock his best. "That attack on a greener Lahore pitch was definitely better than this as I played against Shoaib [Akhtar], [Mohammad] Sami, [Abdul] Razzaq and Waqar [Younis]. That always sticks in my memory as my best against Pakistan."

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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