Jayawardene retires from Test cricket August 17, 2014

A fitting swansong for Jayawardene

Mahela Jayawardene's farewell innings was not his most fluent, but at the end of it all, there was no wistful lingering or sentimentality - just a typically restrained acknowledgement of an exhilarating ride

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The farewell innings had not been perfect. At times in his career a Mahela Jayawardene hundred seemed almost inevitable at the SSC, but throughout his stay at the crease on day three and four, he was some way from his fluent best.

Still, he had endeavoured to deliver most of his vintage shots, mostly on day three. He had cover-driven Wahab Riaz, late cut Abdur Rehman and slog-swept Saeed Ajmal. The upper cut, the on-drive and the inside-out shot over cover had all been played with success, too.

Having gone to stumps yesterday on 49, an expectant crowd had come on a cloudy day to watch him make 50 at the very least. He defended his first four balls of the morning, then paddle-swept the fifth for four to reach the milestone. The crowd was on its feet. Firecrackers went off for well over a minute. But in the middle, Jayawardene had acknowledged the applause with typical restraint.

Moments earlier, Sangakkara had hit the two runs the pair had required to complete their 19th hundred-run stand, and, if nothing else, the SSC saw its heroes meet each other mid-pitch one final time for that familiar soul-brother handshake.

Sangakkara was out first on Sunday, and he waved his bat as he left the field - unusual, because he had scored only 58. Was he acknowledging the end of the great alliance with his friend? They finish second on the all-time list for batting pairs with 6554 runs together, but their average of 56.5 together is comfortably the highest among batting pairs who have made more than 5000.

But was Sangakkara saying goodbye to more than just his partnership with Jayawardene? With no Tests in Sri Lanka for almost a year, home crowds may have seen the last of him with the bat, too.

Jayawardene's last act with the bat brought a hush from those who had come to watch him, but in many ways, the end fit the man. Saeed Ajmal has dismissed him more than any other bowler in Tests. He was also getting substantial turn and bounce, removing Sangakkara in his previous over. But for 17 years, Jayawardene has had an incurable itch to attack; to dominate the bowling, often when the odds were stacked against him.

On 54, Jayawardene danced out of his crease for one final time, aimed a stroke over mid-on, and mistimed it, having not got to the pitch of the delivery. Ahmed Shehzad tracked the skied ball from midwicket, before completing a tumbling catch around mid-on.

There was no wistful lingering, no sentimental hanging around. Jayawardene walked off the field as the SSC rose to its feet. Only in the last 20 paces before crossing the rope did he raise his bat, and soak up the applause for one final time as a Test batsman. For the crowd, and for the man, the last 17 years had been some ride.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Steve on August 18, 2014, 13:09 GMT

    Mahela's last inning typified both mental and physical state that he was in as far as tests are concerned. Body unable to match mind's demands. I am reminded of Sachin's last innings which was also in similar vein. Right time for MJ to walk away. Great career, big heart and a great leader. Not many can tick off all those qualities. Hopefully, he will finish ODI career with WC win next year!

  • Kepili on August 18, 2014, 11:33 GMT

    @Lenard_Fernando: I agree, in SL we definitely need a proper change in our VISION before MISSION... to give due credit where it belongs... irrespective of personal preferences or glamorous hype of some selectively privileged! Unfortunately, most of our hierarchy in SLC / Media & some SL fans who are still emerged in this mess would always see through these partial lenses & INVERT reality according to their mindset! This is really counterproductive to Future.

    Rangana Herath (36 yrs) has 3-4 yrs remaining as a spinner, depending on his fitness. But, Upul Tharanga (29 yrs) as an experienced Opening batsmen who had already scored over 5000r in ODIs, has plenty of playing years (at least 9 yrs more) to come in his career! When you consider the future of SL Cricket beyond Sanga, Mahela & Dil... obviously we have to admit that Tharanga is the only certain choice among all those youngsters tried out! Chandi, Thiri, Dimuth, Kaushal, Kusal, Vithanage etc. nowhere near him in STATS or ACTS..!!

  • Andrew on August 18, 2014, 10:29 GMT

    It is a fitting farewell for MJ, thanks to the massive efforts of a couple of most hounded players: Rangana Herath & Upul Tharanga.

    Left-arm spinner Herath's record making 9 + 5 = 14 wickets harvest & Upul Tharanga's superb 92 + 45= 137 Runs "Top-of-the-List" batting contribution on that difficult run-making wicket made it possible. Only Sarfraz managed a few runs more on that hard-to-score deck.!

    Unfortunately, unlike some other, these 2 SL Work-horses rarely received any appreciation or rewards they deserved for the silent but decisive match-winning efforts they rendered in numerous occasions, throughout their careers! They were grossly Ignored, Underestimated /Criticized, Underutilized & Unappreciated in SL cricket scene during the past.!

    This is how SL batters contributed in 2nd Test:

    Tharanga - 92 + 45 =137

    Mathews -39 + 43*= 82

    Sanga - 59 + 22= 81

    Mahela - 53 + 4 = 58

    Kaushal - 17, 41= 58

    Dikwella - 24 + 21 = 45

    Thirimanne- 20 +10 = 30

  • Mohamed Afulal on August 18, 2014, 9:43 GMT


    Mahela, you will be with ODI structure until 2015 edition of World Cup competition. This is another opportunity to impart your leadership and tactical change skills to Angelo and his team and whoever seek your advise. When you are done with all three formats, kindly engage yourselves with Srilankan cricket as an administrator , batting coach, head coach or with ICC so your cricketing knowledge/skills and simplicity will be remembered for. Generations to come! Thank you Mahela Jayawardena for your yeoman service to Srilanka cricket.

  • Mohamed Afulal on August 18, 2014, 9:33 GMT

    I delayed my comments intentionally until 2nd Test was over. Mahela, you are truly a legend, great servant for Srilanka, Asia and world at large. Your premature retirement from Test arena made Srilnakan Team a void that can't be filled so easily. You are once in a life time product and another Mahela may take generations to evolve. In the same vein, world cricket lost a genius in you.

    Now, Angelo and Team Srilanka need to nurture and preserve Sanga, Herath to as long as they possibly can lure them to stay within Test cricket structure so the new generation of cricketers can emulate your rare talents. This is more so b'cos Srilanka cricket lost Dilshan, Samaraweera, Sanath and Murali not so long ago and finding substitutes are not easy.

  • Lanka on August 18, 2014, 8:08 GMT

    Unlike some great SL cricket legends, Mahela's retirement was perfectly timed (just like his shots). He decided to bow out at his peak. He did not out-run his welcome in the side. I, and I am sure many cricket fans, believe there is a lot left in Mahela, but the way and timing of ones retirement is crucial to ensure us fans remember them with yet more greatness than when they were actually playing - if that is ever possible. Well done Mahela! We shall miss you big time. (BTW I live just a few doors next to you on Ratnayake Mawatha).

  • Sanjay on August 18, 2014, 7:19 GMT

    A true legend of the game that provided yeoman service to SL cricket during an era of enormous challenge & upheaval that pervaded all aspects of life in this island nation. As I look back at MJ's legacy I wonder what specific place he holds in the history of SL cricket. When Murali called it quits he was the best SL bowler ever, Ranatunge's place-greatest SL captain, Vassy arguably SL's best seam bowler, Goonetilake best SL wicket keeper. What then is MJ; he is a class act but may not surpass Aravinda as the best ever batter to don SL shirt. However, to me his place in SL cricketing arena is as unique as Sanath's. His style of play is his own, those silky late caresses & impeccable timing & placement were characteristically his. His adaptability is second to none. When T20 arrived power hitting was to be the order the of day but diminutive MJ dispelled that & became a first to reach 3 figures in that format. Thanks Mahela for all the joy imparted when the nation needed it most.

  • Android on August 18, 2014, 7:13 GMT

    Wonderful human being, superb leader and a masterclass as a batsman! Mahela you will be missed by the entire world.

  • Dummy on August 18, 2014, 6:37 GMT

    Mahela.. #69 is one of the great cricketers i have seen, especially with the bat... Salutes to the LEGEND..!! a great farewell series ever...by the team Sri Lanka... !! #godofmoderncricket

  • ESPN on August 18, 2014, 0:00 GMT

    Mahela Jaywardena you were an asset to the game of cricket and provided great entertainment as a gentleman player. You shall certainly be missed. Have a long and healthy life and success in your future plans. AJ from Pakistan