Sri Lanka v South Africa, 2nd Test, SSC, 1st day July 24, 2014

Yet another SSC hundred for Jayawardene


Sri Lanka 305 for 5 (Jayawardene 140*, Mathews 63) v South Africa
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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Fernando: Jayawardene held Sri Lanka together

The last time Mahela Jayawardene batted against South Africa in a Test at the SSC, he made 374, the highest score ever made by a right-handed batsman in Test cricket. Today he walked off to applause for an unbeaten 140 as his 34th Test century held together Sri Lanka's innings after Angelo Mathews won the toss on what looks another SSC batting beauty. It was his 11th Test hundred at his home venue - as many as the likes of Saeed Anwar, Ravi Shastri, Nathan Astle and Dean Jones each managed over their entire Test careers - and extended his lead at the top of the list for most Test runs scored at a single venue.

With Jayawardene passing 5000 first-class runs at the SSC, it might seem like it was business as usual, but it was anything but in the morning session. The peculiar sights early on included an elderly man in the stands keeping cool with a tiny portable fan on his chest, the run-machine Kumar Sangakkara getting a golden duck at a ground he thrives on, the South Africa slip cordon putting down two fairly straightforward chances and Sri Lanka motoring along at well above six an over for a big chunk of the first session of the Test.

What was not unexpected in the first session was Dale Steyn again showing he can cause damage on any surface in the world, whether a minefield or a highway. He banged it in in the fifth over had Upul Tharanga fending a catch to the keeper.

Steyn followed that up with another short ball to Sangakkara, who responded with a weak pull straight to Imran Tahir at square leg. Sangakkara walked off practising the pull, much like several England batsmen on the final day at Lord's earlier this week.

With Vernon Philander relentlessly probing around off stump, Sri Lanka looked shaky. Kaushal Silva was dropped at third slip off Philander by Alviro Petersen and Jayawardene's start-stop approach for a single at cover almost resulted in Silva's run-out.

Steyn got only a four-over spell with the new ball though, and once Philander's fruitless first stint was over, Sri Lanka cashed in against the spinners. The SSC is a track where batsmen are advised to give the first session to the bowlers, and then capitalise on the flatness of the surface. Jayawardene and Silva didn't have to wait that long. The boundaries were incessant, as full tosses were swatted to midwicket, full balls were driven away. Fifty-runs came in eight overs, and the early pressure had evaporated.

Silva had a reprieve early on against Duminy, when his edge whizzed past the stationary AB de Villiers at first slip. With minutes to go before lunch, Silva gave de Villiers another chance, and this time his streaky innings was over.

Another quick wicket, and South Africa would have had a crack at Sri Lanka's inexperienced lower-middle order. With Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne, two youngsters in whom Sri Lanka had placed immense amount of faith, dropped, the batsmen to follow were Kithuruwan Vithanage and debutant Niroshan Dickwella. That breakthrough didn't arrive though, as Jayawardene and the in-form Angelo Mathews put on a century stand.

They took no risks, but still scored at a brisk pace, latching on to the regular bad ball. The closest South Africa came to a wicket in the second session was when an off-balance de Villiers couldn't fire in a direct hit just before drinks. The session ended with Jayawardene top-edging a boundary to fine leg to bring up his hundred, one of the rare false strokes in a typically polished innings, where he once again demonstrated the value of timing, touch and placement. A nonchalant upper cut over the slips off Morne Morkel was among the highlights of his innings.

Mathews picked up most of his runs with drives and nudges to the leg side, though he also pounced on the many short and wide deliveries on offer, crashing them past point. With the attack fading, Mathews went for one more cut when Duminy dropped short, only to edge through to the keeper. Once again the part-time offspinner had delivered an unexpected breakthrough for South Africa.

Sri Lanka have picked three specialists spinners, clearly expecting plenty of turn as the match progresses, but South Africa's lone specialist spinner had another rough outing. The number of poor deliveries Tahir bowled - either half-trackers or loopy full tosses - were too many to be excused as the usual difficulty legspinners have in controlling the ball. South Africa need him to lift his game in the second innings, when the surface will have more in it for him.

It was the quicks who caused trouble towards the end of the day, with Vithanage stuttering against a short-ball barrage from Steyn before being undone by a bouncer from Morne Morkel. Dickwella faced a testing time before stumps, but he survived with the help of the DRS.

Sri Lanka's batsmen still have work to do on the second day, but who better to bank on at the SSC than Jayawardene?

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Iraj on July 25, 2014, 11:02 GMT

    Well done MJ for a brilliant knock. A hundred in need is a hundred indeed. The way he batted is really a treat to eye. SSC belongs to MJ. However I'm not happy about SL's team selection. Only one fast bowler with 3 specialist spinners? That would work in 5th day but not very impressive for the first innings. I think we should have included Dammika Prasad instead of Mendis. SA is no longer feared by spin as before. In contrast see how Lakmal bowled today, he did very well on such a spin friendly track. Its all about line & length like Vaas, McGrath did. SL spinners got the support of lakmal to put pressure on SA. We need to limit SA below 300 & need quick & decent score in 2nd innings now.

  • Iraj on July 25, 2014, 10:50 GMT

    In Test cricket Pakistan was the most promising team outside the subcontinent in the past as they had plenty of quality pacers. They won a match in their first tour in 1954 in Enland whereas India took around 39 years. However India also did well since 1970's. SL's first tour to England came in 1984 at Lords and we managed to draw it with honours. SL 491/7 declared against a pace attack led by Ian Botham. Lankan fastmen limited Eng for 370 & scored 294/7 in 2nd innings. SL had only one match for decades when touring. SL's wins in 1995 (NZ) & 1998 (Eng) were remarkable. Still SL having very less nr of matches compared to other top 6 teams. India did extremely well since 2000's when Ganguly lead them. In fast pitches they did better than other SC teams. India had hard time during last couple of years but now they seems very promising. SL still in a rebuilding phase as Sanga & MJ gonna retire soon.

  • Iraj on July 25, 2014, 10:30 GMT

    @vkias Though SL win WC in 1996 & 2014 in subcontinent you should not forget our achievements outside SC too. Let me remind. In 2003 WC Sri Lanka played brilliantly in South Africa & reached semi-finals beating SA at their Home. SL lost to MIGHTY Aussies in semis but we were able to limit so much powerful Aussie team for 212/7 in 50 overs. Isn't that good enough? Even India lost to Aussies in finals. In 2007 ODI WC in WI, SL reached finals. In 2009 T20 WC in England SL reached finals. Even in SC, SL lost to India in 2011 WC final. However in ODI's & T20's SL did perfectly well outside SC against top teams. I accept that in Tests we are quite behind but the issue is we are not having enough number of tours. However I have no arguments about India's achievements as they Won all their wins in 1983 & 2007 in England & SA. In addition they reached semis in 2003 in SA.

  • VIJAY on July 25, 2014, 7:25 GMT

    @Gayan Buddika...but SL did not win any major ICC tournament outside subcontinent...whereas India won all 3 ICC trophies at least once outside the subcontinent

  • Android on July 25, 2014, 6:49 GMT

    jj0685. I agree SL don't play many Tests abroad but thats why average is a fair metric to guage performance. When you speak of average it doesnt matter if you play 2 Tests or 5 Tests. Mahela's average is under 35 and under 30 in most countries outside the subcontinent. In contrast look at Sangakara's average having played in the same games. Its not good enough for someone batting in the middle order. Greatness is not measured by style. I respect your opinion. I just think greatness should have a higher standard of measurement. I respect, admire and enjoy Mahela's batting and achievements.

  • Android on July 25, 2014, 6:17 GMT

    rk_ks Hey thing comes to my mind about India. Out of last 10 world cups during the last two decades, India have played only 4 finals & won 2. Also played a semi final. Rest of the world cups hardly reached the second round. Where Sri Lanka during the same time played 6 finals & won 2. Also played 2 semi finals. If you talk about stats it shows who are the better team on global stage.

  • Android on July 25, 2014, 6:11 GMT

    I remember the excitement amongst Sri Lankan fans when this Series was announced but this Match is anything but exciting. This pitch is dead. Dickwella is reverse sweeping Tahirs balls coming off the rough. What is strange for me is how deserted the stadium is...where are the fans of Test cricket? where are the Mahela fans? The real fan should drop everything to be at the Stadium to savour Mahela's last innings.

  • Sachitra on July 25, 2014, 5:59 GMT

    I wonder why Mahela not included in the cricinfo modern masters list

  • Sanjay on July 25, 2014, 5:24 GMT

    What was also pleasing for SL cricket fans apart from that classy ton from maestro Mahela is selectors' boldness to have faith in talented youngsters. It was due to the wisdom and foresight of past SL selectors the cricket world was fortunate to witness blossoming of the likes of Aravinda, Rantunga & Murali. These SL cricket greats were thrust into the deep end of hostile international cricket if not while still school boys then soon after leaving school. Reciprocating the trust placed by selectors young Aravindas and Muralis dished out performances, from the word go, that justified their national duty call up. Sadly in recent times SL selectors seemed reluctant to infuse real young blood into SL cricket arena. That makes advent of Vithanage and Dickwella to test cricket all that heartening to witness. I sincerely hope that like the past SL greats they honor selectors' trust and trully blossom for Lanka. Virtuoso Mahela at other end was the best chance they had to get the start right.

  • Jerry on July 25, 2014, 4:20 GMT

    @ Francis Mel, I don't understand why you don't want to give credit to Mahela. As an Aussie I love to watch him bat, he is the most stylist batsman in the world today. I am sure if he had more opportunities to play outside the sub continent his average would be around 50 outside the subcontinent. Sri Lanka don't get the opportunities say India get, for example SL got 2 tests in England in early Summer, while India gets 5 tests in Summer. I would put Mahela in the same class as Ponting,Lara,Sanga & SRT.