Five of Mahela Jayawardene's best innings August 9, 2014

Graceful steel

A maiden Test hundred, a century at Lord's, a triple against South Africa, and a 180 when his team-mates floundered are among Mahela Jayawardene's virtuoso performances
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167 v New Zealand in Galle, 1998
Mahela Jayawardene's maiden hundred, not only announced his transition from schoolboy hero to Test asset, in his fourth Test, it also set down major themes of his career: superb technique against spin bowling, and a hunger to succeed where all else has failed. On a Galle surface that was crumbling from the outset, Jayawardene defused a spin attack headed by Daniel Vettori, and attacked the fast men who had begun to achieve inconsistent bounce from early in the first innings. No other batsman in his team scored more than 36. The highest score in the opposition was 53. Replete with the cover drives and late cuts that would become his trademarks, Jayawardene's innings was the point on which the series pivoted, allowing Sri Lanka to win the Galle Test and the next one at SSC, to reverse a 1-0 deficit.

119 v England at Lord's, 2006
If the maiden ton in Galle was Jayawardene's coming of age as a batsman, this knock marked his arrival as captain. Batting first, England piled on 551 before Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff and Sajid Mahmood combined to knock Sri Lanka off for 192, of which Jayawardene had scored 61. Following on after the team had a shellacking from coach Tom Moody, Jayawardene arrived at the crease late on the third day to begin his six-hour defiance. Typically for Jayawardene, even in rearguard-mode, he would not shelve his shots. He was driving and hooking early in his knock, and he continued to be positive against the quicks, if not always aggressive. Sri Lanka still had to bat out most of the fifth day after his dismissal - which Jayawardene felt should not have been given out - but he had seen the team out of immediate danger, and set them on course for a famous draw.

374 v South Africa at SSC, 2006
The big one. Sri Lanka had gunned South Africa down for 169 after the visitors chose to bat, then Dale Steyn removed Sri Lanka's openers in his first two overs to suggest the wickets would keep coming. Then, Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel ran into the most monumental Test counterattack of all time. Jayawardene's first fifty runs came off 72 balls, and he sustained a strike rate of around 65 for the duration of his innings, while Kumar Sangakkara kept pace as well. Nel and Steyn were walloped. The spinners were milked. Jayawardene batted in seven different sessions before Nel sneaked a low one through his defences. The tempo Jayawardene had achieved during his knock meant the bowlers still had plenty of time to complete the innings win.

123 v South Africa at the P Sara Oval, 2006
South Africa rebounded from that hiding to have Sri Lanka under pressure at the P Sara Oval just over one week later. They had taken a first-innings lead and made 311 in the second dig to leave Sri Lanka with a target of 352 - a figure higher than any that had been chased either in the country, or by Sri Lanka. Sanath Jayasuriya crashed 73 off 74 balls to set the hosts on track, but it was Jayawardene who bound the innings together, intelligently composing the only century of the match, on the kind of track on which batsmen found it difficult to stay in. Given the enormity of the task, and the quality of the opposition attack - which featured Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock - the fourth innings at the P Sara arguably saw Jayawardene at his finest.

180 v England at Galle, 2012
Kevin Pietersen's hundred in Colombo the following week is talked up as a great innings, but in Galle, Jayawardene produced another long, lone effort, denying a James Anderson's swing and Graeme Swann's bite to carry his team toward a respectable total. He was not just the only man to reach triple figures in the first innings, he was also the only batsman to pass 30 for Sri Lanka, after most of his colleagues had scattered at the sight of the pressure England's bowlers exerted. Sri Lanka's batsmen collapsed in the second innings, and Jayawardene's 180 would prove to be the difference between the sides, as the hosts claimed a 75-run win.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Cricketluv on August 14, 2014, 1:38 GMT

    I have penned this phrase many a time to this great web magazine " Mahela, the great, the cricketing poem written by Wordsworth and Frost together" Wiah u all the best Mahela for a different episode of your life- Sudath Liyanage, UNIVOTEC, Sri Lanka

  • Damian123 on August 13, 2014, 14:19 GMT

    @kirikat: Great comment! Very true.

  • alischeme on August 13, 2014, 13:38 GMT

    Ponting, Dravid, Laxman, Tendulkar, Kallis, Smith and now Jayawardene. I guess now only Chanderpaul and Sangakkara are left from 'that' era.

    Legends like these will be hard to replicate for all these teams.

  • kirikat on August 13, 2014, 11:41 GMT

    Greatness of an artist dosen't depend on how many paintings he has done.... it's all about his creativity.... mahela is a great artist and he was the greatest cricket captain I have ever seen.....

  • dummy4fb on August 13, 2014, 10:14 GMT

    Mahela is an all-time great in cricket. His batting, captaincy, commitment to the team / country and personality make him unique. When Sri Lanka won the test against Pakistan in Galle last week, I saw TV coverage of him jumping off his stool in the Sri Lankan dressing room, slightly bent and pumping clenched fists very spontaneously, like a school kid, in spite of being such a great. That is the man he is. Feverishly committed to the team and the country. It is sad to see the likes of Mahela, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Brian Lara fading away from international cricket.

  • dummy4fb on August 13, 2014, 9:16 GMT

    I am a great fan of sachin, but to comment on mahela, an class act, with his bat, leadership and style of batting. will be missing a batting artist . God bless mahela, wish to see you quitting cricket , with a very big hundred , an Indian fan, your batting style really attacted me. Best of luck for your final test

  • gmsjgmsj on August 13, 2014, 8:28 GMT

    The three most graceful modern batsmen - in my opinion - were Mark Waugh, Carl Hooper and Mahela Jayawardene. In their batting one could sense the uncaging of sublimity and finesse of a jungle cat. So sure were they with their footwork and wrists, that they made batting look easy against the most difficult of bowlers and pitches.

    Now that we can never the first two bat again, lets revile till WC 2015 in the joy of the Mahela batsmanship. Who can ever forget his ton in the WC 2011 final and heres to your Mahela to repeat that magic in yet another final in 2015. Thanks for your memories. God bless!

  • sachsandy on August 13, 2014, 8:10 GMT

    Mahela Jayawardene was a pure joy to watch and a sheer pleasure to the eyes in this age of short boundaries and one-dimensional hard-hitters.....his elegance,his silky touch was all his own......but as good as he was against spin-bowling on rank turners he was susceptible to pace and bounce on lively tracks.......he doesn't have as many hundreds away from the sub-continent which would have made him an all-time great, something which his friend and teammate Kumar Sangakkara has achieved.

  • android_user on August 13, 2014, 7:47 GMT

    srilanka rarely play outside the subcontinent...so its natural for him to have a poor away record..and its not as if galle and ssc were flat tracks...they were good test wickets where other batsman..some even from India struggled..so I feel its unfair to judge a player based on home and away records...and talking about ODI averages. .the great Sanath had an avg of 33 but he was considered a great ODI player...

  • birkat on August 13, 2014, 7:35 GMT

    @Rajesh_india_1990: Well you don't have to go that far. But yes thank you for appreciating the fact that SL are the greatest team ever and that mahela is the greatest! Nice to see another Indian appreciate and identify true greatness :)

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