There have been six centuries in World Cup finals. Only one of those has not been good enough to lift the trophy. Mahela Jayawardene couldn't really be blamed, though. He had mesmerised as he dissected India's attack. The bowlers found the leather in their hands betraying them, its favour won by Jayawardene's strokeplay. He walked out of a raucous Wankhede Stadium unconquered, with a serene 103 next to his name.
"I knew he was going to get runs that day. He just had that look," said Kumar Sangakkara later. A look that Jayawardene regularly wears during a big match. A look that transforms his partner at the other end to the happiest spectator in the world. A look that has left opposition captains clueless.
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The pace of the innings was precise and its construction careful. His first fifty came off 49 balls, the second in 35. It did not deserve to be the only one of Jayawardene's 16 ODI centuries at that point to not have clinched victory for Sri Lanka.
"This was a lifetime opportunity of winning the World Cup. But it was taken away by a great innings." Perhaps he remembered his own words from 2007 when he had led Sri Lanka to the final, when their progress to the final could largely have been attributed to another memorable century by him, against New Zealand in Kingston. Back then, Sri Lanka bore the brunt of Adam Gilchrist's blitzkrieg innings in the title match; luck wasn't on their side in 2011 either, and though Jayawardene even bargained off his Test career for the chance to travel to Australia and script a different ending, it was not to be.
This article was first published in 2014