Jayawardene ton floors Zimbabwe
Batting was expected to be difficult on a slow and low pitch in Providence but the touch artist Mahela Jayawardene sparkled with a delightful ton, only the fourth batsman to hit a Twenty20 hundred, to charge Sri Lanka to 173. A heavy downpour after one over into the chase left Zimbabwe needing 104 from 11 initially, but it rained again to terminate the match after five overs were completed. Sri Lanka won on the D\L method as Zimbabwe only reached 29 for 1 when the par score was 43.
The rains stayed away, however, until Jayawardene treated the sparse crowd to a charming knock. Only one other batsman in Sri Lanka's top six touched double digits; it said much about the pitch and the form of the other batsmen but most importantly it highlighted Jayawardene's mastery.
There wasn't a single shot in violence from Jayawardene. Not one looked ugly. Not for a moment did he look hurried. And yet, his strike-rate was over 150. It was such a graceful knock that it stood out amid the violence that this format usually brings in batsmen. Perhaps it's his economy of movement and the languid flow of his bat that catches the eye. The experts reckoned the pitch would make hitting on the up a difficult task, that the ball would stop on the batsmen, that timing would be difficult to find. And it appeared so when the likes of Kumar Sangakkara and the rest batted. Not when Jayawardene took strike.
There was a delicious six hit on the up over extra cover that was a perfect advertisement for Jayawardene's skill. He was walking down the track to the medium pace of Elton Chigumbura but kept his head still and balance perfect. Chigumbura shortened his length to try and upset the balance but Jayawardene wafted his wand through the line and the ball soared over the extra-cover boundary.
Jayawardene flowed right from the start today, collecting three boundaries in the first over from Chris Mpofu: A cut, a gorgeous on-the-up six over long off and a whiplash on-drive. He repeatedly drove the seamers through the off side and there was even a deft upper cut to a slow bouncer from Chigumbura, but he treated the spinners with more respect. He looked for opportunities to unfurl his cuts and sweeps against the slow men and rotated the strike with wristy nudges. In between, he slog-swept and pulled Price for boundaries, slog swept Graeme Cremer for a six, late cut and swatted Greg Lamb to the boundary.
Zimbabwe perhaps erred by not starting with two spinners. Prosper Utseya, who has often bowled with Price in the Powerplays, chose to give Mpofu and Chigumbura three overs with the new ball. Those three overs leaked 35 runs and allowed Jayawardene to cut loose. And he went on to play an innings of style and substance.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo