Mahela Jayawardene, whose unbeaten 110 boosted Kings XI Punjab to an eight-wicket win against Kolkata Knight Riders, has said he prefers the role of an opener in the shorter formats. Jayawardene, who averages 62.50 in the four ODIs he's opened in, was a last-minute inclusion in the Punjab side today, after an injury ruled out Shaun Marsh.
"When I got the call, it was a surprise. I told Sanga [Kumar Sangakkara] and Tom [Punjab coach Tom Moody] that I'd like to open the batting, I've been opening for my province and I felt really good opening the batting in this format," Jayawardene said after helping Punjab end their losing streak. "Given any opportunity, you would like to bat up the order. It's much easier to get your innings going and probably get big runs. It doesn't matter who gets it as long as we get it and win matches. We've played some good cricket but we haven't finished games. Hopefully now we can finish a good season."
Jayawardene kept Punjab ahead of the required rate in their chase of 200 by sticking to conventional shots, rarely attempting a slog, and finding the boundaries with ease. Sangakkara, his captain, said having such players in the Twenty20 format was an asset. The highest run-getters in this competition are those with sound techniques.
"There is [a place for classical batsman in this format]," Sangakkara said. Look at the people who've scored a lot of runs; [Jacques] Kallis, Sachin [Tendulkar] - they play beautiful shots and look to hit the ball along the ground as much as possible unless necessary, and today you saw another innings like that.
"Mahela just showed us again he can bat anywhere and bat really well. He didn't play a single ugly shot, just stroked the ball over the fence with ease, and Yuvraj Singh finished the game really well."
Punjab need to win all of their next five games and hope other results to go their way to gain an unlikely berth in the semi-finals, and Sangakkara admitted his side will be playing for pride. "We are a good side and better than the situation we put ourselves in," he said. "But we've got to be responsible for that, there's no one to blame other than us as a collective unit. The guys' attitude lifted when they realised that we've got to play for each other, and we came out and showed exactly what we could do."
Sourav Ganguly, the Kolkata captain, acknowledged their bowling let them down. "We didn't bowl well enough. At no stage was there any pressure on Punjab, because boundaries were coming at will, and that took the pressure away from them," he said.
Kolkata are now fifth on the points table, and face stiffer opposition in their last five games as they aim to win a place in the knockout stage. "It's not the question of tougher teams, it's a question of how we play," Ganguly said. "We've beaten the two top teams of last year, everybody is beatable."