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Sanath Jayasuriya - the entertainer

Cricinfo looks at some of the best performances of perhaps Sri Lanka's most influential performer

Jamie Alter
Jamie Alter
On the 20th anniversary of Sanath Jayasuriya's international career, Cricinfo picks out some of his best performances.

6 for 29 v England, Moratuwa, 1993

A couple years before he would begin tormenting bowlers the world over with his ballistic approach up the order, Jayasuriya gave England a torrid time in Moratuwa - with the ball. Hardly a front-line slow left-arm spinner, a young Jayasuriya nabbed six wickets. He snapped two partnerships and ran down the rest of the order for 6 for 29, the star performer out of a very weak attack. England were bowled out for a paltry 180 and thrashed by eight wickets. It was Jayasuriya's first Man-of-the-Match performance.

82 from 44 balls v England, Faisalabad, 1996

Jayasuriya took the world by storm in the 1996 World Cup, through his fearless and destructive approach at the top of the order, with his team-mate Romesh Kaluwitharana, which was one of the highlights of the tournament. Jayasuriya's memorable run reached its apogee during the quarter-final against England, when he bludgeoned 82 from 44 balls, including the then fastest tournament half-century, from 30 balls.
His manic innings contained three sixes and 13 fours and he was most savage on the left-arm spin of Ray Illingworth, whom he hit for four successive fours, and the seam of Phil DeFreitas, whose second over went for 22. Earlier in the day Jayasuriya had dismissed DeFreitas and Dermot Reeve and nailed a direct hit to run out Robin Smith. Sri Lanka continued their glorious ascent, while England sank ignominiously; they had never been knocked out before the semi-finals in the five previous World Cups.

76 off 28 balls v Pakistan, Singapore, 1996

Jayasuriya continued to blossom amid greater expectations after the World Cup. Within months he cracked the fastest fifty in one-day cricket, from 17 balls, against Pakistan. He reached the landmark with a six over mid-wicket to beat Simon O'Donnell's ODI record of 18 balls, against Sri Lanka at Sharjah in 1989-90. When Kaluwitharana was bowled in the sixth over, for 0, Jayasuriya had 66. He eventually holed out for 76 from 28 balls, having hit eight fours and five sixes.

151* v India, Mumbai, 1997

Jayasuriya has often tormented India during his one-day career, and his unbeaten 151 at the Wankhede Stadium was a bruising effort. A moderate target of 226 soon shrank as Jayasuriya blazed his way to the highest score by a Sri Lankan in one-day internationals - 151 off 121 balls, with 17 fours and four sixes, beating Aravinda de Silva's 145 against Kenya in the 1996 World Cup. Sri Lanka won with nine overs to spare.

340 v India, Colombo, 1997

The following year Jayasuriya was a significant part of a Test-record 952 for 6, against India in Colombo. He entered the final day 326 not out, 50 short of beating Brian Lara's then record individual score of 375. Over 30,000 crowded in, but many were still trying to find a perch when Jayasuriya, two balls after losing his partner for 225, was surprised by one that bounced from offspinner Rajesh Chauhan and popped a simple catch to Sourav Ganguly at silly point. The Indian fielders all ran to congratulate the batsman, and clapped him off the field. Jayasuriya had made 340, from 578 balls in 799 minutes, with 36 fours and two sixes. He banished once and for all any notion that he was only a one-day hitter. "I was out for 340 and people asked me whether I was disappointed," he once said. It is, in fact, his favourite Test innings, just ahead of his 213 against England at The Oval in 1998.

213 off 278 balls v England, The Oval, 1998

This one-off Test at The Oval is best remembered for Muttiah Muralitharan's 16 wickets, but it was really Jayasuriya's 213 off 278 balls in the first innings that set up Sri Lanka's first Test victory in England. England batted themselves to 445, with centuries from Graeme Hick and John Crawley, and sat pretty going into the third day. Few could have foreseen what would unfold. Sri Lanka, 79 for 1 overnight, sped to 446 for 3 with Jayasuriya shrugging off a lean Test year with a splendid double-century. Cutting, hooking and driving on dancing feet, he tore into the English attack and with Aravinda de Silva added 243, breaking their own record for Sri Lanka's third wicket. Even though England fought back staunchly on Sunday, when six wickets fell for 86, the momentum had been grabbed. Murali brought England back down to earth in the final Test of the summer, and then, with a target of 36, Jayasuriya signed off in blazing manner. He smote Angus Fraser for two fours and six on one over and a stunning six over cover-point and boundary off Ben Hollioake send the normally stoic English crowd into motion.

148 v South Africa, Galle, 2000

Sri Lanka's win in four days against South Africa owed plenty to Jayasuriya's genius. Having won the toss, he stunned the visitors into submission, hitting 96 in the first session. It was an innings of such ferocity that Shaun Pollock, in his first Test as captain, had little clue as to what field to set. Jayasuriya began by uppercutting Pollock over gully for four and then repeated the shot, setting the tone for a clinical win. Jayasuriya kept hitting over the field, and Pollock kept the field up. Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini were also meted out harsh treatment, forcing Pollock to turn to spin after 80 minutes. Paul Adams' first three deliveries were driven, flicked and crashed over the top for four. At lunch, Sri Lanka were 145 without loss; Jayasuriya had missed, by four runs, becoming the fifth player to score a century before lunch on the first day of a Test. When he fell, for 148 from 156 balls, Sri Lanka were 211 for 2. He and Marvan Atapattu had put on 193 in 44 overs for the first wicket, then Sri Lanka's highest partnership against South Africa.

189 v India, Sharjah, 2000

The final of the Coca Cola Champions Trophy in Sharjah could not have been more one-sided. Nor could Jayasuriya have been any better in the one-day arena. He was the architect for this win, rescuing an innings that was dipping into the doldrums with a breathtaking 189 from just 161 balls, then the second equal highest score in the history of ODI cricket.
Sri Lanka were 116 for 4 in the 28th over, but the main man was still there. Together with Russel Arnold, who appeared to exert a calming influence on his captain, Jayasuriya rescued the innings. Arnold nudged an nurdled the ball around to get Jayasuriya on strike, and he timed his shorts skillfully. His iron wrists and bulging forearms created immense power in his shots and he hit four sixes and 21 boundaries in total. When he reached his century he ran amok, scoring 89 runs from 43 balls and took the game away from India.

253 v Pakistan, Faisalabad, 2004

Jayasuriya's 253 in the second innings of the first Test against Pakistan set up a 201-run win. It was a seminal knock that made amends for Sri Lanka's first-innings collapse and gave them complete command of the game on the third day. Jayasuriya grafted his way and strung together crucial stands along the way as Sri Lanka took a 264-run lead. It wasn't a swashbuckling innings, which is why it gave the man so much pleasure after Sri Lanka won. After being out to a Shoaib Akhtar no-ball on 9, Jayasuriya survived a few jittery edges and slashes to buckle down. He was at ease against the spinners, sweeping Danish Kaneria with power and precision. His 13th century came up with a big six off Kaneria over long-on and cued a period of vintage Jayasuriya. His next 29 runs came in 23 balls with some peachy off-drives, and on the fourth day he continued to tear the bowling apart on his way to his third double-hundred. He almost single-handedly boosted the lead to a daunting 418, back to his devastative best. Of the 154 runs that Sri Lanka added that morning, Jayasuriya made 123, despite losing partners at regular intervals.

152 off 99 balls v England, Headingley, 2006

England by this time been walloped 4-0, with Jayasuriya reeling off a century in the second game, but his assault at Headingley, when he and Upul Tharanga put on 286 in 31.5 overs, has become a reference point for England's one-day woes. Kabir Ali, who took the new ball, has not played since. "I am sorry about that," Jayasuriya once recalled. "But I did want to prove a point. The method and destruction with which Sri Lanka chased down 322 was a spectacle of remarkable audacity, self-belief and skill. Jayasuriya had been doing this for years but even he, the wise old man of Sri Lanka's side, looked over the moon after his 72-ball hundred and celebrated with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a young whippersnapper.

125 v India, Karachi 2008

Jayasuriya, had just turned 39 - an age at which some men have been known to contemplate grandfather-hood - and was very nearly upstaged by the magic of Ajantha Mendis during the Asia Cup final of 2008. He had just found a way back into the ODI side - his natural home - and paved the way for another title triumph for his side. His 27th ODI century included nine fours and five sixes and rescued Sri Lanka from the perils of 66 for four. Jayasuriya's entire innings was built on extraordinary coordination between hand and eye, and was a remarkable effort. The best period was when RP Singh returned for a second spell: Jayasuriya tore into him with sixes on either side of the sightscreen followed by two big shots over cover and a trademark six over midwicket.

Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo