Mahela Jayawradene retired from Test cricket with 11,814 runs in 149 Tests © Getty Images
Mahela Jayawardene walked bowed out of Test cricket with 54 in his final Test innings. Sri Lanka have lost not only a batsman, but a leader who inspired them to take on challenges and inculcate a winning mentality away from home. Nishad Pai Vaidya revisits the 10 most memorable moments from Jayawardene’s Test career.
Mahela Jayawardene bid adieu to Test cricket with a memorable 54 runs and sharing a 107-run stand with another legend Kumar Sangakkara. The right-hander has been a colossus for Sri Lanka in the white flannels since his debut in August 1997. The hunger to score big runs has always been Jayawardene’s biggest strength which was backed by good technique and sound temperament. His numbers are compelling, but his impact is looms large. He has not only been a batsman, but a leader of a Sri Lankan generation that took challenges head on and created a winning mindset for future generations.
Here are the 10 most memorable moments in Jayawardene’s Test career:
1. Test debut against India in August 1997
At the age of 20, Jayawardene walked into a line-up comprising Sanath Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, Roshan Mahanama and Arjuna Ranatunga to name a few. Jayawardene’s initiation came in that famous run-fest against India at the R Premadasa Stadium, when Jayasuriya and Mahanama piled a partnership of 576 runs. Jayawardene walked in at 790 for four and breezed away to 66 in company with Aravinda. It wasn’t a game that tested him, but a good confident start for a future star.
2. First Test ton
Jayawardene’s first Test ton was proof of his quality and class. Playing only his fourth Test, in the year 1998, Jayawardene faced a New Zealand attack led by Daniel Vettori at Galle. In a game where the second highest score was 53, Jayawardene smashed 167 in Sri Lanka’s only innings. The second highest score in the Sri Lankan innings was 36 and Jayawardene had hit more than half of Sri Lanka’s total of 323. Sri Lanka won that Test match by an innings and 16 runs, largely due to Jayawardene’s supreme batting.
3. First double century
Jayawardene has scored seven doubles tons (including the triple) in his Test career. The first one came against India at Colombo in 1999. India had scored 518 runs with Sadagoppan Ramesh and Rahul Dravid scoring tons. In reply, Sri Lanka lost Marvan Attapatu with only 18 runs on the board. In came Jayawardene at No 3 and anchored the innings. His innings of 242 in an innings that saw wickets fall at the other end at regular intervals. He was the last man out with the score on 485.
4. Batting with Kumar Sangakkara for the first time
Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene’s friendship is a part of Sri Lankan cricketing folklore. It all started during the summer of 2000. Sangakkara was making his Test debut against South Africa at Galle. The duo got together at 216 for three and put up a partnership of 81 runs before Sangakkara was dismissed for 23. Jayawardene though went on to get a ton as he hit 167. Sri Lanka won the Test by an innings and 15 runs.
Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara shared a record 624-run stand against South Africa. Jayawardene also recorded his career-best 374 in the same match © AFP
5. Captaincy and saving the Test at Lord’s
In early 2006, Jayawardene took over the reins of leadership of the Sri Lankan team that was struggling to find form. He masterminded a revival that saw the start of a remarkable run of form for him and the side. In the first Test at Lord’s against England, Jayawardene battled the odds when Sri Lanka were made to follow on. In a gritty innings of 119, he guided Sri Lanka to safety on the final day and inspired his side to lift their performances on this tour.
6. Winning the Nottingham Test in 2006 and levelling the series 1-1
Though Jayawardene had inspired the Sri Lankans to draw at Lord’s, they lost the next Test at Edgbaston. Sri Lanka hit back in this game and were defending 325. Jayawardene was tactically brilliant and introduced his mean weapon, Muttiah Muralitharan, when the England openers were threatening to take the game away. Muralitharan went on to take eight wickets and Sri Lanka won the match to level the series. This is one of the biggest highlights of Jayawardene’s captaincy. In Photos: Highlights of Jayawardene’s Test career
7. Marathon stand of 624 runs with Sangakkara
They say that marriages are made in heaven, but this batting partnership is one scripted by the gods for the cricket lovers. After South Africa were bowled out for 169 at the Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo in 2006, Sri Lanka were reduced to 14 for two by Dale Steyn. Jayawardene and Sangakkara came together to stitch the monumental 624-run partnership. In the process, they beat the Jayasuriya-Mahanama record of 576. This remains the highest partnership in Test cricket for any wicket and Jayawardene’s personal score of 374 is the highest by a right-hander in the format.
8. Leading a tough run-chase of 352 against South Africa
Though South Africa were left jaded by the marathon stand in the first Test, they fought back hard in the second, taking a lead after the first innings. They set Sri Lanka a target of 352, on a wicket that was crumbling on the fourth day. Jayawardene led the innings with a silken 123 and held his nerve even when Sri Lanka were losing wickets. Battling Nicky Boje, he kept Sri Lanka in the hunt and was taking them to victory when he fell with the score on 341. There were a few hiccups as Sri Lanka lost their ninth wicket with two runs to win, but it was achieved in the end by Farveez Maharoof. The 2-0 series victory is one of the most memorable moments in Jayawardene’s career.
9. Winning at Wellington and levelling the series 1-1 with New Zealand
Under Jayawardene’s leadership in 2006-07, Sri Lanka had found this new confidence that allowed them to bounce back whenever the chips were down. Having lost the first Test to New Zealand in December 2006, Sri Lanka hit back in the second at Wellington. Though Jayawardene did not make a huge contribution with the bat in the game, his leadership was a highlight and helped Sri Lanka back their style and emerge victorious by 217 runs.
10. Going past Don Bradman on a tough wicket at Galle
Jayawardene was thrust into leadership again when Tillakaratne Dilshan gave up the reins of captaincy in early 2012. His first Test assignment was the two-game series against England at home. On a tough wicket at Galle, where the second highest score in the Sri Lankan team was 27, Jayawardene scored 180 out of the team score of 318. In the process, he went past Don Bradman’s count of 29 Test tons to record his 30th. Though Jayawardene did not score too many in the second essay, Sri Lanka went on to win the game by 75 runs.
In Photos: Highlights of Jayawardene’s Test career
Complete coverage of Mahela Jayawardene’s retirement from Test cricket
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)