Sri Lankan cricket’s biggest legends of the modern era have also been their most prolific scorers in the shortest format of the game © Getty Images
Two of Sri Lanka’s greatest batsmen of the modern era have announced that they will retire from Twenty20 International cricket at the end of the ICC World T20 2014 at Bangladesh. Sudatta Mukherjee looks back at the top T20 innings of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.
They are the twin towers of Sri Lankan cricket. If we combine their Twenty20 (T20) matches, the count falls short of a hundred by just one T20 international matches. Sri Lanka’s highest T20 run-getter and world’s second highest run-getter — Mahela Jayawardene — and most successful wicketkeeper-batsman in the world of the shortest format — Kumar Sangakkara — have decided to bid goodbye to T20 international cricket at the end of ICC World T20 2014. The fact that Sri Lanka are the top-ranked T20I side in the world and have been the finalist twice in the World T20 (against Pakistan in 2009 and against West Indies in 2012) is largely because of the duo.
Here’s looking at the top seven T20 innings of these two legends:
Mahela Jayawardene’s 98* vs West Indies, ICC World T20 2010
Sri Lanka were playing against West Indies in the oppositions’ own backyard. The West Indies bowling line-up had Kemar Roach, Jerome Taylor, Dwayne Bravo, and Darren Sammy. Jayawardene opened the batting with another Sri Lankan legend Sanath Jayasuriya. Jayasuriya had adopted the shortest format of the game already.
The Caribbean side needed an early breakthrough. In the second over of the Sri Lankan innings, Kieron Pollard dropped Jayasuriya but in the next, Roach removed the southpaw. Till then Jayawardene had been warming up, taking singles and letting Jayasuriya bat. One over after Jayasuriya departed, Jayawardene smashed a six and four off consecutive deliveries.
In between fours and sixes, he took singles. In the 15th over of the match, Sulieman Benn almost created an opportunity to remove Jayawardene but Andre Flecther could not collect the ball cleanly and a stumping chance was missed. Jayawardene picked out Bravo for special treatment, scoring at a strike rate of 242.85 against him. In his unbeaten 98, Jayawardene smashed four sixes and nine fours. Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga were partners in destroying West Indies’ batting line-up. Sri Lanka won by 57 runs and Jayawardene was the Man of the Match.
Mahela Jayawardene has played few of the better innings by a Sri Lankan in T20Is © Getty Images
Mahela Jayawardene’s 100 vs Zimbabwe, ICC World T20 2010
It was during the early matches of the ICC World T20 2010 that Jayawardene hit the class by scoring his highest T20 score till date. Sri Lanka were up against minnows Zimbabwe at Guyana. Sangakkara had won the toss and decided to bat first. Jayawardene opened the batting with Tillakaratne Dilshan. Jayawardene smashed two fours and a six in the first over of the match. He went after Elton Chigumbura, smashing 20 runs from 10 balls that he faced. He reached his hundred in style but fell off the next delivery he faced. However, before leaving he slammed four sixes and 10 fours. Sri Lanka won the match by Duckworth-Lewis method after rain interrupted play.
Mahela Jayawardene’s 72* vs England, Sri Lanka tour of England 2010
Months after losing the final of ICC World T20 2010, Sri Lanka travelled to England. The visitors were to play three Tests, one-off T20 match and five ODIs against England. They lost the Test series 0-1. Before they headed off to play the five-match ODI series there was a T20 match to be played. Sri Lankan skipper Thilina Kandamby won the toss and put England to bat. England could not score more than 136. As usual, Jayawardene opened the batting for Sri Lanka with Jayasuriya, but the latter departed early in the match. It was Sangakkara and the opener who finished it for the visitors by the 18th over of the match. Jayawardene slammed an unbeaten 57-ball 72. He was brutal against Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad. The visitors won by nine runs.
Mahela Jayawardene’s 65* vs West Indies, ICC World T20 2012
Jayawardene’s finest innings have mostly come against West Indies. In the ICC World T20 2012, West Indies were up against Sri Lanka in the group match. West Indies won the toss and elected to bat. Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo pushed the team’s total to 129. Sri Lanka had a modest target ahead of them. Ravi Rampaul dismissed Dilshan early, creating some pressure on the Lankans. Jayawardene played the scoop, smashed boundaries straight, and even unleashed the reverse sweep. He hit all over the park. His 49-ball 65 consisted of a six and ten fours. With 28 balls remaining, Jayawardene, along with Sangakkara, had guided Sri Lanka to victory.
Mahela Jayawardene’s 42 vs Pakistan, ICC World T20 2012
It was the semi-final of the ICC World T20 2012. Sri Lanka faced Pakistan at Colombo. Jayawardene had elected to bat. In the second ball of the match, he hit Sohail Tanvir down the leg side. Umar Gul could not stop the ball and it raced to the boundary. A few overs later, Jayawardene tossed up a ball and slammed a Raza Hasan delivery over square-leg. He played the reverse-sweep against a dangerous Saeed Ajmal and placed one beautifully off Shahid Afridi. In the tenth over, he gave a half-chance but the ball fell short of Shoaib Malik. Afridi removed Jayawardene the next over for 42. The Sri Lankan bowlers then rounded things off. Pakistan were defeated by 16 runs and Sri Lanka cruised to their second ICC World T20 final.
Kumar Sangakkara’s class is a dominant force to deal with, even in T20 cricket © Getty Images
Kumar Sangakkara’s 55* vs Australia, ICC World T20 2009
It was the group match of the ICC World T20 2009. Sri Lanka was up against One-Day International (ODI) World Cup champion Australia. Sri Lanka put Australia in and needed 160 from their 20 runs.
Jayasuriya was dismissed very early in the match. At this point, Sangakkara came in to bat. Along with Dilshan, Sangakkara put on the highest partnership of the match. Sangakkara scored an unbeaten 55 and guided the team to victory. He smashed two sixes and four boundaries. Sangakkara scored the most number of runs from the leg-side. Sangakkara was awarded the Man of the Match award.
Kumar Sangakkara’s 78 vs India, Sri Lanka tour of India 2009
Sri Lanka toured India in 2009 for three-Test series, three T20Is and five ODIs. India won the Test series convincely by 2-0. Before Sri Lanka went on to play ODI series against India, they were to play T20 series against India. The first T20I was at Nagpur. Sangakkara was leading the team in the match and after the two openers faltered, it was on him and Jayawardene. Sangakkara’s blitzkrieg innings of 78 came from 37 balls. It included 11 fours and two sixes. Sangakkara open fired on the Indian bowlers, especially on the leg-side. He scored 53 runs on the leg-side.
(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)