By Jamie Alter
Hambantota: Feb 20, 2011
The venue was brand new, but the story was a familiar one. Sri Lanka, in a brimming and spanking new stadium, won the toss and put up a huge total with their two most experienced batsmen, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, leading the way with a robust 179-run association.
With 332 on the board, all it now needs is for their spinners to share the wickets and presto, you have yet another example of how the Sri Lankans have trounced touring teams at home down the years.
Perhaps wary of the virgin strip in the middle, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga began steadily. Canada’s new-ball attack was modest, but didn’t offer a lot of room and there were many hard-handed strokes that crunched into the ground instead of racing across the grass.
At one stage Sri Lanka were 33 for 0 after seven overs with boundaries not easy to come by, but a couple risky shots got Dilshan off the blocks. Canada weren’t aided by an injury to Henry Osinde who pulled up with a hamstring tear early in the game and had to leave the field.
The run-out of Tharanga for 19 was followed by Dilshan bringing up 5,000 ODI runs in style, cutting Harvir Baidwan to the deep extra-cover ropes. With that milestone out of the way, Dilshan raised his half-century only to throw it away just after when he chased a wide ball and picked out the sweeper in the deep.
Canada had reason to celebrate the fall of an off-colour Dilshan, but there was something more deadly to come. The clumsiness set in as the ground fielding and catching fell to pieces, and good mates Sangakkara and Jayawardene strung together a partnership that would all but seal the fate of the game.
Sangakkara was bogged down for some time, unable to force the pace against the spinners and slow medium-pacers, but his good mate Jayawardene walked in and was immediately into a special rhythm. Jayawardene took his chances but they were calculated risks.
He batted serenely, milking the slower bowlers with ease with a series of well executed improvisations. He successfully kept the scoreboard ticking over, not merely with clever singles, but with swipes and glides to the boundary on both sides of the wicket.
The manner in which Jayawardene gently manhandled Canada's spinners - with soft hands, beautiful timing and subtle placement - made it impossible to stem the flow of runs. His shot-selection was perfect and a reverse-sweep from off stump off John Davison was sufficient proof of the authority with which he handled Canada’s bowlers.
Former Ranji Trophy cricketer Balaji Rao, bowling gentle legspin, suffered badly against Jayawardene, being swept twice to the boundary. Jayawardene’s half-century needed just 40 balls and the fun didn’t stop there.
Sangakkara, dropped on 12 at backward point, was more reserved than normal, but having reached his 60th ODI half-century off 63 balls, started to swagger and bludgeon thereafter, before he tamely chipped a return catch to Davison for 92 off 87 balls (267 for 3).
Jayawardene breezed to his century off just 80 balls – the fastest by a Sri Lanka in the World Cup – and swept the next delivery straight to Balaji at short fine leg to gift Davison another wicket. He had done his job, and how.
The batting Powerplay was immediately taken, after 44 overs with the score 276 for 4, and though Sri Lanka lost their way during that period they finished with a total that should prove way too much for Canada.
Brief Score: Sri Lanka 332 for 7 in 50 overs (Mahela Jayawardene 100, Kumar Sangakkara 92, Tillakaratne Dilshan 50; John Davison 2 for 56, Harvir Baidwan 2 for 59) vs Canada.
(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine.His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now.)
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