A 17-year-old journey met a hugely satisfying end as Mahela Jayawardene took his final bow from a Test match field after winning a record 149 caps for Sri Lanka.
Jayawardene tasted success in 58 Tests including a 2-0 result in his farewell series against the well and truly out-spun Pakistan.
The elegant right-hander made his Test debut in 1997 against India, and after a slow start, never looked back. The breakthrough innings was played against New Zealand at Galle in 1998 — a score of 167.
After that, the hundreds kept arriving at an unerring regularity. The crafty batsman was an extremely pleasing sight with his flowing drives, cuts, flicks and pull shots. The Jayawardene cover drive almost became a signature shot— a shot that was a real delight to watch.
Jayawardene had a penchant for big runs from the outset, but after establishing his credentials at the Test level, he made his starts count — notching up no less than six double hundreds besides his monumental 374 against South Africa in 2006.
During that performance, his rapport with Kumar Sangakkara grew leaps and bounds as the two combined to add a world-record 624 runs for the third wicket.
Left-handed Sangakkara also blossomed into a world class player with Jayawardene; the two formed the backbone of Sri Lanka’s batting line-up after the departure of the legendary Aravinda De Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga.
During the England series two months ago, Sangakkara and Jayawardene had the same number of runs for a brief period, but another superhuman run of form propelled the southpaw past his best friend.
If one looks back at Jayawardene’s numbers, his quality becomes truly evident. In his case, the numbers don’t lie.
He kept piling on the runs all around, but like most batsmen, had a special liking for home conditions. In 81 Tests in the pearl island, the middle-order run-making machine amassed 7,167 runs, averaging a stupendous 52.45 runs per innings. The tally includes 23 hundreds and 34 half-centuries.
Outside Sri Lanka too he managed to post no less than 11 centuries in 68 Tests.
Jayawardene continued to occupy a prominent slot among the leading batsmen of his generation, an era that saw some all-time greats like Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis and Brian Lara adorn the game with their special talent.
In front of passionate home fans, Jayawardene succeeded in scoring a useful half-century in his last innings in the longest format at Colombo’s Singhalese Sports Club ground.
The innings turned out a match winning contribution as Pakistan were rolled over meekly in pursuit of 271 runs in the final innings of the match.
The Sri Lankan fans still have some more Jayawardene moments to cherish, albeit only in ODI format; he bowed out of Twenty20 after the WorldT20 win in Bangladesh.
The icing on the cake of a phenomenal career would be the ODI World Cup trophy in March next year; Sri Lanka know that they are pinning their hopes on one of their most reliable sons.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2014.
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