Thursday, July 10, 2008

Column by Sanath Jayasuriya : Ajantha bowled quite brilliantly

Not everything went entirely to plan with our early hiccups, but in the end it worked out brilliantly for Sri Lanka and we were all thrilled to have retained the Asia Cup. The lion's share of the credit should go to Ajantha Mendis, our new spinning star, who bowled quite brilliantly.

When we found out that India had added a seventh batsman, we knew they would field first if they won the toss. That suited us perfectly as our intention was always to bat, as we did throughout the tournament.

Chasing in a final is never easy, especially if you have two spinners like Murali and Ajantha. I assume, however, that Mahendra Singh Dhoni had greater confidence in his batsmen and wanted them to shoulder the responsibility of handling the pressure.

Nevertheless, we could have started any worse. We were very unlucky to lose Sanga so early on and it was a big blow – for me as his partner, and for the team. He has been the solid rock on which we normally build our totals and that put us under pressure.

When we started losing wickets steadily, things got worse. However, with the score 66 for 4 with Dilshan walking into bat, I knew I must continue attacking. I did not want to change my natural game and felt we had to capitalise on the PowerPlays or risk falling well-short of a good total.

Fortunately, Dilshan played really well and we were able to wrestle back some of the initiative. After the PowerPlays, we reduced our risk-taking and concentrated on batting out the overs. If we did that, we knew we should get to 270 plus.

n the end, we might have got even 300 but we were confident that 270 was defendable. The key was taking a few wickets in the first 10-15 overs. Only wicket-taking would give us a chance to control India's dangerous batting line-up.

A few more overs of Sehwag and the result could have been very different. But Mahela (Jayawardene) took the brave decision of bringing Ajantha into the attack in just the 10th over and the rest is now history. His performance will linger long in the memory.

Ajantha may not spin the ball a huge amount, but he still has a lot of variety. What's more, there was not a single loose delivery on offer. His length was immaculate, leaving the Indian batsmen, who clearly could not read him, in two minds as to whether to go forward or backwards.

The prospect of him forming a partnership with Murali for the next couple of years is very exciting for Sri Lanka. The next test could be the three-match Test series with India. I am sure he will be in the squad and there is every chance he'll make his debut

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