Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sanath Jayasuriya slams his 28th century against India

Sanath Jayasuriya just keeps getting better with age. Still going strong in his 40th year, his 28th ODI hundred - on an oppressively hot and humid day and on an uncharacteristically sluggish track - took Sri Lanka to the highest total in a day match in Dambulla. He played a different game from his team-mates: when he got out in the 40th over he had scored 107 in 114 balls, while the rest had managed 64 in 122 deliveries.

Jayasuriya had a bit of making up to do after running out Tillakaratne Dilshan in the first over. He had responded to Dlishan's call but stopped after taking two steps and Yusuf Pathan made no mistake in sending back the in-form batsman.

What followed was an asphyxiating opening spell by Zaheer Khan. No runs were scored off his first 17 deliveries, and he gave away only eight runs in that five-over burst. But Jayasuriya targeted Munaf Patel from the other end, taking at least one boundary in the first four of Munaf's overs, not letting the scoring stagnate.

Kumar Sangakkara stayed cautious throughout his 44-run stay - a contrast to Jayasuriya, who reached 38 off 41 deliveries before spinners were introduced in the 16th over. With spin came the shackles, as Pragyan Ojha and Pathan bowled accurately using the slow nature of the pitch to clog the boundaries.

In demanding conditions, Jayasuriya showed he was supremely fit at his age and though he was visibly short of fluids - cramping up and kneeling down between deliveries to recover - he didn't take any short cuts.

He broke the 10-over boundary-less spell by hitting Ojha onto the sightscreen, and followed it up with a pulled four off Yusuf in the next over. But Sangakkara departed just when Sri Lanka had reached a stage from where one of the two could have gone for an all-out assault.

Jayasuriya scored 36 in his next 34 deliveries, and his exit came at an inopportune time as well. He had lost all his energy by the second over of the batting Powerplay as he lobbed a slower fulltoss from Zaheer Khan to Munaf Patel at mid-off.

The batting bar was lowered once again, as Zaheer and Ishant Sharma bowled superbly in the final overs. They used the change of pace to good effect, and Zaheer also managed some late swing. Mahela Jayawardene's struggle continued, and only 82 runs were scored in the last 12 overs.

At the innings break, both teams would have been left thinking - with vastly different emotions - what if there was no Jayasuriya?

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