Mahela Jayawardene smashed an unbeaten 140 as Sri Lanka regrouped after early strikes to post 305 for 5 on the first day of the series-deciding second Test against South Africa on Thursday (July 24).
Jayawardene spent nearly six hours at the crease, coming in early after Sri Lanka was on a shaky 16 for 2, having opted to bat first at the SSC ground. In all, Jayawardene hit 16 fours and a six during his 11th century at the SSC, the most by any batsman at a single venue. This was also the 37-year-old batsman’s 34th Test century, and he joined Sunil Gavaskar and Brian Lara at tied fifth on the list of highest Test century makers.
He shared two fruitful stands after Dale Steyn (2 for 55) had struck early for South Africa, putting on 99 with Kaushal Silva (44) and 133 with Angelo Mathews (63), the captain, for the fourth wicket.
Before the current series, Jayawardene had announced that he would retire after the four Tests Sri Lanka was scheduled to play at home this season, with a two-Test series against Pakistan to follow after the completion of this match.
Mathews, who promoted himself up the batting order, played patiently before nicking to Quinton de Kock, the wicketkeeper, off JP Duminy shortly into the final session.
At stumps, Niroshan Dickwella, the debutant, was batting alongside Jayawardene on 12. Dickwella had been given out caught off Duminy, but the decision was revoked on review with TV replays showing the ball had hit only his pads.
Steyn, who starred in South Africa’s 153-run victory in the first Test at Galle, sent back Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara for a duck in a fiery opening burst to give South Africa an early advantage. Duminy then accounted for the third wicket to fall in the morning session, dismissing Silva for a well-made 44 at the stroke of lunch.
Tharanga had started confidently, driving Steyn to the cover boundary in the first over of the day and smashing Vernon Philander straight down the ground for another four. But his flourish was short-lived as he gloved Steyn to de Kock off the fifth ball of the pacer’s third over. Steyn struck again off the very next ball to dismiss Sangakkara, who tried to pull a short delivery, but succeeded only in top-edging it to square leg, where Imran Tahir took an easy catch.
Jayawardene, playing at his home ground, displayed sublime form, once hitting Steyn for two fours in an over, before racing to his century. He hugged Mathews on reaching the three-figure mark and waved to the fans while fire-crackers were set off near the stands.