The elegance and grace of Mahela Jayewardene virtually takes Sri Lanka into super eights
Mahela Jayewardene proved that smash and grab is not the only way out for batsmen in the T20 version. The stylish right hander proved to the world that there is room for Elegance and grace in this format. Winning the toss and electing to bat first, play got underway in bright sun shine despite the early morning rain. Sri Lanka made two vital changes for this all important game, by including Suraj Randiv for the injured Muttia Muralitheran and gave the nod to Thisara Perera at the expense of Welegedera.
Mahela Jayewardene was star of the day when he gracefully stroked a century, while the rest of the Sri Lankan batsmen fell victim to the difficult batting conditions at the providence stadium. The pitch was sluggish; timing the ball was a herculean task, while driving on the up was going to be a luxury. The Zimbabweans as expected were to exploit the conditions by using their four pronged spin attack, however a tactical error by skipper Prosper Utesey in bowling Christopher Mpofu with the new ball open the gates for Sri Lanka.
Mahela Jayewardene scored 14 runs in the very first over, his masterly craft of piercing the gaps, driving on the up, well timed flicks off the pads, deft touches past the man at backward of point, well executed cover drives and powerfully lofted strokes over the bowlers head, was all seen in one package when he raised to his century in 64 balls, executing 10 boundaries and four sixes in an innings, that has been rated as the best in this year’s version of the ICC T20.
Nasser Hussein the former England Captain, who was rated as a fine batsman when he wore the English cap, rated Jayewardene in the mould of David Gower and Grieg Chappell, the two former greats. The rest of the Sri Lankan batsmen found it hard to time the ball. Thillekaratne Dilshan was disappointing yet again, showing early signs that he will struggle in this year’s tournament.
Kumar Sangakkara played too early on a slow and low pitch, while Thisara Perera helped the Sri Lankan cause by putting on a partnership of 56 runs for the second wicket with Mahela Jayewardene. The youngster was well guided by Mahela during his stay at the wickets, the left hander made 23 from 19 balls which included 2 big sixes, but he must learn to control his innings.
The rest of the batters, namely Angelo Mathews, Dilshan Chandimal and Chamara Kapugedera were all caught in the deep, in their attempt to clear the boundary. Zimbabwe fielding was exceptional. Their catching in the outfield was exemplary and can be compared with the likes of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
Sri Lanka made a big score of 173 for 7, which certainly looked a winning total on the providence pitch, taking into account the strong bowling line up, and the in experience of the opponents.
Zimbabwe faced only one over in pursuit of 174 when the rains gate crashed the party at the Providence Stadium. While the down pour was heavy in the Rainforest Island of Guyana, the Sri Lankan dugout had concerns.
The worst scenario that surfaced around was, if play was abandoned Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe share a point each. If the rain continued the next day and if the Group “B” game against New Zealand and Zimbabwe suffered the same fate due to the anticipated inclement weather today Sri Lanka will exit from the tournament since Zimbabwe will then share a point each from both abandoned games which means New Zealand will head the group with 3 points followed by Zimbabwe with 2 and Sri Lanka only 1 point.
Thank heavens play was possible, for a limited period of time in which Sri Lanka had to bowl a minimum of 4 more overs. The target of 110 runs in D/L method in 11 overs looked far beyond the reach of the opponents. Sri Lanka squeezed in 4 quick overs using 3 overs of spin a one over of pace. The D/L equation was 43 runs in 5 overs but Zimbabwe did no favors for themselves by accumulating only 29 runs for one wicket with no boundaries scored even during the3 power play overs.
This approach by Zimbabwe has cost them a poor net run rate of -2.800 as against Sri Lanka’s net run rate of +0.355. The current equation has virtually got Sri Lanka into the super eights.