Sanath Jayasuriya, one of the Sri Lankan legends in his own right, came into the national side as a bowler with some batting skills. However later in his two decade career, he ushered nightmare into a bowler as the man with the sledgehammer.
Some of his blitzkrieg could be statistically rounded up with his 48-ball century saga against a Pakistan attack comprising Waqar Younis, Aaqib Javed and Saqlain Mushtaq. Another one came in the same tournament, this time in the final – though in an unforgettable losing cause (in pursuit of 216, the Lankans folded up for 172) – Sanath went crazy over the same bowling line up. Such was the intensity of his bulldozing that he raced to fifty off just 17 – another record for the quickest. His opening partner Romesh Kaluwitharana – the other half of the pair that taught the world to take chances in the initial bowling restriction – scored an 11-ball duck in their opening partnership of 70. Phew!
On his 48th birthday, let us sneak in through five of his best innings that were the monuments of his stature.
151* (120 balls, 17×4, 4×6) v India, Mumbai ODI, May 1997: It was many from those one-man show that sent India packing from a tri-series. A menacing spell from Chaminda Vaas (10-3-13-2) meant India could struggle to 225. In reply, Jayasuriya was at his brutal best as he took all upon himself to steer the chase. He alone accounted for 151 of those 229 that Sri Lanka made. Further, the rest of his teammates made 65 off 127 at a strike rate of 51 while the opener went over 125 runs per 100 balls. Sri Lanka won with 9 overs to spare. He became the first Sri Lankan to score 150 or more in limited overs internationals.
340 (578 balls, 36×4, 2×6) v India, Colombo Test, August 1997: It was a slugfest for the batsman on a dead pitch. Navjot Sidhu, Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin all slammed tons as India posted 537. Sri Lanka lost Marvan Atapattu early, but Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama (225) batted for the next two days to notch up a record 576 runs before they fell in succession. Mahanama stayed for twelve and half hours while Jayasuriya batted 46 minutes more. On day four, he became the first Lankan to score 300 in First-class cricket. Aravinda de Silva hammered his ton while skipper Arjuna Ranatunga missed the same by 14 runs. The hosts added 365 on the final day – before the scoreboard read 952/6 off 271 overs! Coming to the hapless bowlers, the spin trio of Rajesh Chauhan, Anil Kumble and Nilesh Kulkarni swung about 70 overs each. Chauhan gave away 276, while Kumble managed 223 and Kulkarni missed the 200-mark by just 5. Footnote: Mahela Jayawardene made 66 on debut.
213 (278 balls, 33×4, 1×6) v England, London Test, August 1998: This innings led to Sri Lanka’s first ever match and series (one-off Test) win in England. In reply to England’s substantial 445, the leftie started the march and with de Silva (152) added 243 runs in 55 overs for the third wicket. What can define the quality of this innings is that it came against an English attack boasting Darren Gough, Angus Fraser and Dominic Cork. Sri Lanka were behind by more than 100 when Jayasuriya fell but lower order support ensured a lead of 146. With Muttiah Muralitharan (9/65) spinning a web on the Englishmen, they went ultra defensive to make 181 off 130 overs – but could not deny the inevitable.
189 (161 balls, 21×4, 4×6) v India, Sharjah ODI, October 2000: For the first half of the final, four Sri Lankan batsmen could add just 35 out of 116 before Russel Arnold (52*) supported the short dynamite to add 166 off just 21 overs to take the trophy away from India. With two overs to go, Jayasuriya – this time in leading duties – broke many of his own milestones en route to emulate Viv Richards. Just when hopes were up to see him within touching distance of Saeed Anwar’s record 194 (also against India) or even the first to hit 200, skipper Sourav Ganguly – in his innovative move of bowling himself all of a sudden – somehow managed to have him stumped off the first ball of the 49th over. Sanath’s brunt fell the most over Venkatesh Prasad who went for 73 off seven. In reply to 299, India imploded big time for a paltry 54 – Robin Singh (11) the only exception among the single digits.
152 (99 balls, 20×4, 4×6) v England, Leeds ODI, July 2006: In what was another heck of a chase, the Sri Lankan openers – Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga (109) – tore apart a below-par England bowling. The opening pair added 286 in just 32 overs – an episode too menacing to be put into words. After both the centurions departed in the space of three balls, the tourists finished off the affairs with 75 balls to spare and inflicted a 5-0 whitewash on the inventors of the game.
Photo by TonyPatterson
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