July 2006: Two For The Price Of One

Cricket is a simple game, a contest between bat and ball. Sometimes the ball wins, often the bat does for a while, but never in the history of the game had willow held sway over leather in quite so dramatic a manner as it did for 157 overs from July 29th to the 31st this year.

The venue was the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo, and the contest in question was the first test match between a revitalised Sri Lanka, fresh from drawing their recent series in England, and a South African side lacking Smith, Pollock and Kallis.

For the first half of the first day, the ball was most definitely in the ascendancy as wickets fell at the rate of one every twenty minutes, and with the visitors dismissed for 155 at tea, Sri Lanka started their own reply shakily.

Dale Steyn had taken a wicket in each on his first two overs and by doing so had reduced the home side to a far from secure 14-2 when captain Mahela Jayawardene joined Kumar Sangakkara in the middle. The partnership nearly ended as quickly as it began with both batsmen particularly fortunate to survive long enough for the number 5 to get his pads on.

Within half an hour, Jayawardene had come within an ace of running himself out and almost holed out on the hook, but he was by far the surer of the pair. Sangakkara in the space of four balls had seen Jacques Rudolph grass the most straightforward of chances before he dragged a no-ball on to his own stumps.

South Africa had a day and a session to reflect on Steyn’s misfortune and Rudolph’s profligacy. Only when the batsmen had taken their partnership on to 467, and in the process equalled the old world record for the third wicket in test cricket, did another fleeting chance arrive and depart with the blink of an eye. This time, it was wicketkeeper Mark Boucher who would have slept uneasily.

Day three dawned with Jayawardene and Sangakkara barely 100 shy of immortality. The luncheon interval saw the partnership within single figures of the pinnacle of pinnacles, and it is fitting that neither batsman can claim to have hit the shot that relegated the 577 made by the immortal Vijay Hazare and Gul Mohammed in March 1947 to the second row in the table. That honour goes to Nicky Boje, Mark Boucher and four byes wide down the leg side.

The party ended after the pair had added 624 exhausting runs when Kumar Sangakkara, 13 light of his first ‘triple’, was undone be Andrew Hall. Mahela Jayawardene eventually moved up to fourth in the individual scores table before he departed with 374 alongside his name. It is worth noting that the previous test record, the 577 compiled by Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama, was made in Jayawardene’s debut test.

Cricket Web Players of the Month
July 2006

Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene

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