26th May: Chennai S. Kings v Mumbai I, 14:30 GMT
24th-28th May: 2nd Test, Headingley
When Sri Lankan captain Marvan Atapattu was ruled out of the tour to England in 2006 with an injury, Sri Lanka seemed destined to struggle against an England side filled with confidence, after securing a 1-1 series draw in India with a depleted team.
|Jayawardene gets his century at Lord's|
|© REUTERS / Action Images|
With Atapattu not able to take his place in the side and with Sanath Jayasuriya’s shock retirement from Test cricket just prior to the tour of England, Mahela Jayawardene was appointed captain of a very young and inexperienced Sri Lankan team.
Many experts believed that Sri Lanka were going to struggle to be competitive on their tour of England. This view was further enhanced when Sri Lanka were comfortably beaten by 10 wickets by England A.
Jayawardene was quite quick to claim that that crushing defeat against England A was nothing to be concerned about and that his side could learn from it when they met the senior England side in the first Test at Lord's.
Despite Jayawardene’s positive sentiments, Sri Lanka found themselves in trouble very early on in that first Test as England posted a mammoth first innings total of 551 for six declared. The home side then bowled Sri Lanka out for just 192 and asked Jayawardene’s men to follow on, and when Sri Lanka were reduced to 178 for three following on day three, an England victory appeared to be something of an inevitability. However, some staggering resilience from Sri Lanka, along with a dozen dropped catches from England, saw Sri Lanka remarkably bat for two and half days to secure a draw.
Jayawardene led the fightback with a brilliant 119, but five of his team-mates also reached half centuries as his side posted 537 for nine in what was surely one of the best rearguard performances of all time.
Even though that first Test was Jayawardene’s first match in charge it encapsulated the spirit and heart with which he has led his side. His team did lose the second Test, but thereafter they did not lose another match, as they won the third Test at Trent Bridge by 134 runs to tie the series 1-1, before winning the Twenty20 International and claiming a 5-0 clean sweep on the ODI series.
At the start of the tour Sri Lanka did not look like beating even a county team; by the end of it they looked like world beaters. A lot of this is down to the confidence that Jaywardene was able to instil in his team in such a short space of time.
|"...one of the sweetest timers of the ball..."|
|© REUTERS / Action Images|
Following the 5-0 sweep against England, Sri Lanka’s One Day performances went from strength to strength. They reached the finals of the ICC World Cup in 2007, knocking out 2003 runners-up India in the group stages.
Sri Lanka were outclassed in the final by the Australians as Adam Gilchrist hit an astonishing 149 from just 104 balls. Jayawardene’s men were not able to recreate their World Cup success of 1996 (where ironically they defeated Australia in the final), but to make the final and play the brand of cricket that Sri Lanka did in that competition, left fans and commentators, around the world very excited. The most memorable moment of the 2007 World Cup was when Sri Lanka pace sensation Lasith Malings claimed an unpredicted four wickets in four balls to almost force a victory against South Africa in Guyana.
2008 has been an up and down year for Sri Lanka. They began the year in Australia with a disappointing performance in the Commonwealth Bank triangular series also involving India and Australia, failing to make the finals.
After securing a historic Test series draw in the Caribbean, his men then succumbed to a 2-0 ODI series defeat against the West Indies in March.
Sri Lanka did however atone for this disappointments by thrashing India by 100 runs to win the Asia Cup. The same opponents were beaten by a 2-1 margin in the Test series at home. Sri Lanka then defeated Pakistan in the finals of a quadrangular Twenty20 tournament held in Canada, which also involved Zimbabwe and hosts Canada themselves.
Sri Lanka’s most recent series was a five-match ODI series in Zimbabwe, and despite some scares, the tourists emerged comfortable victors by a 5-0 margin. What started as a frustrating year for Sri Lanka has now turned into a very productive one, in which they have collected a lot of silverware. In many ways, Sri Lanka’s 2008 very much encapsulates Jayawardene’s first tour in charge and illustrates the determination and resilience of the Sri Lanka team during Jaywardene’s time as skipper.
© Cricket World 2008