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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay – Mahela Jayawardene's last day in test cricket comes to an emotional end

Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene in action
Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene in action
©Reuters

August 18, 2014 - It's never easy to let go, but the pinch in Jayawardene's case was reduced after Sri Lanka won their first World Cup title after 1996 with a T20 World Cup victory against India, just three months before his test retirement.

When Mahela Jayawardene made his test debut in August 1997 and scored an impressive half-century against India, there was certainly appreciation of his talent. But not many would have expected that by the time he finally bids adieu to the game, he would have played for almost one and a half decades, amassed 11,814 runs from 149 matches with 34 test centuries.

One of the things that he wanted to achieve and missed by a whisker was maintaining his test average over 50. The batsman scored a half-century in his last test innings but his test average slipped to 49.84. Still, how many can boast of an average like his?

The people's man in Sri Lankan cricket, Mahela Jayawardene's retirement from test cricket was made all the more special with a rare Sri Lankan win at Headingley, capped off by a 2-0 series victory against Pakistan at home in the final test of his career.

While he was dismissed for just four in the first innings, trapped in front of the wickets off Saeed Ajmal, the veteran batsman made a crucial contribution of 54 in the second innings, bringing up his 50th half-century in test cricket. He also added 107 runs with Kumar Sangakkara in his last test innings, which was only fitting as the duo have had 19 century partnerships in test cricket.

 

 

Courtesy of Rangana Herath's 5-wicket haul, Sri Lanka bowled out Pakistan for just 165 in the final innings and wrapped up the match early on day five, winning by 105 runs to bag the series - the team had done it for Mahela, for the man who had given his all to Sri Lankan cricket for 15 years.

"It's been an emotional day but I promise I won't cry," were Mahela Jayawardene's first words when he took the podium right after his final Test. 

"My most valued day in Tests is the day I got my cap," Jayawardene said. "To walk into that dressing room and be with that group of players on Test debut, and to receive my cap from captain Arjuna Ranatunga, with all the other guys being there - it was probably the best day in my life, and something I will never forget. It's not easy to let it go, but there will be a lot of young talent waiting to wear this cap, and that's a great thing. I'm still wearing it on my head, because it's the last time I can do that."

It's never easy to let go of the thing that you have done all your life and you know no better but the pinch of letting go was reduced after Sri Lanka won their first World Cup title after 1996 with a T20 World Cup victory against India in 2014, just three months before Jayawardene's retirement from test cricket.

The man who had been an advocate for nurturing young talent in the last few years of his career, made a point of practicing what he preached. Despite no evidence of a sharp decline in form, Jayawardene decided to retire. In fact, he had scored a brilliant 165 against South Africa just a couple of months ago in Colombo and was still striking the ball well.

Most legends know when it's the right time to go and the legend that Jayawardene is, he did know, and left the stage to thunderous applause.

 

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