Captain intent on laying firm foundation

First it was Kumar, then came Mahela. Whoever reckoned Sri Lanka are a one-man team and the proposition is aired more often than Bing Crosby's greatest hit in December is dangerously misguided. Muttiah Muralitharan prospers not only because he is a great bowler but also because he is working behind large totals.

Those runs are in increasingly plentiful supply from two quarters. Kumar Sangakkara made 192 in the first Test against England in Kandy and erected the platform for victory. Here in Colombo yesterday Mahela Jayawardene performed a similar function and, although the bricks were put in place at a slightly slower rate, the effect of his adding 124 runs while batting all day presented a similarly worrying edifice for the tourists.

Jayawardene eschewed either risk or flamboyance. In his mind, Sangakkara having gone cheaply the night before, all that mattered was batting England out of the match. It was a magisterial exhibition of leading from the front.

For much of the first part of a Test career that began 10 years ago Jayawardene was maddeningly unpredictable. It was not that he often sold his wicket cheaply, but that he seemed unaware of its value. The elevation to the Sri Lankan captaincy changed him: in the 149 innings before it his average was 43.85; in the 29 since, excluding yesterday, it is 55.61.

In scoring his seventh hundred as captain (or rather crafting it painstakingly from a slow pitch refusing to grant favours to anybody lightly) he became Sri Lanka's highest runs scorer in Tests. He overtook Sanath Jayasuriya when he reached 111.

"Kumar and I know we need to take a lot of responsibility in this team because it's a time when we have a couple of youngsters," he said. "We've worked really hard to make sure we carry the team through this period. My problem is that I haven't been consistent. Batting with Kumar has helped. We complement each other, try and make big scores and have got into that habit."

When Jayawardene and Sangakkara speak it is as if they are intent on bequeathing a legacy to their team. They are not here today, gone tomorrow merchants. When they depart they want to have ensured that although their team still have places to go, they will be capable of getting there.

Not much was pretty about Jayawardene's innings yesterday. If it was fairly dull to watch at times, that was merely indicative of how far Test cricket has come in 15 years and how spoilt we all are. It no doubt helped that the SSC is his home ground every bit as much as Kandy is home to Sangakkara.

Jayawardene broke another Test record. He has now scored more runs at one ground (2,034 by close yesterday) than any other batsman, having overtaken the 2,015 Graham Gooch made at Lord's. He looked as though he was on speaking terms with every blade of grass.

What may really hurt an England side who never ceased trying is the nagging thought that they got it wrong at the toss by batting. "We have made the same mistake a couple of times as well and we had to bat really well in the second innings to get back into the match," said Jayawardene, almost teasingly.

England made more than Jayawardene expected but it looked far from enough as his occupation continued. Their bowlers, Monty Panesar apart, could hardly be faulted, but their reward was two wickets. "It was a tough day," said the England coach, Peter Moores. It promised to get tougher.

Stephen Brenkley and Angus Fraser discuss today's play at

election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'