Jayasuriya brilliance in vain

Henry Blofeld
Wednesday 03 July 2002 00:00
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It was an accident waiting to happen. Until now, Sanath Jayasuriya has had a dreadful summer with the bat, but such a talented and experienced player was bound eventually to get it right. He was magnificent, but then found that anything he could do Marcus Trescothick could do at least as well as the latter steered England to a brilliant victory.

Sri Lanka's captain is regarded as the first of the pinch-hitters, although he merely plays his natural style. It was by these strong-arm methods that he and Romesh Kaluwitharana won the 1995-96 World Cup for Sri Lanka in Pakistan. In the first 15 overs they effectively took match after match out of their opponents' control.

Of course, Jayasuriya, like any batsman in the doldrums, needed a bit of luck here before he was back on the rails. He was caught off a no-ball, dropped at backward point and had a happy knack of missing the fielders with those shots that he miscued in the air.

By the end, he was back to his best, with the ball flying to all parts off the middle of his bat. The most satisfying stroke of all was the half sweep, half pick-up off the front foot which brought him two mighty sixes off James Kirtley. He took a chance and got away with it, fortune favouring the bold.

Jayasuriya must have thought he had lifted Sri Lanka out of their V-shaped depression. He received pathetic support from his fellow batsmen and his bowlers then fell apart under Trescothick's remarkable assault. Jayasuriya will have had some hard words for his colleagues afterwards.

In playing this innings, Jayasuriya showed just what Flintoff may come to do for England with a bat in his hands. Bowlers may be the principal winners in two-innings cricket, but Jayasuriya showed that a batsman with a wide range of strokes, and the willingness to play them, can wrap up a limited overs game. He was splendid even though it turned out not to be enough and Sri Lanka have virtually waved this competition goodbye.

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