Sri Lanka are contemplating resting Mahela Jayawardene from games in order to prolong the star batsman’s career. The only people who appeared to need Jayawardene to take a break at Headingley here on Friday were England’s bowlers as the 34-year-old marked his 343rd one-day international with a career-best 144.
Jayawardene’s innings powered Sri Lanka to 309 for five and laid the platform for a 69-run win in the second one-day international that saw the tourists level the five-match series at 1-1. Normally a number three or four batsman, this innings was Jayawardene’s third one-day hundred in eight matches as an opener.
It is a position he has been elevated to this trip after Upul Tharanga was suspended for a drugs offence and with former opener Sanath Jayasuriya retiring after England’s 110-run win in the first ODI at The Oval on Tuesday.
“We are looking at Mahela opening in some games but resting from others and play for another three or four years,” Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan said. “He can’t play all the matches in the next three or four years. We can bring another opener into that position. We have to rotate that position and give a chance to youngsters.”
After Sri Lanka lost two early wickets to run-outs, Jayawardene – who survived a difficult slip catch on seven – and Kumar Sangakkara, who made 69, shared a third-wicket partnership of 159 that took the game away from England. “This was a very good response from the boys,” Jayawardene said.
“310 was a bonus, we though 270 would be a good total. Once Kumar and I settled, we managed to up the rate. We knew that the initial 15 to 20 overs was crucial, and once the ball got older we could attack certain bowlers,” added Jayawardene of an innings where seamers Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan both conceded 70 runs and Jade Dernbach’s nine overs went for 63. It was important for us to get back into the series after that first game.”
England captain Alastair Cook, on the losing side for the first time in five-matches as one-day skipper, insisted England had every chance of bouncing back at Lord’s on Sunday. “The good thing for us is that it is a quick turn around. It’s an exciting series now, the best of three,” the opener said.
Cook though lamented the failure of his batsmen, himself included, to make a match-winning contribution with Eoin Morgan’s 52 the hosts’ best effort. “All of the top six got in but none of us did a Mahela to get us close and went on to get that match-winning hundred.”
Cook, who won the toss at Headingley only to see his bowlers struggle, added: “We fancied chasing, it’s quite a hard ground to defend and a lot of edges can fly downhill. Maybe in hindsight we got it wrong, but the crux of the matter is our skills let us down at times.”
The normally placid Jayawardene was involved in a brief spat with Dernbach after the pair collided while he was running between the wickets but Cook defended his novice seamer by saying: “That’s the passion you need to play cricket with, the big thing is to make sure he make sure he concentrated on the next and I think he did that very well.
“You have to have that passion and pride to play for England. When certain moments like that flare up, it’s important you don’t have people taking a backward step.”
Dilshan played down the incident by saying of Dernbach: “These things happen. I don’t know what was in his mind.”