A fitting swansong for Jayawardene

The farewell innings had not been perfect. At times in his career a Mahela Jayawardene hundred seemed almost inevitable at the SSC, but throughout his stay at the crease on day three and four, he was some way from his fluent best.

Still, he had endeavoured to deliver most of his vintage shots, mostly on day three. He had cover-driven Wahab Riaz, late cut Abdur Rehman and slog-swept Saeed Ajmal. The upper cut, the on-drive and the inside-out shot over cover had all been played with success, too.

Having gone to stumps yesterday on 49, an expectant crowd had come on a cloudy day to watch him make 50 at the very least. He defended his first four balls of the morning, then paddle-swept the fifth for four to reach the milestone. The crowd was on its feet. Firecrackers went off for well over a minute. But in the middle, Jayawardene had acknowledged the applause with typical restraint.

Moments earlier, Sangakkara had hit the two runs the pair had required to complete their 19th hundred-run stand, and, if nothing else, the SSC saw its heroes meet each other mid-pitch one final time for that familiar soul-brother handshake.

Sangakkara was out first on Sunday, and he waved his bat as he left the field – unusual, because he had scored only 58. Was he acknowledging the end of the great alliance with his friend? They finish second on the all-time list for batting pairs with 6554 runs together, but their average of 56.5 together is comfortably the highest among batting pairs who have made more than 5000.

But was Sangakkara saying goodbye to more than just his partnership with Jayawardene? With no Tests in Sri Lanka for almost a year, home crowds may have seen the last of him with the bat, too.

Jayawardene’s last act with the bat brought a hush from those who had come to watch him, but in many ways, the end fit the man. Saeed Ajmal has dismissed him more than any other bowler in Tests. He was also getting substantial turn and bounce, removing Sangakkara in his previous over. But for 17 years, Jayawardene has had an incurable itch to attack; to dominate the bowling, often when the odds were stacked against him.

On 54, Jayawardene danced out of his crease for one final time, aimed a stroke over mid-on, and mistimed it, having not got to the pitch of the delivery. Ahmed Shehzad tracked the skied ball from midwicket, before completing a tumbling catch around mid-on.

There was no wistful lingering, no sentimental hanging around. Jayawardene walked off the field as the SSC rose to its feet. Only in the last 20 paces before crossing the rope did he raise his bat, and soak up the applause for one final time as a Test batsman. For the crowd, and for the man, the last 17 years had been some ride.

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