|Lord's Cricket Ground, St John's Wood
|England v Sri Lanka
|KC Sangakkara, AD Mathews
|Sri Lanka in Ireland and England 2014
By Andy Jalil In association with INVESTEC
London Halfway through his 123rd Test match, Kumar Sangakkara clinched the one item missing from his extraordinary list of batting achievements in international cricket, a century at the home of cricket, reaching his 36th Test hundred. By the time he was dismissed, an hour-and-a-half after tea, he was on 147 in a seven and a half hour effort with Sri Lanka battling their way in attempting to save the match after England had posted a daunting first innings total of 575 for nine declared on the previous day.
At stumps on the third day, Sri Lanka, on 415 for seven, with Angelo Mathew 79 not out, were trailing by 160. They still have much to do to save the match.
Sangakkara led the fight-back in three solid partnerships, first with Kaushal Silva he put on 97 followed by 126 with Mahela Jayawardene, another veteran in the side who has 33 Tests hundreds to his name including two scored at Lords and then 96 with the captain Mathews for the fifth wicket. Sangakkara began this tour with an aggregate of 25,033 international runs, the fourth highest after Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis and it included 11,151 Test runs which he has now extended to 11,298 with a superb Test average of 58.53.
His effort at the crease yesterday was a product of solid determination not just for his personal goal but aimed primarily at saving the Test. Resuming the innings on 140 for one, there lay ahead a major batting task and after losing Kaushal Silva who was held behind when he ducked to a rising ball, from James Anderson, which hit the back of his bat, Sangakkara progressed with caution bringing up his 46th Test fifty for 102 balls.
By lunch the tourists were 212 for two with Sangakkara on 73 after steering a four off Chris Jordan and Jayawardene 29. Both batsmen played splendid strokes during the second session. Sangakkara moved from 73 to 87 watchfully with singles and twos and then ran three from an on drive off Liam Plunkett and got into the nineties with a lofted shot over mid-on off Moeen Ali. His partner took two fours in an over off Moeen, both to point from a cut and a square drive taking his score to 43.
With a perfectly timed straight drive off Plunkett Sangakkara got to 97 and two balls later ran two to 99. Jayawardene was on 48 at this point when they passed Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Gangulys 12,400 partnership runs in international cricket more than any other pair had achieved. It is interesting to note that these two batting greats hold the world record of 624 for any wicket, scored against South Africa in Colombo in 2006. They had beaten the previous highest of 576 by Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama against India in 1997/98.
Finally, a slightly uppish drive to the extra cover boundary, off Joe Root, took Sangakkara to the three figures he so patiently had waited for and which he celebrated both in delight and relief in what must be his final innings at Lords. Equally jubilant at his partner reaching the milestone was Jayawardene who, in the next over brought up his 47th Test half century off 90 balls.
The stand was broken with Stuart Broad trapping Jayawardene lbw for 55 and 12 runs later James Anderson had Lahiru Thirimanne held at short mid-wicket as he attempted to turn a straight ball to leg. It reduced the tourists to 289 for four. The wicket that England most wanted fell to Moeen as Sangakkara having faced 258 balls attempted a cut but only edged it into the gloves of Matt Prior with the total on 385 for five and the follow-on had just been avoided eight runs earlier.
Mathews by then was on 64 having reached his fifteenth Test half century off 64 balls and on 400 Sri Lanka lost the sixth wicket, that of Prasanna Jayawardene, to a catch at backward short leg. Jordan claimed his second wicket finding the edge of Nuwan Kulasekeras bat on 413. Mathews had meanwhile kept the score board moving. He chose not to play aggressive shots and was content with singles and twos with good running between the wickets.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2014 Andy Jalil)