Mahela Jayawardene: Tribute to the great Sri Lankan batsman


Joining recent 10,000 plus Test run retirees Dravid, Ponting, Tendulkar and Kallis, the great Sri Lankan number four Mahela Jayawardene has called time on a wonderful Test career. At 37, and with Sri Lanka having no Tests scheduled for the next 10 months, the timing was right. The 2-0 series win over Pakistan this week, scoring 54 in his final innings at his home ground (the SSC Ground in Colombo), is the perfect send-off.

Denagamage Proboth Mahela de Silva Jayawardene made his Test debut, as the 69th capped Sri Lankan, at Colombo’s R Premadasa Stadium in 1997 against India. The visitors batted first, making 537, with the Sri Lankans replying with a world record Test score 6/952 declared. In amongst big scores from Sanath Jayasuriya (340), Roshan Mahanama (225) and Aravinda de Silva (126), the young Jayawardene made 66. Of course the game ended in a draw.

Jayawardene announced himself to Australian cricket followers with his maiden One Day International century against England at the Adelaide Oval in January 1999. 120 off 111 balls as Sri Lanka chased down England’s 3/302 with 1 wicket in hand and two balls to spare. The match is more remembered for umpire Ross Emerson no-balling Muttiah Muralitharan and Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga leading his players from the field. Australia was never a happy hunting ground for Mahela, his only Test century in this country coming with an innings of 104 in the first innings of the 2007 Test match in Hobart.

Jayawardene’s use of an angled bat made him suspect against a moving ball and explains his much lower average in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. As well as his keeness to take on the short ball regardless of where the deep leg-side fielders have been placed. But there has been arguably no better player of spin bowling in his generation. Many great knocks at Galle, where the ball turns square from day one, as well as the two Colombo venues, are testament to that. One of the greatest batsman in sub-continental conditions ever.

July 2006, South Africa bat first in the Test against Sri Lanka at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo. The Proteas are bundled out for 169. In reply Sri Lanka in all sorts of trouble at 2/14. Jayawardene and his great mate, Kumar Sangakkara, combine for a world record, any wicket partnership, of 624. Sangakkara makes 287. Jayawardene breaks Sanath Jayasuriya’s Sri Lankan record of 340 with a masterful 374. Sri Lanka win the Test by an innings and 153 runs.

In 2009, heading on the team bus for day 3 of the second Test against Pakistan at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan, the Sri Lankan bus is fired upon by 12 masked gunmen. Jayawardene, captain of the team, is one of 6 Sri Lankan players to receive shrapnel injuries.  Six Pakistani policeman and two civilians are killed. The driver of the mini-bus carrying the umpires and match referees is killed. The Test is abandoned. Sadly, Test cricket hasn’t been played in Pakistan since as a result.

Debuting not long after Sri Lanka’s World Cup triumph in 1996, Jayawardene has consistently played in a strong team that has just missed out on the major trophies. He has been part of the team that has lost World Cup finals in 2007 (to Australia) and 2011 (to India). As well as losing the World Twenty20 final in 2012. Winning the World Twenty20 Final in 2014 has been his only major title. As a Twenty20 player, opening the batting for his country or captaining the Dehli Daredevils in the IPL, he adapted brilliantly to the shortest form of the game.

Apart from the record Test partnership with Sangakkara, Mahela has several impressive milestones. Caught Jayawardene Bowled Muralitharan is the most common bowler/fielder combination in Test history. He’s the second player after Sachin Tendulkar to reach 600 combined International games. 423 catches across the three international formats is the most by any player.

As sublime a cover driver as anyone who has played the game. Superb, wristy player off his pads. Sits very well alongside Kumar Sangakkara and Aravinda de Silva as the best batsmen the island nation of Sri Lanka has produced. While his wonderful Test career is over, his one-day career continues into this summer’s World Cup. A last chance to see the great man in action. Jayawardene and Sangakkara would be deserving, popular World Cup winners.


DPMD Jayawardene

Tests: 149    Runs: 11814   Ave: 49.84   50: 50  100: 34    HS: 374

ODI (to be continued): 420   Runs 11681  Ave: 32.90   50: 72   100:16    HS:144

Twenty20 Internationals: 55   Runs: 1493   Ave: 31.76  100:1  HS: 100


About Luke Reynolds

Cricket and Collingwood tragic. Twitter: @crackers134


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Luke no doubt a very good player but as in line with most aussies I mark him down as he has never done as well over here as I dare say a lot of Sub continent followers of the game would do so in regards to several of our players re there lack of success on there decks . As a cricket lover there is something magical about a wristy player such as , Jayawardene when in full flight thanks , Luke

  2. Good tribute to one of the best. Him and Kumar make it look so easy at times. Will be missed.

  3. Thanks Luke. I reckon the South Africans would have been grumpy/exhausted/mightily thirsty at the end of the Jayawardene/Sangakkara partnership of 624! Once they got to 300 the fielding team would have been fresh out of sledges.

    A great career.

  4. Steve Fahey says

    Great tribute to a terrific player Luke, and fantastic stat re bowler/fielder combination.

    Unfortunately the orgy of meaningless short-form cricket has diluted attention from the achievements of some excellent players from the lower-ranked cricketing nations. I look forward to watching the two current Sri Lankan stars in Australia during the World Cup.

  5. Love your cricket stories, Luke.
    (And your footy stories).
    Thorough and worthy of yer man there Jayawardene.

    He’s a strong individual and a strong accumulator of runs no doubt, with immense reserves of concentration.,

    149 Tests at nearly 50 is handy. Though stats never give the full story. I imagine that Pakistan trip to have been affecting. Jeepers. Well played Luke.

  6. Hi Luke, how do Jayawardenes’ test figures total with Aravinda Da Silva, and Kumar Sangkkara? The next point i might be a bit pedantic. An average close to 50 is very good, but above 50 tends to confirm greatness. You will hear Matthew Hayden described as great, averaging over 50,but players like Mark Waugh and Damien Martyn, whose averages were below 50, are rarely described as great.
    It wil be good seeing M Jayawardene down here for the World Cup. Hope he performs well.


  7. Skip of Skipton says

    Averages only tell part of the story for mine, Glen. Especially in more recent times. Sangakkara has made 7 tons vs. Bangladesh. Australia has only played four tests against Bangladesh etc.

    As Tony Greig would have said, “Mork Waugh is orl clorse”

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Thanks all.

    Good question Glen. Aravinda de Silva, for mine the first truly great Sri Lankan batsman, played 93 Tests over 18 years, 6361 runs, 20 centuries, average of 42.97. Plus 9284 runs at 34.90 in 308 ODI’s.
    Sangakkara 128 Tests in 14 years, 11988 runs, 37 centuries, average of 58.76. Plus 12806 runs at 40.39 in 377 ODI’s.
    All three players have outstanding records in Asia, and good results everywhere else. Unlike Sangakkara and Jayawardene, de Silva only played 1 Test against Bangladesh. And Sri Lanka played Test matches with far less frequency for much of his career. I rate him just as highly as the other two. de Silva’s innings in the 1996 World Cup final was arguably the most important innings in Sri Lankan history.
    If I had to pick one though, I would go for Sangakkara.

  9. Keiran Croker says

    Great tribute Luke. I do n’t pay great attention to the stats. What I know is that both Jayawardene and Sangakarra are both beautiful batsmen to watch at the crease. Pure class!

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