When king Sana ruled the Oval

Roshan Abeysinghe notes from England

It was both a privilege and an absolute pleasure to witness Sanath Jayasuriya score his 20th One day Century at the Brit Oval on the 20th of June during the 2nd One Day International. For Jayasuriya it was more of a homecoming game, as it was on this very ground some 8 years ago, that he plundered a magnificent double hundred off the hapless English bowling attack. That line up included some big names, mainly the former greats Darren Gough and Angus Fraser. It was interesting to watch Fraser who is referred to as “Gus” being present at the ground in his capacity as a journalist and radio commentator. “It was no different that day” was the view of the big Gus, who felt that Sanath Jayasuriya had some kind of a transformation when he came in to the ground. How true those thoughts were!

Almost every cricketer generally reminisces on his past highs. They would mostly love to have a repeat performance of some special performance at a particular venue. It is a known fact that players not only dream of the past, but also live in it, enjoying some of those glorious moments of their careers. They, then use it to motivate themselves and lift their games to the next level! Sanath Jaysuriya at the Oval and Mahela Jayawardane’s fondness for Lord’s where he has been so prolific are examples of the point I am trying to make.

As for Jayasuriya it was the slaughter of the innocent! With the exception of the fast and bouncy Harmison, no bowler was spared. What impressed me very much is the type of authority Sanath had created for himself that day. His dominance of the bowling was so apparent by the way the likes of Sajid Mohammad and Liam Plunket bowled. Jayasuriya just didn’t let any of them land a ball on a length. The former England great Graham Gooch working for Test Match Special said “Poor Strauss is not allowed to set a field. I think Jayasuriya has been doing the entire field placing for England by dispatching the balls to all corners of the ground. This has put the bowlers and the captain of the plan and they are merely adjusting to keep Jayasuriya quiet.”

Jayasuriya’s innings to me that day, had a very strong and clear message! He showed the entire cricketing world what the Lankans missed at least in the 1st and 2nd test matches at the top of the order! The point I am trying to make here is the type of authority and domination Jayasuriya commands at the expense of the English bowlers. At the Oval he had to see off Harmison and the rest was easy. And going back to the tests the real threat was Mat Hoggard with his swing and Flintoff with his pace. The rest of the bowling (with due respect to them) were bound to struggle when Jayasuriya can get in to the type of mould he was in at the Oval. And the very presence of Jayasuriya in the middle playing extraordinary shots could have easily rattled an inexperienced bowling line up. And in this case I am referring to Plunket, Mohammad, Panasar and Lewis! Hardly a terrifying crew, at least at the present moment. Having said that, it is an absolute waste to lament on the missed chances of the past. Rather it is only pertinent to learn from one’s mistakes and move forward. And it is earnestly hoped that the cricket management of Sri Lanka Cricket would have learned of it!

How Jayasuriya can inspire a Sri Lankan line up is nothing new. And what he did on that bright and sunny summers day at the Oval was no different either. After the quick departure of Thranga, it was just wonderful to watch skipper Jayawardene getting in to his act. His flicked six to get off the mark and the inside out shot over extra cover to a 90mph delivery of Mohammad were off the top drawer! Then the cameo of Sangakkara was another gem. Most of it was happening when Jayasuriya himself was pummelling the bowling at the other end. Besides the batting. one other very forceful point for Sri Lanka has been the fast and skiddy Lasith Malinga! His raw pace has been most disconcerting to the English batsmen and the sickening blow he gave Kevin Pieterson on the knee, was more than a timely reminder to all the English batsmen of what he is capable of and what is in store for them for the rest of the series.

Dwelling a bit on the rest of the One Day Series, it is very clear that England are rattled. The whole of England have come to realize that they cannot continue to live on their Ashes glory of the last summer. As for the team management it has been a case of being excuse oriented. “Oh we don’t have our best. No Vaughan, No Flintoff, No Jones and Giles and Anderson” seem to be the popular sentiments of some of the Media and past cricketers. It is true that their pride has been hurt. However the acceptable method should be to be gracious in defeat and accept the fact that Sri Lanka was definitely the better side. To conclude my story I would wish to quote a very pertinent point made by the Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardane on the two wins so far.” It is easy to give excuses. We have our injury problems too. What is important is to get out there and do the job” Well said Mahela, you definitely are doing the job for Sri Lanka.

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