A LANKAN BATATHON

Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara put on a massive 624 runs for the third wicket — a TEST RECORD for any wicket — as Sri Lanka batted South Africa out of the first Test. A report by REX CLEMENTINE.

The first Test match between Sri Lanka and South Africa at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground in Colombo was indeed historic. There was sensational batting by the Sri Lankan duo of Mahela Jayawardene (374) and Kumar Sangakkara (287), who were not separated for almost two full days, breaking many a world record in the process. When batsmen dominate in such a manner on a flat track the game eventually ends in a draw, but not this one. Jayawardene and Sangakkara had scored at such a rapid pace that Sri Lanka had more than two days to bowl out South Africa and despite the wicket offering no assistance whatsoever, Muttiah Muralitharan proved his class, picking up his 54th five-wicket haul.

Sri Lanka eventually won by an innings and 153 runs with a session to go, the talking point being Sangakkara and Jayawardene's World Record partnership in Test cricket. They added 624 runs for the third wicket, a record for any wicket in Tests, and beat the previous record of 576 — also set by a Sri Lankan pair, Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama, nine years ago at the R. Premadasa Stadium.

The whole of Colombo celebrated the partnership and there would have been pandemonium in the capital if Jayawardene had gone past Lara's World Record 400.

Sangakkara's 287 is his Test highest score and the fourth double hundred of his career, while Jayawardene got his third overall score beyond 200 and the second against South Africa.

At close on day two, Jayawardene was unbeaten on 224, having got to his double hundred with a six, with Sangakkara on 229 and the South Africans had spent a full day without getting a wicket.

On the third morning, Jayawardene took on a more positive role with Sangakkara playing second fiddle. Soon he surpassed his previous best score in Tests, 242 against India at the same venue. Sangakkara also got past his previous best of 270 against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in 2004, and Sri Lanka posted its highest Test score against South Africa.

Soon after breaking the World Record for the highest partnership in Tests, the pair also established the best partnership in first class cricket. In 1947, Vijay Hazare and Gul Mohammad had scored 577 runs in a first class game for Baroda against Holkar and the Sri Lankans became the first pair in Test or first class cricket to be involved in a partnership in excess of 600 runs.

In the afternoon, Jayawardene became the second Sri Lankan to score 300 runs in a Test match when he hit an exquisite cover drive off Andrew Hall. South Africa finally had some success when Sangakkara nicked Hall to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher.

When Jayawardene got to 341 by cutting De Villiers to deep point he became the highest run-scorer for Sri Lanka in an innings, going past Jayasuriya. But when he was just one short of Lara's 375, the third-highest all-time score, the Sri Lankan captain made the first mistake of his marathon knock and paid the price.

Andre Nel had failed to take a wicket for six sessions in the Test. But with Jayawardene just a few runs away from reaching a grand milestone Nel produced a delivery that kept a bit low and jagged back in to bowl the Lankan captain. Jayawardene had batted for over 12 hours, faced 572 balls and hit 43 fours and a six.

Now he stands as the fourth highest run-scorer in Test cricket behind Lara's 400 not out, Matthew Hayden's 380 and again Lara's 375.

At Jayawardene's dismissal, Sri Lanka declared with the score on 756 for five, its second highest total in Tests (Highest 952 for six decl. against India in 1997) and sixth overall in the history of the game.

Jayawardene's partnership with Sangakkara cost South Africa dearly, but the tourists had the chance of getting rid of the left-hander early. Sangakkara, before he had got into double figures, was dropped by Jacques Rudolph off Dale Steyn and in the same over was bowled off a no-ball.

Sri Lanka had lost its openers with just 14 runs on the board and if Sangakkara had departed at that time it would have been 30 for three.

It was a poor batting display by South Africa's top order in their first innings after the team had won the toss on a good batting track. The SSC wicket always has something for the seam bowlers in the first hour, but the tourists had seen off the new ball without losing a wicket with Andrew Hall and Herschelle Gibbs doing a good job.

In fact they were 78 for two at lunch with Rudolph and Hashim Amla, both of whom had scored in excess of 150 in South Africa's only warm-up game, at the crease. But the afternoon session was a disaster as South Africa lost eight wickets to be bowled out for 169.

Sri Lanka was without Chaminda Vaas for the Test and in his absence Dilhara Fernando did well to keep things tight. Fernando had been dropped for Sri Lanka's tour of England after he failed to overcome no-ball problems, but in South Africa's first innings he bowled admirably not conceding a single extra.

He accounted for the openers and then picked up two more wickets in the afternoon session. Farveez Maharoof, chosen ahead of leg-spinner Malinga Bandara, also picked up two wickets, while Muttiah Muralitharan caused much damage picking up four for 41 in 18.2 miserly overs.

The only batsman to show some resistance was the young Adam de Villiers, usually an opener, but forced to bat in the middle order owing to the requirements of the team. He scored the only half-century in the innings, 65 off 72 balls with eight fours. Six South Africans failed to get into double figures.

South Africa began its second innings with more than two days to bat and requiring to make a mammoth 587 to avoid innings defeat. Its first target was to not to lose any wickets on the third day when it had to face 15 overs. In the absence of Gibbs, who was prevented from opening the innings by a stomach complaint, Rudolph opened with Hall and they did well to reach 43 without losing a wicket. The pair also saw off the first session of the fourth day taking South Africa's score past the 150 mark. But in the second session, Sri Lanka hit back claiming three wickets. Rudolph was gone 10 short of a well-deserved hundred, while Hall was out for 64. Amla lasted only 16 balls and the Sri Lankans had the initiative.

After tea, Jayawardene opted for the second new ball and in a strange move threw it to Muralitharan for the second over. To the surprise of many, Murali struck with the second ball, trapping De Villiers leg before wicket.

Captain Ashwell Prince and Boucher ensured they wouldn't lose any more wickets, finishing day four on 311 for four.

Sri Lanka had to take six wickets on the final day and had to remove Prince, who was batting so well, early. Muralitharan foxed the South African skipper, who had made 61, in the second over of the morning with a delivery that turned slightly away from the left-hander, and picked up three more wickets to finish with six for 131. He ended with a match bag of 10 for 172, the 17th time he has taken 10 or more wickets in a Test.

Jayasuriya picked up the wicket of Boucher after the latter had made 85 and Lasith Malinga removed last man Makhaya Ntini for 16 as South Africa was bowled out for 434.

Jayawardene was named the Man of the Match as Sri Lanka went one up in the series, winning the Test by an innings and 153 runs, its biggest win against South Africa in Test cricket.

THE SCORES

First Test, Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo, July 27 to 31. Sri Lanka won by an innings and 153 runs.

South Africa — 1st innings: H. Gibbs b Fernando 19; A. Hall b Fernando 17; J. Rudolph c P. Jayawardene b Maharoof 29; H. Amla st. P. Jayawardene b Muralitharan 19; A. Prince c P. Jayawardene b Maharoof 1; A. De Villiers c Kapugedera b Muralitharan 65; M. Boucher c Jayasuriya b Muralitharan 4; N. Boje lbw b Muralitharan 5; A. Nel lbw b Fernando 0; D. Steyn b Fernando 0; M. Ntini (not out) 0; Extras (b-4, lb-6) 10; Total 169.

Fall of wickets: 1-32, 2-45, 3-78, 4-80, 5-112, 6-128, 7-148, 8-151, 9-151.

Sri Lanka bowling: Malinga 10-2-38-0; Maharoof 9-1-32-2; Fernando 13-2-48-4; Muralitharan 18.2-6-41-4.

Sri Lanka — 1st innings: U. Tharanga c Boucher b Steyn 7; S. Jayasuriya lbw b Steyn 4; K. Sangakkara c Boucher b Hall 287; M. Jayawardene b Nel 374; T. Dilshan lbw b Steyn 45; C. Kapugedera (not out) 1; Extras (b-17, lb-5, w-8, nb-8) 38; Total (for five wkts. decl.) 756.

Fall of wickets: 1-6, 2-14, 3-638, 4-751, 5-756.

South Africa bowling: Ntini 31-3-97-0; Steyn 26-1-129-3; Nel 25.1-2-114-1; Hall 25-2-99-1; Boje 65-5-221-0; Rudolph 7-0-45-0; Prince 2-0-7-0; De Villiers 4-0-22-0.

South Africa — 2nd innings: J. Rudolph c Kapugedera b Fernando 90; A. Hall lbw b Muralitharan 64; H. Amla lbw b Fernando 2; A. Prince c P. Jayawardene b Muralitharan 61; A. De Villiers lbw b Muralitharan 24; M. Boucher c & b Jayasuriya 85; H. Gibbs c & b Muralitharan 18; N. Boje (not out) 33; A. Nel b Muralitharan 0; D. Steyn b Muralitharan 4; M. Ntini b Malinga 16; Extras (b-11, lb-4, w-2, nb-20) 37; Total 434.

Fall of wickets: 1-165, 2-171, 3-185, 4-234, 5-312, 6-350, 7-401, 8-404, 9-412.

Sri Lanka bowling: Malinga 16.2-0-85-1; Maharoof 15-3-48-0; Fernando 24-6-69-2; Muralitharan 64-11-131-6; Dilshan 4-1-10-0; Jayasuriya 34-8-76-1.