Jayasuriya crosses a milestone

The former Sri Lankan captain did the star turn with the ball, as his team followed up its 3-0 sweep of the Test series against Bangladesh with a similar margin in the ODI series.

Sanath Jayasuriya’s exploits with the willow, precisely his destructive ways at the top of the order, have meant that his bowling never quite received the recognition it deserved. While Jayasuriya is an unquestioned match-winner with the bat, his bowling has often been of vital importance to his team.

When he secured his 300th ODI wicket in his 397th match recently in Colombo, the figures — an economy rate of 4.76 and an average of 36.92 — spoke for themselves.

The former Lankan captain was the star turn with the ball, as his team followed up its 3-0 sweep of the Test series against Bangladesh with a similar margin in the ODI series. Bangladesh, predictably, was more competitive in the shorter version of the game, but the side’s inconsistent batting proved to be its nemesis.

Jayasuriya’s wily left-arm spin fetched him nine wickets at an astonishing average of just over seven in the series. He was accurate, changed the pace and the angles in a subtle fashion, and harried the Bangladesh batsmen. The Lankan comprehends the dynamics of bowling in limited overs cricket. The creation of pressure results in wickets, and it is control over length and direction that puts the batsmen under stress. Jayasuriya does the simple things, like bowling to his field, right.

He is not a left-arm spinner in the classical mould, but one who pushes the ball quicker through the air, not allowing the batsmen to get under the ball for the big blows. Jayasuriya has turned matches around in the middle overs and has also won games for Lanka at the death. Apart from his ability with the ball — he began his international career as a left-arm spinner — he loves the sniff of a contest, which is an important attribute.

The man from the coastal town of Matara is now only the ninth bowler to scalp more than 300 batsmen in ODIs. He is also the first batsman to score more than 12,000 ODI runs and have 300 or more wickets against his name.

At 38, Jayasuriya retains the hunger. He is also remarkably fit, still managing to pluck catches out of thin air.

The three-match series in Colombo, on surfaces that offered the bowlers some assistance, showed the Bangladesh batting in poor light. There were promising innings from Aftab Ahmad and Tameem Iqbal, but Bangladesh could not fire collectively.

For a side to win matches against the big teams on a regular basis, at least two of its specialist batsmen need to come up with weighty contributions. Bangladesh has a few young batsmen with ability, but these cricketers need to read the situations better, find the right mix of caution and aggression.

In the first ODI, Dilhara Fernando’s pace and lift probed the Bangladesh batsmen. His four-wicket haul effectively decided the match. Fernando has come back well from injuries and is bowling with greater rhythm.

Fernando and the speedy slinger Lasith Malinga — he had his moments in the series too — form an incisive pace combination of contrasts.

Fervez Maharoof also struck with the ball. The intelligent medium-pacer did move the ball around, in the air and off the seam. He is a solid, silent contributor.

If the pacemen made life hard for the Bangladesh batsmen, Jayasuriya’s left-arm spin did not make it any easier.

The problems for Bangladesh were compounded by skipper Mohammad Ashraful’s dip in form. Bangladesh needs its skipper to construct sizeable innings. Ashraful averaged just over 17 in the series.

Bangladesh, however, fought hard on the field. Its bowling is disciplined and the side is a good fielding unit. The canny left-arm paceman Syed Rasel underlined his value to the side. He lacks pace but swings the ball just enough to trouble the batsmen.

Left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak contained and struck. He is one of the few of his ilk in contemporary cricket with a potent arm-ball. He is also a bowler who varies his pace well.

The Lankans had trouble with their batting, but there were a few positives. The lanky Jehan Mubarak made welcome runs and at crucial times.

Upul Tharanga made his presence felt at the top of the order, Chamara Silva, a vastly improved batsman, and the fighting Tillekeratne Dilshan came up with runs in the middle-order.

Dilshan, in particular, is the kind of player who can cause momentum shifts. He is a quick-thinking, quick-footed batsman with the heart for battle. Both Dilshan and Silva innovate well.

Bangladesh’s weaknesses were hidden in the shorter version of the game and there were times when it threatened the host in the series. However, Sri Lanka’s greater experience had the final say.

THE SCORES

Third ODI, R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, July 25, 2007.

Sri Lanka won by 39 runs.

Sri Lanka 196 in 39.5 overs (J. Mubarak 72, T. Dilshan 39, A. Razzak three for 47) bt Bangladesh 157 in 37.1 overs (T. Iqbal 54, Mahmudullah 36, S. Jayasuriya four for 14).

Second ODI, R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, July 23, 2007.

Sri Lanka won by five wickets.

Bangladesh 137 in 46.5 overs (M. Ashraful 29, A. Ahmed 47, L. Malinga three for 22, Jayasuriya four for 31) lost to Sri Lanka 141 for five in 31.1 overs (U. Tharanga 28, C. Silva 36).

First ODI, P. Saravanamuttu Stadium, Colombo, July 20, 2007.

Sri Lanka won by 70 runs.

Sri Lanka 234 for six in 50 overs (Tharanga 57, C. Silva 65) bt Bangladesh 164 in 40.3 overs (S. Nafees 33, M. Rahim 28, F. Reza 28, Razzak 28, D. Fernando four for 24).

A Special Correspondent