Test cricket will bid farewell to one of its most elegant strokemakers when Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene quits the longer format after the second Test against Pakistan, starting in Colombo Thursday.
Few cricketers have exemplified the spirit of the game better than the gentlemanly 37-year-old, even though his pleasant demeanour hides nerves of steel, a calculating street-smart mind and an obsessive drive for perfection.
The elegant right-hander retired from Twenty20 internationals after Sri Lanka’s title-winning campaign in the World T20 in April, but still hopes to compete in next year’s one-day World Cup Down Under.
Jayawardene is one of only five batsmen to score more than 11,000 runs in both Test and one-day cricket — the others being Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis and team-mate Kumar Sangakkara.
An average of 50.02 over 148 Tests with 34 centuries illustrates his hunger for runs through a 17-year-career. Although his form outside Asia has been inconsistent, he has set a deluge of records at home.
He scored a monumental 374 during a world record partnership of 624 with Sangakkara (287) against a South African attack that included Dale Steyn and Makhya Ntini on his home ground at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) in Colombo in 2006.
Jayawardene looked set to surpass Brian Lara’s record of 400 when he was bowled against the run of play. Ever the team-mate, he preferred to rejoice in his team’s huge win by an innings and 153 runs.
He got a taste of big scores on his Test debut itself as a 20-year-old in 1997, when Sri Lanka piled up a world record total of 952-6 declared against India at the Premadasa stadium in Colombo.