Mahela Jaywardena bends England to his will

It was an ‘aching’ Mahela Jayawardene who wearily dragged himself from the field after playing what Jimmy Anderson called ‘one of the best Test innings’ he had seen. No doubt he was puzzled, too, since a pitch and an attack which yielded to him as easily as a snake to a charmer, proved to be too potent a combination for his team-mates, who could muster only 111 runs between them.

In scoring 58% of his team’s runs, Jayawardene set a puzzle for those observing. What was the more accurate reflection of the conditions? The ease with which he scored his runs? Or the struggles endured by his team-mates? In other words, where does the balance of power lie? Ultimately, it was England who had the better of the day, but all that will count for nothing if their batsmen cannot make their first innings count, as they failed to do so consistently in UAE. To add context, England have never scored more than 250 runs at this ground.

‘We will push them to the limit and see who cracks first’ was Jayawardene’s pre-match assessment, but Sri Lanka did not so much challenge England at the start, losing three wickets in the first four overs, as gift them a golden opportunity to control the opening day. Without their captain, who no doubt felt that if nobody else was minded to heed his battle cry at least he ought to show some willing, Sri Lanka would probably already be out of the game, such was the importance of his innings………

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