The world of cricket has produced many great players who got fame for their individual performances on international circuit. But there are very few pairs whose joint performances give their country many victories.
In the past, mostly the opening pairs got fame like the West Indies’s Desmond Haynes and Gordon Grenidge, India’s Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, Australia’s Adam Gilchrist and Mathew Hayden.
But in the middle-order no pair got respect more than Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.
After losing the World Cup quarter-final against South Africa, the services of these two great players will not be available to Sri Lanka in One-day Internationals as both had announced that the World Cup would be their last ODI event.
Jayawardena and Sangakkara were the backbone of Sri Lankan batting for more than a decade. They guided their team to many famous victories, including the WorldTwenty20 in 2014. Both players were part of the team that reached the World Cup finals in 2007 and 2011.
Jayawardena (548) and Sangakkara (541) are among only five players who scored 500 or more runs in a single World Cup.
India’s Sachin Tendulkar is on the top of the list with 673 runs in 2003 World Cup. The others are Matthew Hayden (659) and Ricky Ponting (539).
After losing the quarter-final, both veterans looked dejected. The 37-year-old Jayawardene said the defeat to South Africa was a “tough” way to leave international cricket.
Sangakkara, also 37, who was the top scorer of the quarter-final with 45 runs, also showed his disappointment and said that quitting the international cricket with a defeat like that was hurting. During this World Cup, Sangakkara became the first player to score four successive ODI centuries.
Jayawardene scored 12,650 runs in 448 ODIs, while Sangakkara ended his ODI career with 404 caps and 14,234 runs, second only to Sachin Tendulkar. His 482 dismissals are more than any other wicket-keeper.
Mahela and Sangakkara played 126 Tests together and scored 6554 runs in their partnerships at an average of 56.50. They recorded as many as 19 century and 27 fifty partnerships.
Mahela and Sangakkara established a world record partnership of 624 runs for the third wicket. Jayawardene and Sangakkara scored 374 and 287, respectively. It was the highest score for any wicket partnership ever. The previous 576-run record was set by compatriots Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama against India at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo in 1997.
They also broke the Test record for the third wicket — that of 467 between Martin Crowe and Andrew Jones, against Sri Lanka in Wellington in 1991. They also surpassed the all time first-class partnership record for any wicket set by Indians Vijay Hazare and Gul Mohammed (577) in 1946-47 for the fourth wicket in the final of the Ranji Trophy that helped Baroda beat Holkar.
Jayawardene’s 374 made him the highest scorer in an innings for Sri Lanka in Tests, surpassing Jayasuriya’s 340. They have batted 293 times together in international cricket for a total of 13,368 runs, with 36 century stands and 62 of fifty or more. The highest ODI partnership between them was 179.
In 2006, Jayawardene was named captain for the tour of England. In his first tour as skipper, Sri Lanka played a 1-1 Test series. After losing the second Test at Edgbaston by six wickets, Jayawardene’s boys won the third Test at Trent Bridge by 134 runs.
Sangakkara will continue to play Tests and will retire after the India series in August this year. But Jayawardene hangs his all Sri Lankan boots after this World Cup.
The two players have already converted their friendship into business partnership as they jointly own a famous seafood restaurant in Colombo.