Hard work has paid off - Jayawardene
Mahela Jayawardene praised the character of his Sri Lanka side after they defeated England by 75 runs at Galle to record their first home Test victory since the retirement of legendary spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.
Prior to this two-match series, Sri Lanka had won just one of their 17 Tests in the post-Murali era, a shock triumph over South Africa at Durban in December.
They can now celebrate another significant win, having overcome a superb individual performance from Jonathan Trott in England’s second innings.
Trott contributed 112 to a pursuit of 340 that appeared to be progressing smoothly, only for the tourists’ last six wickets to then fall for the addition of 31 runs.
“It’s been a bit of a tough period for us but the boys worked really hard, not just in this game but in the last 12 to 16 months. Everyone has worked really hard to improve as a unit and today we showed a lot of character,” said Jayawardene.
“England played really well in tough conditions; I think Trotty’s innings was excellent. We were put under pressure at certain times and we just had to hang in there for a while and try and get through with wickets.
“The old ball got really soft and the wicket was getting slower as well, so we had to basically wait until the second new ball and I knew that we had to just not leak runs in that period.
“We knew that it would be tough for the last four or five guys on this track. It was a fantastic catch by Lahiru (Thirimanne, who caught Matt Prior at short-leg) to turn things around and then I think everyone really picked themselves up.”
There has been inevitable focus on Sri Lanka’s slow bowlers following Muralitharan’s departure from the international scene, so Jayawardene was delighted to see Rangana Herath and Suraj Randiv combine for 18 of England’s 20 wickets.
Left-arm spinner Herath finished with Test-best match figures of 12-171, the best return for a Sri Lanka bowler against England since Muralitharan claimed 16 wickets at the Oval in 1998, while Randiv chipped in with four second-innings scalps, including the prized wicket of Trott.
“These guys are very new to this kind of thing, Murali has been doing most of the work for us, so they will probably be under pressure in a situation like this, winning a game for Sri Lanka,” admitted Jayawardene.
“Rangana has been around for quite some time and he held his nerve. Suraj is getting into the groove of things and the more games he plays he will become a really good spinner for us. It was a good opportunity for both of the guys and they really put us on top.”
Herath reflected on his personal achievement with great satisfaction, adding: “This is my best performance because I have not (previously) taken 10 wickets in my career. I am so happy winning against the number one team and taking 12 wickets.
“What I did was do the same things as the first innings, just bowl in the right areas and get some turn; that’s it.”
Jayawardene could also look back on a superb individual performance after underpinning Sri Lanka’s first-innings 318 with a magnificent 180, his 30th Test hundred.
Asked if the knock represented one of his finer efforts, the captain replied: “Definitely, under the circumstances. I just had to bat through and I’m quite happy with the effort.
“I’ve not had a big one for quite some time so it feels very good and (it came) in a winning scenario. That makes it a much better feeling.”