Jayawardene stars in Sri Lanka romp
Mahela Jayawardene struck the fourth fastest century in World Cup history as Sri Lanka cruised to a routine 210-run victory in their opening group game against Canada in Hambantota.
Jayawardene took just 80 balls to reach three figures and, although he departed to the next delivery he faced, his elegant contribution helped the co-hosts to an imposing total of 332 for seven - their second highest score in a World Cup.
Captain Kumar Sangakkara also impressed with 92 and shared a third-wicket partnership of 179 with his predecessor as a limited Canada attack was made to toil.
The minnows quickly slumped to 12 for three in reply and the result was beyond doubt long before they were finally dismissed for 122 in the 37th over, with Thisara Perera and Nuwan Kulasekara claiming three wickets apiece.
Rizwan Cheema, who cracked a boundary-laden 91 in Wednesday’s warm-up match against England, did provide some cheer for Canada with another sparky innings of 37, but the gulf in class between the two sides was clear for all to see.
The Associate nations reacted with dismay this week to news that the next World Cup will feature only 10 teams, but the one-sided nature of this match, which followed Kenya’s humbling at the hands of New Zealand, did little to support their case for inclusion.
Canada managed to keep a lid on the scoring rate early on after Sri Lanka had elected to bat first and made a breakthrough in the 12th over when Upul Tharanga was run out following a mix-up with opening partner Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Sangakkara was dropped by substitute fielder Nitish Kumar off Cheema as the bowlers continued to show good discipline and Dilshan departed immediately after reaching 50 when he lofted Cheema to John Davison at deep cover.
Jimmy Hansra saw two huge appeals for caught behind rejected early in Jayawardene’s innings, with replays failing to conclusively prove there had been an edge through to wicketkeeper Ashish Bagai on both occasions.
Sri Lanka took charge thereafter as both Sangakkara and Jayawardene worked the ball around with ease and found the boundary with regularity.
The former eventually departed when he chipped a tame return catch back to Davison and Jayawardene soon followed after completing his century, but some aggressive late hitting, led by Angelo Mathews and Thilan Samaraweera, helped the hosts past 300.
Canada’s reply got off to a miserable start as Davison - the scorer of a 67-ball century against West Indies in the 2003 World Cup - was bowled by Perera for a golden duck in the second over.
Ruvindu Gunasekara was caught at cover off Kulasekara 10 balls later and Perera trapped Zubin Surkari lbw in his next over to leave the underdogs reeling.
From then on, it was merely a case of damage limitation for Canada as they battled to delay the inevitable.
Only three batsmen were able to make it into double figures, although Cheema did manage two sixes and four fours in his entertaining 35-ball cameo.
Sangakkara insisted Jayawardene was the "real star" of his side's victory.
The captain said: “It was all set up by the openers. They batted very well and gave us a solid start. Dilshan got a half-century but unfortunately couldn't kick on.
"But the real star was Mahela Jayawardene; it was very easy to bat with him. Once we got that foundation and that solidity, we were able to launch and go beyond 300."
Canada skipper Bagai was happy to be taking a few positives, while acknowledging the impact Jayawardene and Sangakkara had on the game.
"It was always going to be a tough task," Bagai said. "But I thought we bowled well in the first 26 overs where we managed to keep them under five runs an over.
"And then two world-class players took the game away from us. So 333 was always going to be a tough ask."