Jayawardene ready for next step
Mahela Jayawardene vowed to carry on improvising after unveiling the latest addition to Sri Lanka’s armoury of strokes as his side edged out New Zealand for a place in the World Twenty20 semi-final.
Jayawardene made a dashing 41 not out from 29 balls in his side’s 48-run victory over the Black Caps and caught the eye in the final over at Trent Bridge with a reverse sweep for four off the back of the bat.
It follows a series of reverses, sweeps and paddles - including Tillakaratne Dilshan’s infamous ’ramp’ shot - that the Sri Lankans have brought to the tournament and Jayawardene has warned there is more to come.
Explaining his shot, the former Sri Lanka captain said: “It’s something I’ve been trying for a while, it’s something I’ve been working on.
“A lot of guys bring their third man up these days to the quicks so in the last over I thought I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
“It worked brilliantly and hopefully it will keep working.
“It’s not just at this tournament; we have realised as a team that to compete at this level and to improve you always have to start doing different things.
“Sri Lanka is all about cricket, everyone picks up a bat and a ball and tries to do different things.
“You just have to keep the bowlers guessing and thinking all of the time.
“You have to grow into a role where you can take calculated risks, not just throw your wicket away.”
Sri Lanka batted first against Daniel Vettori’s Kiwis, making 158 for five.
Although that appeared competitive from the off, a disciplined bowling display made it look formidable as Sri Lanka - inspired by Ajantha Mendis’ 3-9 in three overs - dismissed the opposition for 110.
Reflecting on the spinner’s growing influence on the competition, Jayawardene added: “In the nets we try to read him but he still gets us out sometimes.
“There are too many things that come out of his fingers, it is hard to keep up. He’s something special.”
Defeated captain Vettori, whose side are now out, denied that his players struggled to pick Mendis’ variations and instead put his success down to old-fashioned quality.
“I don’t think he’s a mystery bowler, he’s just a very good bowler,” he said.
“Like with Muralitharan, over the years guys have been able to decipher what he bowls but it’s still so difficult.
“I think a lot of our guys picked Mendis. Once you pick them that’s great but it’s still possible to beat you with flight and spin.”
Asked why his side had failed to fire in the big games, Vettori added: “We just didn’t get the runs. Our highest score in the three important games we played was about 125 and if you look at the scores across the tournament that’s not even close to par. We didn’t give ourselves a chance.”
Sri Lanka play in the second semi-final at The Oval on Friday.