Sangakkara breaks his duck
Kumar Sangakkara’s smile said it all as he reflected on a hundred which meant so much to him and Sri Lanka.
His superb 119 was pivotal to the tourists’ second-innings survival in the final npower Test at the Rose Bowl, a result which limited England to a 1-0 series win.
The captain’s 249-ball innings, spanning more than six hours and containing 16 fours, also represented his first century on English soil.
He was delighted not only to rectify an odd blemish on an otherwise exemplary record – he has managed 24 centuries elsewhere – at the 18th time of asking, across three tours.
“It’s very satisfying,” said a beaming Sangakkara. “To score a hundred, especially in England, is quite an achievement coming from the sub-continent.
“It would have been nice to have done it at Lord’s, but that’s something you have to get over. It’s nice to finally get there.”
Asked why he has failed to reach figures before – his previous highest score was 66 at Trent Bridge in 2006 – Sangakkara admitted he has struggled to cope with uniquely English conditions. His late arrival from the Indian Premier League hardly proved conducive to good form on this tour.
“When I first came to England I was a bit at sea and tried to make some adjustments but was not getting anywhere,” he revealed. “Second time around, I had two opportunities.
“So coming here again from the IPL it was a case of adjusting again - not just technically but also mentally. It took me a bit too long to do that.”
Sangakkara could afford to be self-critical given that he had done so much to save the game.
He added 75 for the fourth wicket with nightwatchman Rangana Herath and 141 for the fifth with Thilan Samaraweera, who finished unbeaten on 87 after rain prevented any play in the evening session, with Sri Lanka 334 for five and leading by 141.
“It would have been great for him as well,” Sangakkara added, referring to Samaraweera’s contribution. “He batted really well and helped the side through.
“Rangana Herath was excellent to start off with and Lahiruu Thirimanne showed what he is capable of as a youngster. He showed a lot of courage and has a great future ahead of him.”
For all the positives that Sri Lanka took from the manner in which they finished the game, the pain of their astonishing – and ultimately decisive – collapse at Cardiff is still being felt.
“That was probably the biggest regret on this tour,” Sangakkara admitted, referring to their capitulation for 82 on the final day.
“None of us were switched on to that situation really. We just needed to bat consistently for 25 or 30 overs – just one pair to put on a proper partnership on a wicket that was flatter than this one.
“It just goes to show that one mistake, two mistakes, can magnify a situation that we should have been capable of handling nine times out of 10. Lessons have been learnt and we have things to ponder.”
Persuaded against his will to captain the side in this game in the absence of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sangakkara, who stepped down in April, insists he will not be doing so again.
“It's been interesting,” he grinned. “It was nice to be back for one last time.”