Vol. 5 Num 70 Thu. August 05, 2004  

Mahela mans Galle fort

Mahela Jayawardene struck a solid century to prop up Sri Lanka on the opening day of the first Test against South Africa at the Galle International Stadium here on Wednesday.

The stylish middle-order batsman struck an unbeaten 116 as Sri Lanka reached 279-7 at close after electing to bat on a pitch that helps spinners.

Jayawardene, who had scored 167 in Sri Lanka's only win in Tests against South Africa at the same venue four years ago, notched up his 12th century in 62 Tests.

The 27-year-old came in to bat when Sri Lanka were struggling at 22-2 after seamer Shaun Pollock's early strikes and did a good job to stick around even as Kumar Sangakkara attacked the bowlers.

Jayawardene struck 15 fours and a six to long-off off left-arm spinner Nicky Boje during his five-hour essay in which he exhibited some lovely drives and pull shots.

"It was important for me to stay at the wicket and I did that and waited for the loose deliveries," said Jayawardene, who also crossed a milestone of 1,000 runs at this venue.

"I have some good memories of this ground and hope to carry on tomorrow morning to try and take my team to a position from where we can go for a win," said Jayawar-dene, who faced 249 deliveries.

Sangakkara scored a quick 58 off 65 deliveries with 11 well-timed fours for his 16th half-century before falling to Boje.

Having hit the spinner for a lofted four off his first ball, Sangakkara tried a cut and was caught behind just three deliveries later to give the bowler a wicket in his very first over.

South Africa had no choice but to persist with their seam attack after deciding to play only one specialist spinner in Boje.

Pollock was the pick of the bowlers bagging 4-24 to keep Sri Lanka on their toes.

Pollock struck the early blows when he removed openers Sanath Jayasuriya (12) and Marvan Atapattu (nine) in the space of seven deliveries.

Jayasuriya played him off the legs to give a simple catch to Lance Klusener at square-leg while Atapattu edged one to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher.

Pollock then trapped Thilan Samaraweera (13) lbw in the second session and came back to take the wicket of Romesh Kaluwitharana (33) with the second new ball in the last session.

Jayawardene felt there was still some batting to come for the home side.

"Hopefully, if we can stretch the score to around 350, we will have a lot to bowl for," he said.

Sri Lanka picked Farveez Maharoof as the new-ball partner for left-armer Chaminda Vaas with ace off-spinner Muttiah Murali-tharan and leg-spinner Upul Chandana the spinners in the team.

They also have left-arm spinner Jayasuriya and side bowlers Samaraweera and Tillakaratne Dilshan to make use of the conditions at a venue where Sri Lanka have won six of 10 Tests and lost just two.

Sri Lanka have yet to beat South Africa in a Test series.

The second and final Test will be held in Colombo next week. The Tests will be followed by five one-dayers.

HI THERE: Sri Lanka batsman Mahela Jayawardene salutes the crowd on reaching the hundred against South Africa on the opening day of the first Test in Galle yesterday. PHOTO: AFP