The stars aligned on Sri Lanka as Sangakkara & Jayawardene finished their T20 careers with a flourish
Ravi Ashwin, who has been India’s best bowler in the tournament, had the ball in hand. Sri Lanka needed just 12 runs to win. Kumar Sangakkara, playing his final T20I match was on strike batting on 43 not out. Mahela Jayawardene, his best friend and teammate, watched anxiously from the sidelines. He had earlier scored a run a ball 24 and now celebrated every run his team made as Sri Lanka inched closer to the title. This was their final T20 International match and the two Sri Lankan legends desperately wanted to close off their careers with a World T20 win.
Prior to this innings, Sangakkara had a torrid time in the tournament scoring just 19 runs in 4 innings. The stage doesn’t get much bigger than a World Cup Final, and Sangakkara would have wanted to contribute and finish off on a high. He would know only too well the disappointment Sri Lanka faced in the 2011 Cricket World Cup after losing to India. On that occasion, Sri Lanka lost despite a classy century by teammate Jayawardene. This time, it was Sangakkara’s turn to step up and ensure history did not repeat itself.
From the moment he walked out to the middle, Sangakkara looked determined. He had a half-scare when he attempted a pull shot off Raina when on 1, with the ball falling perilously close to Mohit Sharma who couldn’t complete the catch. But he didn’t look back since that moment steadily rotating the strike and imperiously dismissing any ball in his zone.
Sri Lanka were chasing 131 runs to win, which was a below par total set by India. However, with the ball just holding up a little and the Indian spinners in good form, the chase would by no means be a stroll in the park. Sangakkara walked to the crease with the score at 2/41, however Sri Lanka soon found themselves at 4/78. It was at this stage that captain Lasith Malinga decided to gamble by promoting the hard-hitting NLTC Perera ahead of Angelo Matthews. The gamble paid off as Perera launched into the Indian spinners, allowing Sangakkara to continue to accumulate runs at the other end and stay till the end.
Fast forward to the start of the 17th over, with 12 runs required — Kumar Sangakkara took guard. Sri Lanka was now inches away from a satisfying win. Ashwin rolled his fingers over to produce a carom ball first up. Sangakkara didn’t pick the ball, but went through with the sweep. The top edge saw the ball fly over Dhoni’s head for a boundary. Ashwin put his arms in the air in despair – it was one of those days for India when nothing went right.
Second ball of the over, Ashwin slides the ball towards Sangakkara’s pads. He is not able to get all of it with the sweep, but got enough to see the ball once again scurrying to the ropes off the under-edge. It’s 50 up for Sangakkara and he knows how important this knock has been. Two balls later he punches the ball to deep cover for a single. As he leans on his bat and watches from the non-striker’s end, NLTC Perera comes down the track and hammers the ball high and handsome over long-on. Six runs and game over. Sri Lanka had won by 6 wickets with Sangakkara remaining unbeaten on 52.
Victory in a World Cup Final had eluded Sri Lanka in 2007 and 2011 (ODI) as well as the 2009 and 2012 (T20) finals. Finally it was their time to celebrate, and the timing could not have been better to provide a fitting farewell to Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
‘The side carried me to the final and I was pleased I finally did something for the team,’ reflected Sangakkara. ‘This is the first time I have been in a side that won a World Cup. Been disappointed four times before. It is hard to describe exactly what you feel. It was my fifth final and I can’t be happier or prouder. It’s been a long time coming.’
If Sangakkara, who struggled to score prior to the final, managed to shake that off to put in a match winning performance – his counterpart Yuvraj Singh presented a shadow of his former self. He prodded, poked and missed on his way to a laborious 21-ball 11, which sucked all the momentum away from India. In the final analysis, it was a significant phase in the context of the match – and one in which the Sri Lankan batsmen led by Sangakkara took full advantage of.
Mahela too was overjoyed, ‘This is for all the fans in Sri Lanka. There were a lot of emotions; it will take a few days to really know these feelings.’
‘I don’t think the game owes us anything. I don’t think the game owes any player anything. Our job is to play the best we can and walk away hopefully, having made a positive impact on the game. The game gives us the opportunities, for us to try and take them. Today was another opportunity,’ summed up Sangakkara.
Everything went to script for Sri Lanka, whilst nothing went right for India. The stars aligned in what turned out to be a fairytale finish for Jayawardene and Sangakkara.
As the curtains drew to a close on their T20I career, the two Sri Lankan legends now also have a World T20 title to line up with their already huge list of accomplishments.
The writer is the founder of Infinity Cricket . He is a cricketing enthusiast and is passionate about its development and growth. Infinity Cricket was launched in 2010 with a vision of ‘connecting people through cricket’. Infinity Cricket organizes the largest ‘open’ T20 cricket events in Melbourne: the Summer Infinity T20 Cricket Tournament & Winter T20 Challenge. www.infinityt20cricket.com;Twitter: www.twitter.com/infinitycricket; Facebook: www.facebook.com/infinitycricket
Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Magazine in Australia)