August 6 is a date people around the world remember. On that day, the world got its first taste of the power of nuclear weapons when the Americans bombed Hiroshima. Sanath Jayaruiya could well have made the world remember the day for an entirely different reason, one which many would have rejoiced over. But like many others, it was a case of so near and yet so far; he fell 35 runs short of Brian Lara's record for the highest Test score. The last time somebody came so close was when Gooch reached 333 in 1990 and had to make 33 more to pass Sir Gary Sobers's 365.
Jayasuriya's 340 makes him the fourth highest scorer in Test history; he lasted well over two days along with Roshan Mahanama (225), the longest period of time that two batsmen have stayed together at the crease during a Test, and set numerous records along the way. One which they just failed to pip was the highest partnership in first-class cricket; the Lankan pair fell one run short of the 577 which Vijay Hazare and Gul Mohammed put together for Baroda against Holkar in 1946-47. The 576 for the second wicket is 109 runs clear of the best partnership in Test cricket; Martin Crowe and Andrew Jones had put together 467 for New Zealand against Lanka in 1991.
To put this innings in perspective, one needs to consider the degree to which a batsman has to stretch himself both physically and mentally. The heat in Colombo isn't easy on a player and the humidity makes it worse. Home conditions sure, but when an innings stretches over such a long period of time, then this advantage is whittled away. There are moments when everything is a blur, when the heat and the dust make one wish that it would all end. And at that point, it is only sheer will that makes a man carry on. After all, once one has gone past 200, nobody can blame a man for getting out. Those who recall Dean Jones's 207 in Madras in 1986 will understand the agony that a man can go through.
Jayasuriya had reached 326 by the end of day four, but the last bit of his innings -- those 14 runs -- would have been the most difficult. The night before, he would not have got much sleep. No matter what he says, Jayasuriya is human and that figure -- 50 runs more -- would have been reverberating in his brain. Lara went through the same thing; he was 320 not out overnight en route to the record. Finally tiredness took its toll and first Mahanama and then Jayasuriya fell at the same score. There would have been both sadness and relief as Jayasuriya walked back. Sadness that the record wasn't to be his but relief that the titanic battle was finally over.
Records apart, this innings has proved, if any proof were needed, that the classical wham-bam image which people have of Jaysuriya is just that -- an image. The best pinch-hitter in the one-day game today has proved that he can put his head down and stay there. Apart from brief periods when he allowed himself the luxury of going at the bowling, Jayasuriya was watchful and appears to have developed what all good Test batsmen should -- a hunger for runs.
A batsman's value to his side these days has to be measured by the way he adapts to the side's needs and Jayasuriya has learnt this to perfection. He was one of the main actors in that World Cup play and continued with his merry exploits in all the one-day tournaments which followed. He hasn't been all that successful in Tests but there has been a maturing, a growth of confidence and the willingness to stay there and let the runs come. After they won the World Cup, Sri Lanka were heard to say that their aim was to become the best Test team by the turn of the century; if even a handful of their batsmen can show the devotion and application which Jayasuriya has, then they may well attain their goal.
|Rank||Player||Score||Opposition||Venue||Month and year|
|1||Brian Lara (WI)||375||England||St. John's||April 1994|
|2||Sir Garfield Sobers (WI)||365*||Pakistan||Kingston||Feb 1958|
|3||Sir Len Hutton (Eng)||364||Australia||The Oval||Auf 1938|
|4||Sanath Jayasuriya (Lanka)||340||India||Premadasa Stadium||August 1997|
|5||Hanif Mohammed (Pak)||337||West Indies||Bridgetown||Jan 1958|
|6||Walter Hamond (Eng)||336*||New Zealand||Auckland||March 1933|
|7||Sir Don Bradman (Aus)||334||England||Leeds||July 1930|
|8||Graham Gooch (Eng)||333||India||Lord's||July 1990|
|9||Andy Sandham (Eng)||325||West Indies||Kingston||April 1930|
|10||Bobby Simpson (Aus)||311||England||Manchester||July 1964|
|11||John Edrich (Eng)||310*||New Zealand||Leeds||July 1965|
|12||Bob Cowper (Aus)||307||England||Melbourne||Feb 1966|
|13||Sir Don Bradman (Aus)||304||England||Leeds||July 1934|
|14||Lawrence Rowe (WI)||302||England||Bridgetown||March 1974|