Kumar Sangakkara embarked on Sri Lanka's tour of England without a hundred at Lord's next to his name. He returned with it etched into the honours board at the Home of Cricket and his average in England significantly boosted.
It underscored his status as one of the true modern day greats and took him to fourth on the list of leading Test centurions. In two Tests, he scored three fifties and one hundred with his runs coming at an average of 85.50.
In both Tests in England, his contributions were significant. At Lord's, he batted for 449 minutes, longer than any other Sri Lankan batsman in that Test. His 126-run partnership with best friend Mahela Jayawardene was the second highest of the match.
It was significant because it came under the weight of expectation and pressure as the visitors were trying to save the Test. Reaching 100 and eventually departing for 147 was a significant landmark, but far more important was his effort during the second innings at Lord’s.
England were sniffing for a win after a late declaration from Alastair Cook, but Sangakkara stood firm and top-scored in the second innings with 61 off 168 balls. There was no famous second innings century, but his contribution went a long way in helping Sri Lanka draw that Test.
Runs did not matter here, but time at the crease did. Sri Lanka's entire innings lasted 405 minutes, and Sangakkara spent more than half of it at the crease. His adaptability was evident yet again.
In the second Test, there was no century for Sangakkara, but he was once again the standout. Sri Lanka's top-scorer in the first innings and resident crease-occupier in the second, his efforts went a long way in helping Sri Lanka claim a historic win in England.
Above and beyond his tally of runs, Sangakkara also brings something special to the crease in his approach. It’s not the runs he scores, it’s how he scores them.
There is no ugly slogging or swiping. Everything is calm and steady, a zen-like approach even in shots which are seen as aggressive. It is a sight to behold. He has a cover drive that would make Michael Vaughan blush and his ability to play the situation, not just the players, is something that has become invaluable to Sri Lanka.
There is no doubt that when Sangakkara calls time on his career, he will be celebrated as an all-time great in the same breath as Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting.
Honourable mention: There has to be a mention for Angelo Mathews. Sri Lanka’s new captain has only improved since taking charge of the team and his efforts in England were as impressive as Sangakkara’s. Two hundreds in two Tests at an average of 76.50, with the bulk of those coming down the order and under pressure, Mathews deserves a mention for his efforts.
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