Kumar Sangakkara continued his blistering run of form on Friday, cruising to an unbeaten 102 against Pakistan in Galle to leave Sri Lanka at 252-2 when rain stopped play on Day 3 of the first Test.
After Younis Khan's 177 had steered the visitors away from early trouble and into a strong position, the graceful Sangakkara again proved to be his side's key man, reaching his 10th century against Pakistan in just 20 Tests—the fifth-highest number of triple-figure scores against one opponent in history.
Remarkably, the esteemed left-hander continues to pile on the runs, despite being in—theoretically, at least—the twilight years of his glittering career.
Already in 2014, the 36-year-old has struck hundreds against Bangladesh (319 and 105), England (147) and now Pakistan (102 not out), having also reached a pair of fifties during Sri Lanka's recent series against South Africa.
Indeed, a quick look at Sangakkara's record for the current calendar year leaves one wondering how long the sixth-highest run-scorer in Test history can continue in this manner.
Perhaps what's most impressive is that the Sri Lankan currently sits as the No. 1 batsman in Test cricket in 2014 for both total runs and batting average, even after difficult series against England and the Proteas.
And it's not as though Sangakkara has been without challengers: England's Joe Root and Gary Ballance have continued to impress, Angelo Mathews has gone to another level as captain, Kane Williamson has been outstanding for New Zealand, Brendon McCullum struck an unforgettable triple-hundred, Steve Smith's emergence has kept snowballing and Mahela Jayawardene has proved as timeless as his trusty teammate.
But with characteristic elegance, Sangakkara has quietly outperformed them all.
|AB de Villiers||5||462||116||46.20||1||2|
References of Sangakkara being something of a fine wine may, of course, be cliche, but they are nonetheless accurate.
Since making his Test debut 14 years ago in 2000, the left-hander's batting record has grown more and more formidable as the years have passed.
Although his career average hovers around an imposing 58, the Sri Lankan's statistics since passing the age of 35 are nothing short of extraordinary.
|22 - 24||24||1717||230||49.05||4||8|
|25 - 29||43||3775||287||57.19||10||14|
|30 - 34||44||4380||219||60.00||16||17|
To put that average of 72.88 since his 35th birthday into perspective, only the incomparable Sir Donald Bradman has ever been better with the bat after reaching the same point on the timeline.
Superior in that regard to names such as Tendulkar, Kallis, Ponting, Sobers, Lara, Border, Waugh, Gavaskar and Pollock, Sangakkara is continuing to ascend into rarefied air.
|Sir Donald Bradman||15||1903||234||105.72||8||5|
|Sir Jack Hobbs||33||2945||211||56.63||10||12|
Of course, the veteran has been particularly brutal on Pakistan during his Test career; Misbah-ul-Haq's men likely feeling that Groundhog Day grips their existence when faced with the relentless Sri Lankan.
The minnows of Test cricket—Zimbabwe and Bangladesh—have also copped their fair share from Sangakkara.
Yet, only serving to enhance the 36-year-old's reputation further is that he averages more than 40 against every opponent in the game.
The question now facing Sangakkara is: How much heavy lifting can he continue to do for his nation, given that his longtime companion Mahela Jayawardene is preparing to exit the international arena?
With the former captain set to play his final Test in Colombo next week, the burden shouldered by the left-hander will only increase.
|Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar||143||6920||249||50.51||20||29|
|Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes||148||6482||298||47.31||16||26|
|Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara||118||6411||624||56.73||18||27|
|Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer||122||6081||255||51.53||14||28|
|Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss||132||5253||229||40.40||14||21|
|Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting||76||4765||272||67.11||16||22|
|Marvan Atapattu, Sanath Jayasuriya||122||4533||335||39.41||9||24|
|Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag||87||4412||233||52.52||11||25|
|Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar||71||4173||281||61.36||12||16|
|Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman||86||4065||376||51.45||12||14|
In Jayawardene's absence, Mathews will need to maintain his newly discovered level, Kaushal Silva's second coming must keep going, Kusal Perera will need to make the next jump and Kithuruwan Vithanage must build on his solid start.
But the bulk of the scoring will still likely have to come from Sangakkara.
Based on the evidence of 2014 and on a record that only seems to become more impressive by the year, that shouldn't be a problem.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo.