Jayawardene elated by team~~s ~~killer instinct~~

Published: Monday, July 3, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Leeds:Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene was proud of the ruthless way his side finished their tour of England with a 5-0 One-day series whitewash at Headingley.

Set a seemingly taxing 322, Sri Lanka cruised to a dominating eight-wicket win with a massive 75 balls to spare after a world record opening stand of 286 between Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga.

While being savaged by the 37-year-old Jayasuriya, who marked his record-equalling 362nd One-day International with an almost contemptuous 152 off 99 balls, is an experience common to many attacks, his fellow left-hander Tharanga, still only 21, scored a far from sluggish 109 in 102 balls.

That was evidence of the progress made by Tharanga and other younger players such as 22-year-old quick Lasith Malinga, who took an impressive four for 44 at Headingley on Saturday.

It was widely thought Sri Lanka might struggle in English conditions.

But after going 1-0 down in the Test series, which they went on to level at 1-1, Sri Lanka reeled off seven straight wins against England in three different forms of the game.

Their success was all the greater given that a team with a modest playing base were deprived of injured opener and captain Marvan Atapattu for the whole of the tour and that their best One-day wins were achieved when star off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan had left to be with his ill son.

"Once you have an opponent without much confidence and looking for direction you make sure you keep them down," said Jayawardene, understandably pleased by his team's refusal to let-up while they enjoyed a rare success outside the sub-continent.

"That is what we have made sure we have done since winning the Test match at Trent Bridge.

"Rather than just beating England it was important for the team to retain that killer instinct."

Jayawardene, whose astute leadership was a feature of the tour, was fittingly in at the end to see the side home against a demoralised England.

"They were pretty down and out when I walked out there," the captain explained. "But the way Sanath and Upul went about it was not in our gameplan at all.

"I have not seen a better opening stand than this, particularly as it was away from home."

After four crushing defeats, England stand-in skipper Andrew Strauss could be forgiven for trying something new.

But his decision to open the bowling with Kabir Ali and Tim Bresnan, rather than senior quick Stephen Harmison, saw the novice duo's combined first three overs go for 46 runs.

"When you are defending it is very important to take early wickets to slow the opposition down, England didn't manage to do that and paid the penalty," said Jayawardene. "I was very surprised they didn't open with Steve Harmison."

Reflecting on the tour overall, Sri Lanka's modest captain insisted: "It's nothing to do with me personally. Everyone worked really hard as a team.

"As a group of players, everyone wanted to improve themselves. Especially the young guys, they were so determined to do well here.

"They had to prove a point because when they left Sri Lanka even Sri Lankans were not very optimistic about how they would fare in England.

"I'm very pleased with the way the youngsters went about this series. You have to let them express themselves but also see where they are going wrong and make sure they come back into line."

He added: "Lasith has been the find of the tour for us. He has shown character and he wants to improve himself, which is excellent."

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