Batsmen up the order let us down: Jayawarde

Published: Monday, April 7, 2008, 15:33 [IST]
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Port of Spain: Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene has identified his side's batting meltdown early in their second innings as the turning point in the second and final Test against West Indies which ended on Sunday.

Ramnaresh Sarwan hit 102 and Shivnarine Chanderpaul was unbeaten on 86, as West Indies, chasing 253 runs for victory, reached their target a little over an hour after tea, when left-hander Devon Smith slapped a delivery from off-spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan through cover for four to a cacophony of noise from a partisan crowd that swelled to 8,000.

Although Jayawardene credited Sarwan and Chanderpaul for the way they batted, he believes the foundation for the West Indies' victory - which levelled the two-Test series - was laid when the home team ran through the Sri Lanka top-order and sent the visitors crashing to 99 for six on Saturday's third day.

"After the first two days, we knew it was going to be a tough battle to see who was going to take the advantage," said Jayawardene.

"After the first innings, it was pretty much even. Then we lost four wickets pretty early in the second innings, and that was probably where things went wrong for us.

"One was a run out, a couple of bad shots, and we put ourselves under pressure, but then Thilan Samaraweera and Chaminda Vaas batted really well.

"They had a big partnership, showed a lot of character, and we never gave up, since it gave us an opportunity to come back into the Test match.

Jayawardene added: "It was an amazing effort from Thilan after being dropped from the team for awhile, and he gave us an opportunity, but I think this is where we let ourselves down in our second innings - that first 10 to 15 overs.

"We knew that on a pitch like this, the harder ball was going to do a bit, and we needed to make sure we didn't lose too many upfront and then we would have built a better platform for our bowlers.

"But defending a target of 250, I would have taken it on this pitch, since I knew it had something in it, and we had to take four or five wickets cheaply with the new ball. We took three, but it wasn't enough."

For 3-1/4 hours, Sri Lanka toiled effortlessly to dislodge either Sarwan or Chanderpaul, but the two former West Indies captains added a crucial 157 for the seventh wicket to put their side firmly on course for a victory to deny Sri Lanka their first Test series win in the Caribbean, and a historic series sweep.

"Coming into this match, we had a great opportunity to achieve these landmarks, but we knew it was going to be tough," Jayawardene said.

"Up until the start of play, it was pretty much an even contest, and when we reduced them to 73 for three, we thought we had a chance.

"But we knew Shiv and Ronnie were the danger players, but they batted really, really well. We had a few half-chances, but couldn't get them.

"But I am pretty happy with the performances of he guys overall. We fought really well in this Test match, given the fact that we had some tough situations which we had to deal with, and we gave ourselves every chance to win it, but West Indies came pretty strong on the fourth day."

The two sides now contest a three-match One-day International series, starting on Thursday at Queen's Park Oval which also hosts the second match on Saturday.

The ODI series ends on April 15 with a day/night fixture at the Beausejour Stadium in St. Lucia.


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