Jayawardene opening up Twenty20 horizons

Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene is relishing the "freedom" that comes with opening the batting after another superlative display at the World Twenty20.

updated: May 08, 2010 16:54 IST
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Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene is relishing the "freedom" that comes with opening the batting after another superlative display at the World Twenty20.

And he insists his appetite for runs is far from sated ahead of the islanders' upcoming clash with Australia on Sunday.

The 32-year-old made an unbeaten 98 as Sri Lanka, last year's losing finalists, began their second round Super Eights campaign with a crushing 57-run win over hosts the West Indies at the Kensington Oval here on Friday.

It was the stylish right-hander's third big score in as many innings this tournament and left him with 279 runs at a colossal average of 139.5 after knocks of 81 against New Zealand and 100 against Zimbabwe.

Former captain Jayawardene has come late in his career to opening, although he has always been a top order batsman.

And for those who dismiss Twenty20 as a game for sloggers only, Jayawardene's essentially orthodox approach provides evidence cricket's fundamentals still hold good in all forms of the game.

While the likes of other senior international batsmen such as Australia's Ricky Ponting and India's Sachin Tendulkar have opted out of international Twenty20 in a bid to extend their Test careers, Jayawardene is relishing the chance it is giving him to reinvigorate his game.

"I am enjoying it," said Jayawardene, who faced 56 balls with four sixes and nine fours in a Sri Lanka total of 195 for three - the best of the tournament so far - against the West Indies.

"For me it was about me pushing myself with my technique and ability to see how it would suit for me to play T20 cricket.

"Batting in the middle (order) was a challenge, I adapted and I did different things but I think opening the batting has given me much more freedom to go out and express myself - guys need to find that.

"Yes, I am scoring runs, you are not sure how long you are going to be in this game so every time I go out there I want to score runs."

And Jayawardene insisted he'd tweaked rather than transformed his game for Twenty20 cricket. "I haven't changed a lot but, having said that, I am playing a few more different shots than I am used to in one-day or Test cricket because of different tactics.

"You tend to analyse and see what works for you and what doesn't."

Trevor Bayliss, the Sri Lanka coach, said of Jayawardene: "He is batting as well as everyone in the world knows he can bat like.

"Opening in the 20 overs game is really one of the only spots you can make a big score from," the Australian added.

"We have got a guy (Jaywardene) here who is used to making big scores, knows how to go about making big scores, not only in the shorter version but in Test matches as well.

"He is a classical style batsman who doesn't muscle the ball away but still seems to time it pretty well away to the fence or over the fence."

Only four batsmen have scored Twenty20 international hundreds - West Indies' Chris Gayle and New Zealand's Brendon McCullum being joined in an exclusive club at this tournament by India's Suresh Raina and Jayawardene.

The Sri Lankan had the chance to make history by becoming the first man to make two centuries at this level but chose not to hog the strike in the last over against the West Indies.

However, he insisted he felt no disappointment at missing out.

"Not at all, at that point I couldn't even get the ball out of the 30 yard circle I was that tired," Jayawardene said.

"I was quite glad Kapu (Chamara Kapugedara) and (Tillakaratne) Dilshan came and hit a few fours.

"It is all about getting runs for the team. Hundreds are great but then as always (if) you are winning the matches as well. I wasn't focused on the hundred but on getting as many runs as we could."