Mumbai: Mahela Jayawardene saved his best innings of the tournament for the day his team most needed it, as Sri Lanka withstood an inspired spell from Zaheer Khan to set India a stiff target of 275 in the World Cup final in Mumbai. On a hard and true surface that assisted the seamers but offered value for correct strokeplay, Jayawardene lifted Sri Lanka's tempo after a sluggish start before clicking into overdrive in the batting Powerplay, to finish unbeaten on a priceless 103 not out from 88 balls.
Four years ago at Sabina Park, Jayawardene produced a supreme century against New Zealand to carry his side to their second World Cup final, but this was an innings of even more exquisite application. He came to the crease with his side under the cosh at 60 for 2 in the 17th over, having been throttled by a Zaheer new-ball spell that contained three consecutive maidens and just six runs in five overs all told. But he responded with a tempo that scarcely wavered from a run a ball, until with Nuwan Kulasekera for company, he opened his shoulders to power through to his hundred from 83 balls - the sixth man to do so on the game's biggest stage.
The contrast between the start of Sri Lanka's innings and its finish was stark. With Zaheer leading the line, India restricted their opponents to 31 for 1 in the mandatory ten-over Powerplay, their lowest total of the tournament to date, below the 42 for 2 that they had made in their group-stage defeat against Pakistan. But then, at the death, the same attack was battered for 63 in the batting Powerplay, with Zaheer's final two overs being butchered for 17 and 18 respectively. Thisara Perera, in his first match for almost a month, set the seal on a stunning turnaround with 22 from nine deliveries, including a last-ball six that was battered from a good length over midwicket.