Delight as Sangakkara earns his rightful place

Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara, left, is congratulated by Mahela Jayawardene after scoring his first century at Lord's.
Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara, left, is congratulated by Mahela Jayawardene after scoring his first century at Lord's.
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Kumar Sangakkara gained his rightful place on the Lord’s honours board – and nobody begrudged the Sri Lankan great after he finally made a Test century there.

Sangakkara’s 147 on Saturday kept the tourists in the first Test against England as he and close friend Mahela Jayawardene (55) and then captain Angelo Mathews (79no) combined in a stumps total of 415-7 on day three in reply to England’s 575-9 declared.

Sangakkara, Jayawardene – a pair who have a near equal share of more than 22,000 Test runs in their wonderful careers – and then England assistant coach Paul Farbrace, until two months ago in charge of Sri Lanka, all spoke of their delight in his achievement.

Both Sangakkara and Jayawardene are members of the all-time top 10 Test run-scorers, and the latter had previously adorned his record with two hundreds here.

For his illustrious team-mate, however, six previous Test innings at HQ – stretching back to 2002 – had never reached three figures.

Sangakkara rightly revelled in doing so finally, in on-pitch celebrations aptly involving Jayawardene too during their century stand, and afterwards as he reflected on what it all meant to him.

“A hundred at Lord’s is something I always wanted,” said Sangakkara.

He now has 36 Test hundreds, to go with his 36 years.

Few will be as memorable this, but Sangakkara was careful beforehand not to put undue pressure on himself.

“Coming on this tour, probably my last in England, I just wanted to enjoy it.

“If it happened, it happened.

“Lord’s is a very special place to play. It feels very special to get on the honours board ... and it was very good to have Mahela there.”

Former Yorkshire coach Farbrace could be forgiven for mixed feelings at Sangakkara’s performance.

But he said: “Personally, I’m very pleased for him and delighted he’s got his hundred in Test cricket at Lord’s that he wanted.

“There’s a lot of respect towards him from our team.

“He’s someone a lot of (our young players) would say has been one of the best in world cricket for quite some time now.

“He is a world-class player, and world-class person.

“Yes, I’d have loved to see the back of him on nought – as early as possible, but it was a fantastic innings.”

Jayawardene made his feelings obvious when he congratulated Sangakkara, in the moment, as he joined the list of Lord’s centurions.

Several hours later, he said: “I was so happy for Kumar.

“A lot of people were talking about it, even back home as well.

“I am quite relieved.”

Sangakkara appeared in control throughout, and Jaywardene added: “Today he was a man with a purpose, the way he batted ... I haven’t seen him leaving so many balls outside the off-stump for quite some time.

“There were a few he could have gone after, but he didn’t. He was quite determined to get there.

“Even if he didn’t get that hundred, I don’t think anyone could question his record and the way he’s gone about his cricket career.

“But it’s something special, obviously, to get his name on that board.”

Jayawardene raced up to Sangakkara to embrace him after he cover-drove Joe Root for four to go to his century.

He decided then to let the man himself do the talking, but had done his best to help him with some timely advice along the way.

“I didn’t say anything. I knew that he was just overwhelmed, and he said, ‘I’ve ticked that box’.

“Before that, I was just telling him ‘Bat normally, it will come’.

“I was a bit worried when he was in the 90s - he looked a bit nervous.

“But he batted really well today. I’m really proud of him.”

Farbrace was proud too, of a hard-working England attack who gave Sri Lanka few easy runs on a slow pitch and ended up with six wickets for their trouble.

“I think it’s been a really good effort from the bowlers today, running in and keeping going.

“It is an unresponsive pitch. But the key has been we don’t get into that frame of mind of talking about ‘no pace in the pitch, no bounce’, and just maintained a really good plan.

“We bowled straight, used the short ball well - and I think we’ve got our just rewards tonight.

“You don’t always get what you want. But there’s been no complaining, no moaning ... the boys have just got on with it.”