x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Centurion Sangakkara eyes levelling series with Australia

A hugely proud Kumar Sangakkara wants to make a winning contribution on his 100th Test cap in Colombo.

Kumar Sangakkara, right, hopes he can continue his scoring form at the SSC on his 100th Test.
Kumar Sangakkara, right, hopes he can continue his scoring form at the SSC on his 100th Test.

COLOMBO // A hugely proud Kumar Sangakkara hopes Sri Lanka will celebrate his 100th Test cap with a series-levelling victory over Australia in the final match in Colombo starting on Friday.

"It's a great honour to have represented my country for a period of time, and also a great honour to play 100 Test matches," Sangakkara said ahead of his landmark match at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC).

"It's not often that a player gets that opportunity and I'm very, very proud and also very privileged to be given the opportunity to represent my country and my people for so long.

Sangakkara, however, said that the most important thing on his 100th cap is to produce a winning contribution and level the three-match series, which Australia leads 1-0.

"It's nice to participate," Sangakkara said. "But you want to say to your teammates and others that we are winners.

"That is what everyone wants, go out there and win matches. It's what the whole team is chasing at the moment, to try to win and be the best."

Sangakkara, who turns 34 next month, will be the fifth Sri Lankan to play a century of Tests after Muttiah Muralitharan (132 matches), Mahela Jayawardene (121), Chaminda Vaas (111) and Sanath Jayasuriya (110).

The elegant left-hander has provided substance and stature to Sri Lanka's batting along with Jayawardene since his debut against South Africa in Galle in 2000.

His 8,572 runs in 99 Tests at an average of 55.66 with 25 hundreds are second in his country's all-time list, behind Jayawardene's 9,801 runs from 121 matches.

Sangakkara said his goal was to compile 10,000 Test runs and score 30 centuries before he hung up his boots, but retirement is still far from his mind.

He could not have asked for a better venue than his favourite hunting ground at the SSC to mark his 100th Test. In the 18 Tests he had played at the SSC, Sangakkara has scored 1,864 runs at an awe-inspiring average of 74.56 with seven three-figure knocks, including three double centuries.

It was at the same venue that Sangakkara and Jayawardene recorded the highest partnership ever in Test cricket: 624 for the third wicket in 2006 against a South African attack that included Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini.

Sangakkara made 287, while Jayawardene smashed 374 before being bowled by Andre Nel — short of the West Indian Brian Lara's world record of 400 not out.

Sangakkara has scored centuries in each of his last three Tests at the SSC, including knocks of 219 and 42 not out against India last year.

But Sri Lanka have not won a Test since the retirement of Muralitharan, the world bowling record holder, losing three of the 10 played since then, but Sangakkara asked fans to be patient.

He also said the younger players in the team should be given an extended run to prove their worth at the highest level.

"They've got to be comfortable in the fact they are here because they are good enough and also they are going to be given a nice, long-lasting run to prove what they can do," he said.

Sangakkara, who gave up the captaincy after the Cricket World Cup in April to concentrate on his batting, said his successor Tillakaratne Dilshan was working hard to improve the team's fortunes.

But he felt a lot still depended on how the senior players performed.

"The results will come but the senior guys have to keep putting their hands up and keep performing, which will allow the newcomers to perform even better," he said.