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Jayasuriya Feels The Pinch As Runs Dry Up

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Fuseworks Media

By Chris Barclay of NZPA

Colombo, Sept 8 NZPA - Has the oldest swinger in town lost his mojo?

That's the leading question New Zealand's cricketers were dead batting as speculation mounts over the future of Sri Lanka's original master blaster, Sanath Jayasuriya.

Now on the wrong side of 40, Jayasuriya has been unable to get to double figures in three innings against New Zealand, his latest failure for Sri Lanka A on Sunday made back page headlines -- not the attention one of the island's sporting icons is accustomed to.

But there is no denying Jayasuriya, the man who pioneered the art of pinch-hitting at the 1996 World Cup, is entrenched in a form slump that threatens a dream of retiring on his own terms at the next edition of the tournament 15 years later.

In a potentially ominous sign, former test opener Upul Tharanga was added to a revamped Tri-Series squad of 16 last night, one of five personnel changes as Sri Lanka reassess after their Twenty20 series defeat.

Jayasuriya, who started a remarkable 435-match ODI career against Australia at the MCG on Boxing Day, 1989, managed only one and seven in last week's Twenty20s.

Mistimed pulls twice prompted his downfall as New Zealand astutely avoided bowling length balls likely to be crunched through point or extra cover -- two traditional Jayasuriya sweet spots.

Then, in the one-day practice match, he sparred another short ball to be caught at the wicket for two, another example where New Zealand's bowling plans had the desired result.

Ten runs in three knocks, and sadly for Jayasuriya these failures can no longer be considered an aberration.

Since he made his 28th ODI century against India at the ripe old age of 39 years and 212 days in January, Jayasuriya has scored 137 runs in sevens matches at 18.85 -- with a top score of 37.

His Twenty20 stats are equally discouraging for the man who has a mountainous 13,202 ODI runs in the bank.

Jayasuriya remains the format's most prolific scorer behind New Zealand's Brendon McCullum, although, he averages 15.62 over his last eight matches since scoring 81 at Trent Bridge against the West Indies in the ICC World Twenty20 in June.

McCullum witnessed Jayasuriya's recent woes at close range but was cautious when asked if a star of Sri Lanka's World Cup triumph in 1996 was on the wane.

"He is, but you never write him off do you? He's got so much experience, he's torn attacks apart over a number of years.

"We know what he's capable of so we just have to make sure we execute the plans that we've got and never give him a break if we've got him on the back foot," McCullum said.

New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori was also diplomatic.

"We understand a class player can always strike at any time and I suppose we're expecting him to come out of it pretty quickly.

"The thing with him is brings an all round package to the game," Vettori said, referring to Jayasuriya's darting left arm spin -- the provider of 316 ODI wickets.

Vettori said it was commonplace for cricketers to revisit happier times when going through a tough run of form.

And if Jayasuriya is the type to look back, he has plenty of highlights against New Zealand to lift his spirits.

He scored his maiden ODI hundred at New Zealand's expense, a scintillating 140 at Bloemfontein in 1994 at a strike rate of 97.90 -- a scoring clip that has remained a trademark of his career.

Four more tons were subsequently registered against New Zealand, most recently a typically brisk 111 at Napier in December 2006.

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