Bradman's mirror image
By: Ian Chappell
April 11, 2006
There was a short period in 1996 just after Sri Lanka’s incredible World Cup victory when Sanath Jayasuriya gave cricket fans a glimpse of what it must have been like to watch Sir Donald Bradman bat in the 1930’s.
For a few glorious days in Singapore, Jayasuriya was seeing the ball like a water melon and everything the Pakistani bowlers delivered was despatched either to or over the boundary.
His first innings brought the flashing left-hander a century off a mere forty eight deliveries; bettering the previous best by a margin of 14 balls. He commenced scoring that day with a torrent of runs and it quickly became a raging flood.
He hit 12 off the first over from no less a bowler than Waqar Younis and Sunil Gavaskar commented; “He can’t keep scoring at this rate.”
By the end of the third over with the score close to 50, I queried Sunil, “Are you sure he can’t keep scoring at this rate?”
Jayasuriya’s century came from the first ball of the 16th over, not that it made any difference where skipper Aamir Sohail put the fieldsmen. One powerful pull shot sent the ball zooming over the trees, where it bounced on the road and was last seen heading up the steps of City Hall.
It was exhilarating cricket and deliveries short and full were treated alike; an abbreviated but quick stroke delivered by those blacksmith’s forearms and Jayasuriya would punch yet another boundary.
The humble Sri Lankan finished with an amazing 134 off only 65 balls and when he was finally dismissed by off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq he was accorded a standing ovation. For an encore he blasted a half century off only seventeen balls five days later and that record remains until this day.
Despite Jayasuriya’s whirlwind knock Sri Lanka lost the final to Pakistan but when the team departed later that night via a crowded Singapore Cricket Club main bar, the gathering, which included a handful of ex-international cricketers, all stood to applaud a slightly embarrassed entertainer.
It was one of those special moments that you remember for the rest of your life; the hair on the back of my neck stood to attention as Jayasuriya walked through that room.
Although Jayasuriya provided cricket fans with many more electrifying innings he never again quite reached that level of thorough domination. That is no disgrace because only Bradman ever regularly achieved such complete mastery over bowling attacks.
These days the dismantling of new ball attacks comes less often and rarely lasts long enough for another tilt at a record breaking century. However, he did recapture some of the magic at the SCG earlier this year to give Australian crowds a final glimpse of what Sanath Jayasuriya was really like.
Jayasuriya has wisely decided to close the book on his Test career; one that he admitted the other day only took off after he scored a fighting century at the Adelaide Oval in early 1996. That was the innings he convinced the selectors he should open for Sri Lanka and it will forever be marked in the fast bowler’s diary as a black day.
Unfortunately for Sanath, a kindly soul with a ready smile, there has been no glorious finale to his worthwhile career of entertaining cricket fans. A few stitches in the thumb and a bleeding left-hand will be his memento from a last Test in Kandy. However, no disappointment can ever erase that glorious week in Singapore when Jayasuriya was a mirror image of Bradman.
Jayasuriya has since made a comeback from retirement.