Jayawardene doesn't blame lack of matches

RIZWAN ALI
Last updated 06:50 07/01/2014

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Sri Lanka's seasoned batsman Mahela Jayawardene doesn't blame a lack of test matches for his two quick dismissals in the drawn first test against Pakistan.

Debutant Bilawal Bhatti dismissed Jayawardene for 5 and 0 in Abu Dhabi, and captain Angelo Mathews played a career-best knock of 157 not out to set up a stiff target of 302 and force Pakistan to settle for a draw.

"Difficult to say that the long break had a big effect," Jayawardene said Monday after the team's training for the second test, which starts Wednesday.

"I got two good balls and I couldn't avoid getting out to them. I'm not thinking too much about what's been, but I prepared well for that match and I'm preparing for the next one."

The veteran of 139 test matches last played a test match against Australia in January 2013 before failing at Abu Dhabi.

Jayawardene did not face Bhatti in last month's Twenty20 and one-day series against Pakistan after he was given paternity leave.

"When you face a bowler for the first time there is always a small difference," said Jayawardene, who has hit 31 centuries and scored 10,811 runs. "He bowled in really good areas when I went to bat ... I had watched how Bhatti bowls, but watching him and playing him are very different things."

The Pakistan team was looking to finish off the first test inside four days after reducing Sri Lanka to 186-4 at the end of the third day's play for an overall lead of just seven runs.

But Mathews featured in two big century stands with Dinesh Chandimal (89) and Prasanna Jayawardene (63 not out) before setting Pakistan left with no other choice but to play out a draw. Opening batsman Kaushal Silva (81) also scored a fine half century before he was dismissed in the last over on the third day.

"The way our batsmen played in the second innings was really good ... We got back into the game and that's what test cricket is about," Jayawardene said.

"When we are behind, we have to show a little character and we did that, even turning it into a potentially winning situation. That was a great boost of confidence, particularly for the young players who are getting that experience."

Sri Lanka neutralised Pakistan offspinner Saeed Ajmal, who returned wicketless in the second innings despite bowling 49 overs to finish the match with just two wickets.

"If we play him like we did in the first match and also play the quicks well, there's a good chance we can win the series," Jayawardene said. "We won the last series against Pakistan 1-0 in Sri Lanka by coming up with similar plans."

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With Sri Lanka not playing much of test cricket this year, Jayawardene has not set long term goals for himself.

"This year there are only 5 or 6 tests remaining," he said. "I've said before that I don't have a plan for the long term ... When you get to this stage in your cricketing career, it's not easy to have long-term targets."

- AP

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