Kingston: Mahela Jayawardene is one of those cricketers who despite a wealth of talent, hasn't been as successful in the shorter format of the game --having only 15 ODI centuries to his name as compared to 31 in Tests.
Yet, he is on the verge of becoming only the third cricketer in the history of one-dayers to complete 400 matches, after Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya. That is if Sri Lanka reach the tri-series final.
What makes him work? An effortless batsman, Jayawardene gave yet another example on Friday of how Sri Lanka would be handicapped without him.
Normally, a middle order bat — having played 263 innings at No 4 and 5 — Jayawardene is now opening for Sri Lanka. But he doesn't have any qualms about it.
Even though he departed in a tame fashion to Sunil Narine in the first over of spin by the West Indies, his 50 was significant in providing Sri Lanka a steady start. This was important considering that the Sabina Park pitch tends to retain moisture in the first hour of play before flattening out into a batting paradise. It this factor that influenced West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo to bowl after winning the toss.
But like many occasions in the past, Jayawardene was there to ward off the initial threat. Blessed with soft hands, the right hander nudged and guided the shorter length balls. If it was a fuller length delivery, he was at his elegant best, caressing it through the covers repeatedly. Add to this his running between the wickets, Sri Lanka couldn't have asked for a better start.
His innings proved decisive, with the following batsmen, including Kumar Sangakkara, not exactly making hay while the sun beat down on Sabina Park.
Jayawardene might have departed just at the time he could have flourished but that brisk but careful fifty showed he will be central to Sri Lanka's plans for a long time to come.