He produced a knock for the ages in conditions favoring the fast bowlers but fell five short of what would have been a maiden ODI century
Janith Liyanage, playing in just his second One-Day International, delivered a game-changing performance that led his team to an exciting victory over Zimbabwe on Monday in Colombo. In the second One-Day International, he amassed the highest individual score for Sri Lanka with 95 off 127 balls; the next greatest score was 21, which allowed the hosts to win by two wickets.
But in the 43rd over, Liyanage tried to smash Blessing Muzarabani for six but was caught at mid-off, falling five runs short of his first international century. Muzarabani was one of Zimbabwe’s most dangerous bowlers, and Sri Lanka still had 46 balls to obtain the 37 runs they required, so on the surface, it seemed like a needless move. Furthermore, Liyanage’s exit gave Zimbabwe the upper hand once more, leaving Sri Lanka with just two wickets remaining.
As the rain got heavier during the roughly thirty minutes of play, the hosts would eventually limp to their goal of 209 points. Liyanage clarified that he had to take a chance in the 43rd over due to the weather, not the score or his goal of hitting a century.
“More than the century, what I wanted was to get the team to victory,” he stated. We were trailing the DLS score by roughly five runs at that point. I reasoned that even if the rain interrupted the play, we could still win if I struck a six in that over. I’m happy we were able to reach our goal, which was to win the match.”
Liyanage and Maheesh Theekshana had earlier lifted Sri Lanka from a total of 112 for 6 with a 56-run seventh-wicket stand. Liyanage batted more aggressively during this partnership than he had earlier in the innings, with Theekshana contributing just 18 runs. But he was picky about who he targeted.
“When Maheesh and I were batting, they [Zimbabwe Team] were bowling their best bowlers, and they only had a few overs left,” Liyanage recalled. “So our plan was to get two or three runs an over off their best bowlers, then take the game into the last five or six overs, and score our runs there.”
For a significant portion of the chase, rain was forecast, and 13 overs into Sri Lanka’s innings, a lengthy delay was necessary. Liyanage said that the rainfall has helped Zimbabwe’s quicks.
“The ball started to move a little bit because of the rain, and we lost two wickets early on. At one point, I reasoned that since they had two quick bowlers, I should defend against them and, if I batted for a while and got set, I could bat all the way to the end. The rain made their tall quicks a little more difficult to handle.”