Cricket: Jayasuriya urges Sri Lanka to complete series rout of world's top Test side

The Sri Lankan cricket team acknowledging the crowd while celebrating their victory over Australia on Aug 6, 2016.
The Sri Lankan cricket team acknowledging the crowd while celebrating their victory over Australia on Aug 6, 2016.PHOTO: AFP
Sri Lankan cricket great Sanath Jayasuriya has urged the national team to do their best to complete a whitewash against Australia.
Sri Lankan cricket great Sanath Jayasuriya has urged the national team to do their best to complete a whitewash against Australia.PHOTO: AFP

AFP - Retired batting legend Sanath Jayasuriya has urged Sri Lanka's cricketers to seize the chance to make history by completing a series whitewash over world No. 1 Test team Australia.

With an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-Test series, Sri Lanka might be tempted to ease up in the final encounter which begins in Colombo on Saturday.

But Jayasuriya, one of the stars of Sri Lanka's World Cup triumph in 1996, said that Angelo Mathews' young side could create their own piece of history by inflicting a series whitewash on a leading Test nation for the first time.

"No one thought we would be leading 2-0, everybody thought it would be the other way round but we've turned it around as a team," Jayasuriya, who is now chairman of Sri Lanka's selectors, told AFP in an interview in Colombo.

"If we can do that (win the Test series 3-0), then it's history. So I hope the boys will realise that we have got a big opportunity." Sri Lanka had only beaten Australia once before in a Test, in 1999 when the likes of Jayasuriya and record-breaking spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan were in their prime.

The victories in the first two Tests were all the more unexpected as Sri Lanka have been sliding down the rankings and failed to win any of nine international matches against England on their recent tour.

Few observers had given them a hope of beating the Australians but Steve Smith's side have admitted to being totally outplayed in the first two Tests in Palekelle and Galle.

A 3-0 clean sweep would be Sri Lanka's greatest achievement since they were granted Test status in 1981.

It would also vindicate predictions from the likes of Jayasuriya that the team has a bright future despite the retirements of world-class batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene in the last couple of years.

Sri Lanka's match-winner in Pallekele was 21-year-old Kusal Mendis, who scored a superb maiden century.

While the veteran off-spinner Rangana Herath grabbed the headlines in Galle by taking a hat-trick, the match-winner was younger spin partner Dilruwan Perera, who recorded match figures of 10 for 99.

"We are in a transition period. We are going with youngsters at the moment with little or no experience," said Jayasuriya, who was captain in Sri Lanka's only previous victory over Australia 17 years ago.

"We had a lot of faith in them and we are very happy the way they played ... I think with experience they will learn, but they have to start somewhere and they started in Sri Lanka." Sri Lanka had endured a torrid start to 2016, being knocked out of the World Twenty20 as defending champions before the tour of England.

Jayasuriya said the batting in England lacked consistency but was now "just beginning to click".