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Sangakkara & Jayawardene lose last ODI in World Cup QFs

March 18, 2015

SYDNEY (AP) — Kumar Sangakkara put up his hand to indicate he’d had enough.

One of the greatest players of his generation held Sri Lanka’s innings together for as long as he could, until his record run of four consecutive limited-overs international centuries was ended on 45 in a Cricket World Cup quarterfinal loss to South Africa on Wednesday.

The mild-mannered wicketkeeper-batsman was asked if, at 37, he’d consider changing his mind about retiring from ODIs.

That’s when he showed his hand, with tape plastered over all four fingers and his thumb.

“It’s like the tape holding my fingers together,” he said, smiling. “I’ve got a lot more holding my body together.”

Fair call. He has played just about all of Sri Lanka’s ODIs in this millennium, making his debut in 2000 and finishing up with 404 caps and 14,234 runs — second only to Sachin Tendulkar — at an average of 42 per innings.

The way he finished made many wonder why he was retiring. He became the first batsman to score centuries in four consecutive ODIs — at the World Cup, to boot — to finish his career with 25 hundreds and 93 half centuries. On top of that, he took 402 catches and 99 stumpings.

Asked how he’d like to be remembered, he replied: “Oh, if anyone can say that they’ve enjoyed playing against me and playing with me, I’ll be more than happy.”

Sangakkara will continue playing test cricket in the short-term, unlike his long-time teammate Mahela Jayawardene, who retired after the loss at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Jayawardene was out for 4 and, after Sri Lanka lost four wickets for two runs to slide to 116-8, Sangakkara was the penultimate wicket to fall, caught on the boundary off Morne Morkel’s bowling as he tried to boost the total with boundaries. Sri Lanka was dismissed for 133, and South Africa needed just 18 overs to post its first ever win in a World Cup knockout match.

Jayawardene, who is also 37, started playing ODIs in 1998, and racked up 448, scoring 12,650 runs (fifth best all-time). Jayawardene captained Sri Lanka to the 2007 final, and Sangakkara led the side to the 2011 final. They batted together for a while on Wednesday, but couldn’t revive a big partnership of substance.

“It’s been a great privilege,” Sangakkara said of playing with Jayawardene.

“Mahela has been an exceptional player for Sri Lanka who’s scored a lot of runs. He’s made a hundred in a lot of victories, and he’s given a lot on and off the field to the country.

“I’m sure he’s going to be thoroughly disappointed today but, also, sometimes there is a bit of relief when your career ends. The high-pressure situations, the warmups, the ice baths, the recovery sessions, all of that, all repeated over 16, 17 years can get a bit much. ... Time to look at other aspects of life.”

Sangakkara was content with his final flourish, and satisfied he gave everything he could.

“Retiring from cricket is not about form,” he said. “I’m sure I can play maybe a year or two more, but ... it’s time and place, and I feel that the time is now, and it’s right, and the World Cup with a four-year wait in between is the right occasion to do it.”

Just like all good showmen, he said the game would go on without him.

“You can’t hold onto it, and (supporters) shouldn’t be too sentimental,” he said. “I love the support that they’ve given me over the years, and I’ve become a lot better person and a player because of that support and love, but at the end of the day, a lot better players and greater players have gone, and the game has gone on, and there are new players who take the mantle, and in my case it won’t be any different.”

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