PROVIDENCE, April 4- Mahela Jayawardene's classy century and Guyanese rains combined to give Sri Lanka a 14-run win over Zimbabwe on the Duckworth/Lewis method in their World Twenty20 Group B match here on Monday.This was a match Sri Lanka, beaten first up by New Zealand, had to win to stay in the tournament.
But it was a close run thing for last year’s losing finalists with the five overs needed in Zimbabwe’s reply to constitute a match only just completed before rain ended the game.
Veteran batsman Jayawardene’s innings was the cornerstone of Sri Lanka’s 173 for seven, made after captain Kumar Sangakkara won the toss.
Zimbabwe, playing their first match of the tournament after encouraging warm-up wins over defending champions Pakistan and Australia, saw their innings halted by rain in the first over.
That left them with a revised target of 104 off 11 overs before rain halted the match at the five-over mark with Zimbabwe on 29 for one, rather than the 43 for one they needed for victory, following the early loss of Hamilton Masakadza to a farcical run-out.
Unless Zimbabwe beat New Zealand by a huge margin here on Tuesday, Sri Lanka should go through to the Super Eights with the Kiwis.
"It was tough because of the rain and there was the situation where if it was rained out today and tomorrow (Tuesday) or if Zimbabwe had got a better run-rate than us then wed have been out of the tournament," Sangakkara said to reporters.
"I’m relieved and happy we managed to play a game out there but I thought the day belonged to Mahela, who batted absolutely brilliantly.
"To score a hundred in Twenty20 isn’t easy but the way he is batting, I think he’ll keep on doing things that are incredible."
Former captain Jayawardene, who made 81 in Sri Lanka’s two-wicket loss to New Zealand, scored exactly 100 and is relishing his role as an opener after spending the bulk of his career lower down the order.
"It wasn’t that I was disappointed batting lower down, I had a different role, it’s whatever fits in," Jayawardene explained.
"But I knew I could be a lot more free and express myself a bit better batting higher up the order. I started in provincial cricket back home and it went well and continued at the IPL (Indian Premier League)."
He added: "I had to challenge myself to be a bit different in Twenty20 cricket as well as all the other aspects of the game. So you keep pushing yourself to try and be a better cricketer every day."
Jayawardene’s hundred was only the fourth in all Twenty20 internationals but the second in this competition in as many days after India’s Suresh Raina scored 101 against South Africa in Saint Lucia on Sunday.
Stylish right-hander Jayawardene faced 63 balls with four sixes and 10 fours, concentrating mainly on classical cricket shots.
Zimbabwe kept taking wickets at the other end but could do little about opening batsman Jayawardene.
Tillakaratne Dilshan, player of the tournament at last year’s World Twenty20 in England, has not looked anything like the same player at this edition and he made just two before a miscued drive off Elton Chigumbura went straight to mid-off.
Twenty20 debutant Thissara Perera helped Jayawardene add 56 in six overs before he was well caught in the deep by Chigumbura.
Several batsmen then failed to get going but Jayawardene carried on serenely before he was finally caught at long-on off left-arm spinner Ray Price.