On July 29, 2006, Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara set a record that will forever remain awe-inspiring. The batting legends completed a staggering 624-run stand against South Africa at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo. This partnership remains the highest for any wicket in Test cricket.
The feat was achieved in the first Test of the two-match series. South Africa’s stand-in captain Ashwell Prince won the toss and elected to bat first, and the visitors went in without three of their most senior players – Graeme Smith (injured), Jacques Kallis (injured) and Shaun Pollock (birth of his child).
The Proteas couldn’t take advantage of winning the toss and were bowled out for just 169 runs on the first day, thanks to four-wicket hauls from Dilhara Fernando and Muttiah Muralitharan.
South Africa, however, managed to remove openers Upul Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya with Sri Lanka having just 14 runs on the board. They must have believed they had a legitimate chance of getting back in the contest. Little did they know the severity of what was to follow.
Sangakkara and Jayawardene, batting at No 3 and 4 respectively, took their team to 128 runs at stumps on day one. They had played well to pull Sri Lanka back after the early stutter, but South Africa were still in the game.
Whatever hopes the visitors had, though, came crashing down rather quickly on day two of the match. The sun was shining in Colombo and the pitch at the SSC was typically slow with hardly any bounce.
Jayawardene and Sangakkara made a mockery of the South African attack, with boundaries to every corner of the ground. The right-hand-left-down duo put on an exhibition of shot-making and took Sri Lanka to 485/2 at stumps. Sangakkara was unbeaten on 229 and Jayawardene was batting on 224.
On day three, they first broke the record for the highest partnership in Test cricket and then the record for the highest stand in first-class cricket – 577 runs by Vijay Hazare and Gul Mohammad in 1946-’47.
Highest partnership for any wicket in Tests
|KC Sangakkara, DPMD Jayawardene||624||3rd||Sri Lanka||South Africa||Colombo (SSC)||27 Jul 2006|
|ST Jayasuriya, RS Mahanama||576||2nd||Sri Lanka||India||Colombo (RPS)||2 Aug 1997|
|AH Jones, MD Crowe||467||3rd||New Zealand||Sri Lanka||Wellington||31 Jan 1991|
|WH Ponsford, DG Bradman||451||2nd||Australia||England||The Oval||18 Aug 1934|
|Mudassar Nazar, Javed Miandad||451||3rd||Pakistan||India||Hyderabad (Sind)||14 Jan 1983|
Sangakkara eventually got out for 287 runs (457 balls, 675 mins, 35 fours, 0 sixes, SR 62.80), before Jayawardene perished too for 374 runs (572 balls, 752 mins, 43 fours, 1 six, SR 65.38). Their strike-rates reflect how they matched each other shot-for-shot. The speed at which they accumulated their runs also helped Sri Lanka declare for a mammoth 756/5 with plenty of time left in the match.
The hosts then bowled out an exhausted South Africa for 434 in the second innings and won the match by an innings and 153 runs. The second and final Test of the series was a lot tighter but Sri Lanka managed to win by one wicket, with Muralitharan picking 12 wickets in the match.
Jayawardene and Sangakkara, born just a few months apart, were 29 and 28 respectively when they put together their historic partnership. The first time they had played together was way back, though, when they were a couple of 15-year-olds competing in school cricket.
“When I was new to the Sri Lankan team there weren’t many people in the dressing room who were my age, I was surrounded by big-name senior players. It was good to have a guy like Sanga coming in,” Jaywardene told Lord’s in an interview in 2016.
“We needed each other out there in the middle... in the international arena. It’s not easy to play for your country, especially in the subcontinent where there’s a lot of pressure. It was good to have a friend, someone I could share the good and bad times with.”
Sangakkara added: “It was quite easy to cement a strong friendship with him that really helped us on the field when it came to going through tough periods. I think the pressure to perform was always there. When Mahela and I were batting, the public always expected us to perform.
“The 624-run stand against South Africa, I don’t know but somehow we managed to bat together for nearly two-and-a-half days. It was a very special partnership.”
Watch highlights of the epic 624-run partnership between Jayawardene and Sangakkara here: