Craftsman ... Kumar Sangakkara is acknowledged on the MCG scoreboard after reaching his milestone. Photo: Getty Images
KUMAR SANGAKKARA confirmed his spot as one of the greats of the modern game when he joined the exclusive 10,000-run club on Wednesday, but his teammates fluffed their lines on the Boxing Day stage as Sri Lanka's batsmen crashed and burned.
On a wretched day for the visitors, Sangakkara provided the only cause of joy for the Sri Lankans, becoming just the 11th batsman, and second from his country, to reach five figures. That he achieved the milestone in as many innings as Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara was significant as Sangakkara has seldom been mentioned in the same breath as those modern greats.
But there may be a strong argument mounted that Sangakkara has exceeded that pair's achievements for several reasons. Whereas Tendulkar and Lara were able to hone just the one craft, Sangakkara, until 2006, needed to ensure both his batting and wicketkeeping remained world class. And he has also captained his country with distinction, taking Sri Lanka to the finals of both the World Twenty20 and World Cup while at the helm from 2009-11.
In elite company … Kumar Sangakkara. Photo: Getty Images
"He was outstanding today and played superbly well,'' Sri Lanka's coach Graham Ford said. ''Everyone watching thoroughly enjoy the elegance of the player and he is something special when he plays like that. To achieve what he has achieved is amazing. Although it was a disappointing day in many ways, that brought a lot of joy to the lads."
Sangakkara played a lone hand for his team but his 58 - the sixth time from nine innings he has passed 50 in Australia - will most likely not be enough to prevent his team from suffering a big defeat and surrendering the series in Melbourne.
The left-hander provided the blueprint for his colleagues but unfortunately for the visitors they either lacked the skill, stomach or clarity of mind to follow their former leader.
"He had more patience and just wanted to stick it out there," Mitchell Johnson said. "He's been around for a long time and knows how to play cricket."
Most culpable was experienced opener Tillakaratne Dilshan, who had his stumps rattled by Johnson after attempting an ugly swipe over mid-wicket, though Thilan Samaraweera's ugly pull in the first over after lunch was close behind.
Sri Lanka's meek capitulation for 156 in the second session was in stark contrast to the bold resistance they showed in the final innings in Hobart, where they batted for about 119 overs to almost force a draw.
Although first-day wickets are seldom easy to bat on, David Warner's quickfire 62 off only 46 balls highlighted how few gremlins there are in curator David Sandurski's debut Test strip.
"Perhaps some of our decision-making wasn't as clear and precise as it should be as a batting group and [we] played a couple of shots we didn't want to play," Ford said.
"There was a bit of indecision as to what to defend, to attack and leave.
"It's not a technical thing or ability or work ethic."