10. 141 vs New Zealand at Napier, 2005
On a placid track in Napier, after conceding 561 runs in the first innings, Sri Lanka needed to make sure they scored as many runs as possible to avoid a big deficit. Sangakkara departed when the score was 101 and Mahela joined Atapattu to add a partnership of 184. Mahela raced off to his fifty a tad less than run a ball, but later settled down and anchored Sri Lanka’s innings to take Sri Lanka to safety. The match was drawn.
9. 107 vs England at Lord’s, 2002
Sri Lanka was playing their first full series in England. Often you would find Sri Lanka trailing in test matches in England either having conceded a big score in the first innings or having been bowled out for a low score. But once again it was the partnership between Atapattu and Mahela that put Sri Lanka in a commanding position. Mahela braved Flintoff with authority, but once hit in the hips by Flintoff, played with a runner. Mahela’s 107 helped Sri Lanka reach 555, making England sweat hard for a draw.
8. 136 Vs West Indies in Guyana, 2008
This would be Mahela’s one and only century in the Caribbean, but he made sure he hit it to power Sri Lanka to a victory. On a subcontinent-like track, Mahela stifled his flashy strokes to play a gritty, disciplined innings to help Sri Lanka to stroll to a position from which they could dominate the Windies. Mahela’s 136 together with Warnapura’s 120 ensured Sri Lanka reached 476 in the first innings, going on to win the test by 121 runs.
7. 213 vs England at Galle, 2007
Mahela once again vouched for his hankering for Galle, when he amassed 213 not out for Sri Lanka after they were reduced to 138/4. Mahela sprouted his resilience against England and took his side to a domineering 499 runs. England were bundled up for 81 in their first innings, but the rain helped them end the match in a draw.
6. 242 vs India at SSC, 1999
Mahela brought up his maiden double century to excavate Sri Lanka out of trouble in the second test of the Asian Test Championship. India plundered 518 in the first innings. Sri Lanka in reply lost regular wickets. Mahela’s double century held Sri Lanka’s innings together. His brilliance was accentuated by the fact that only one more batsman passed fifty. The match, thanks to Mahela ended in a draw.
5. 119 vs England at Lord’s, 2006
This test would be known for one of the best resurgences in test cricket. Sri Lanka after conceding a lead of 359 in the first innings followed on, having to survive two and half days to draw the match. The result, Sri Lanka piled on a mammoth 537 runs with Mahlea doing the bulk of the work, scoring 119 runs to take the game to safety.
4. 180 vs England at Galle, 2012
Mahela’s penchant for scoring big in low scoring games was very well evident when he scored 180, which included some astonishingly belligerent stroke play adhered with gritty, steadfast batting. In the first innings no one else crossed 50; in the whole match only two scored more than 50 other than Mahela. Mahela’s 180 helped Sri Lanka get the all important 300 plus score on the board which at the end of the test proved decisive. Sri Lanka won the test by 75 runs, their first win at home after Murali’s retirement.
3. 167 vs New Zealand at Galle, 1998
Playing only in his fourth match, Mahela yet again became the flag bearer of the Sri Lankan innings when he scored 167, when no one else crossed fifty. In reply to New Zealand’s 193 in the first innings Mahela chaperoned the Sri Lankan batting to gain a lead of 130 which proved adequate to win the test. Mahela’s century sparked wild celebrations. A policemen set off a rocket while just at the right time a hot-dog vending machine blew up sending up billowy smoke across the pavilion.
2. 374 vs South Africa at SSC, 2006
This match will remain in the memory of Sri Lankans for eternity and you will hear it being narrated to the generation and generations to come. A Sri Lankan scored a triple century for the second time in the test history of Sri Lanka. A Sri Lankan scored the highest ever test score by a right hander. A Sri Lankan couple broke the record for the highest partnership for any wicket in a test match. And most importantly the match produced a Sri Lankan win. 374 would remain a magical number in the history of Sri Lanka. After wrapping up South Africa for 169 in the first innings Sanga and Mahela as they are called in one breath, locked hands in the middle of the fourth over when the score read 14-2. When they were finally separated, it was the 161st over and the scorecard read 638. A record partnership of 624 was looted against an attack that had M Nitni, D Steyn and A Nel. Mahela’s wagon wheel looked like that of a team combined with shots all around the park. There were drives; there were pulls; drives were played both along the ground and in the air. Boje was given a tough time with Mahela silkly moving back and lofting him inside out over covers. It was the ultimate treat for fans who loved good, elegant cricket strokes.
1. 123 vs South Africa at P Sara, 2006
When the history would have been sealed calling his 374 the best off his bat, he reopened them with a match winning 123 in the fourth innings on a degenerating track. Sri Lanka had already conceded a lead when they were all out for 321 runs in the second innings of the test. South Africa handed Sri Lanka a target of 350, an implausible one on a 4th and 5th day pitch. Mahela once again ended up as the only one to score more than 50. Everyone else struggled in the pitch while Mahela merrily took Sri Lanka closer, an evidence to his batting ability under difficult circumstances. Sri Lankan tail completed Sri Lanka’s highest chase in tests.