PREVIEW: Mahela Jayawardena enjoying first taste of Natwest T20 Blast

Sri Lanka star Mahela Jayawardena says he is enjoying his first taste of the NatWest T20 Blast.

Mahela Jayawardena before the T20 Blast match against Gloucestershire. Picture by Mark Dunford SUS-150519-082831001
Mahela Jayawardena before the T20 Blast match against Gloucestershire. Picture by Mark Dunford SUS-150519-082831001

But he will relish it even more if he can get the ‘big scores’ that can help Sussex Sharks reach the knockout stages for the first time for three years.

Jayawardena, who is at Hove for the first seven games of Sussex’s South Group campaign, is their leading scorer with 118 runs from three games, two of which the Sharks have won.

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His top score so far is 43 and Jayawardena is desperate to produce something a lot bigger than that, starting against Middlesex under the lights at the County Ground on Friday (7pm).

He said: “From a personal point of view it’s not going too bad. I’m hitting the ball pretty well and getting starts but I’m a bit disappointed I haven’t been able to kick on and get some big runs.

“But I know I am doing a lot of things right if I stay patient when I get into the 30s and 40s hopefully I can get those big runs that will benefit the team.”

Since a narrow opening-night defeat to Kent, Sussex have beaten Gloucestershire and Somerset and Jayawardena recognises the importance of maintaining their momentum against a Middlesex side who will be strengthened by the return of Eoin Morgan and Kyle Abbott from the IPL and Australian batsman Joe Burns.

“In the first half of the T20 season it’s about getting the right momentum,” he said. “Especially at home where it’s crucial we win most of them. If we get a few victories on the road we will be in the business end of the tournament.

“We were disappointed with the first game as we felt we had it in the bag and let it go but the boys learned from that and showed lot of character to win at home against Gloucestershire and then at Somerset.

“We have won two close games which is good but we have still got lot of potential to improve.”

Jayawardena has been impressed with new captain Luke Wright’s leadership so far but in every game so far he has been in regular dialogue with Wright in the field.

“Luke is a fantastic guy who has played T20 around the world. He knows what he’s doing but in tough situations I am there if he needs me to help with any advice,” added Jayawardena.

Mahela Jayawardene hitting Tom Smith for six. Picture by Mark Dunford SUS-150519-082857001

“It’s the same in the dressing room. I love the atmosphere with the guys and they keep asking me questions about how they can improve their own game and I’m happy to help where I can.”

Mike Yardy has been ruled out for six weeks with a calf injury to add to the Sharks’ lengthening injury list so there will be at least one change to the team which beat Somerset with left-armer Chris Liddle in contention for a recall.