Jayawardene will be 'massive' loss
Ahead of the first Test against South Africa, Angelo Mathews has described Mahela Jayawardene's impending Test retirement as a "massive loss" to Sri Lanka.
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Jayawardene, who averages more than 51 having made 11,493 runs in 145 Tests, revealed on Monday he will quit Test cricket following a two-match series against Pakistan in August. The 37-year-old batsman will, however, continue to play one-day international cricket for his country.
Prior to his swansong in the five-day format, Jayawardene will be hoping to help Sri Lanka to victory over South Africa in a two-Test series this month, with the first match beginning in Galle on Wednesday.
Mathews, who skippered Sri Lanka to a 1-0 series victory over England last month, insisted that although Jayawardene's departure will be keenly felt, the batsman leaves with his team-mates' good graces.
He told Sri Lanka Cricket's official website: "Every good thing comes to an end and it's going to be a massive loss. He's been tremendous for us for the past 15 years or so, scoring lots of runs.
"His contribution to the team has been unbelievable but you've got to respect his decision to quit. It's always good to have him in the team but when he decided (to retire) we respect it and wish him all the best."
Mathews hopes his side can toast Jayawardene's remarkable Test career by securing a clean sweep of victories against South Africa and Pakistan this summer.
He added: "We sent Sanga (Kumar Sangakkara) and Mahela off in a magnificent way in Bangladesh (where Sri Lanka won the World Twenty20 in April) so if we can send him off by winning all four Test matches that would be great.
"We will try our best to win and his contribution has been unbelievable so thank you to him."
After losing the three-match one-day international series 2-1, victory over Hashim Amla's side in the Test series will be no mean feat and Mathews was quick to pay tribute to the second best Test side in the world.
He said: "They are a very strong team to beat whether you play them home or away, and they showed that in the one-day games.
"They are a very balanced team and we have to be at our best to beat them so it's going to be a huge challenge and hopefully the boys turn up with sharpened games and win."
South Africa, meanwhile, are sweating on the fitness of AB De Villiers, who will play as a specialist batsman but hand the wicketkeeping duties to Quinton de Kock because of a hamstring injury.
The match marks a new era for South Africa following the retirements of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, with Amla succeeding the former as captain of the Proteas.
The Surrey batsman described being named captain as "an honour and privilege" and hopes the ODI series victory over Sri Lanka will help them perform well in the Tests.
"The one-dayers have given the team a lot of confidence as the personnel is pretty much the same barring three or four players," he said. "So it has given the team a lot of confidence and belief of winning here."
Amla joined Mathews in paying tribute to Jayawardene, adding: "Mahela has been an amazing servant for Sri Lankan cricket.
"I'm sure he will represent himself as honourably (in his final four Tests) as he has over the last 18 years or so he has been playing. He is certainly one of the all-time greats of Sri Lankan cricket."