Upul Tharanga, who bid cricket goodbye at age 36 by a simple Facebook message a day ago, will be best remembered as the hero who survived the 2004 tsunami watching his home in Ambalangoda washed out to two years later hammering the daylights out of England smashing an epoch 109 in setting up the world record highest ever 286-run opening partnership with Sanath Jayasuriya in ODI history at Headingly, Leeds in 2006. His century off just 102 balls comprised 14 boundaries and a six in a strike rate of 106.86 while Jayasuriya’s 152 off 99 comprised 20 boundaries and 4 sixes in a strike rate of 153.54. Sri Lanka won a hammer and tong encounter making 324 for the loss of only two wickets in chasing an imposing England score of 321 for 7. Another record to boot was Tharanga’s sterling contribution to Sri Lanka’s historic 5-nil ODI whitewash of England in English shores that year.
If that was a mammoth history making chapter in Tharanga’s contribution to Sri Lanka cricket, his pedigree of 6951 ODI runs showcased by 15 centuries and 37 half centuries averaging 33.74 from 235 appearances is a cascading testament that has set him apart as one of Sri Lanka’s greatest of opening batsmen. He has left a lasting impact as a batsman who formed quite a twosome right up front with the master blaster Jayasuriya. An all in all contribution being somewhere there in the Test firmament with 1754 Test runs averaging 31.89 , the 3 centuries and eight half centuries from 31 tests.
What stood out the left handed product from Balapitiya was his fearless approach to take on bowlers backed by a repertoire of stroke play during the height of his career. Tharanga flourished in an ominous approach laced on back to back Champions Trophy centuries in an awesome opening combination with Jayasuriya that threatened to blossom to bigger things. But it was to be behest by an ups and downs saga. He suffered a 3-year hiatus before registering his next ODI ton. Since that early period when he together with Jayasuriya dominated bowlers in an all-left handed alliance, his reemergence did not passage in the same regularity, but punctuated by some noteworthy knocks. He struck two centuries in the 2011 World Cup – 133 versus Zimbabwe and 102 against England in the quarter finals in a tournament that Sri Lanka made it to the finals and lost to India. His next big score of 174 came against India in a tr-series in the West Indies.
Upul Tharanga did impact to hitting the ultimate jackpot of captaining his country which is the big cricket dream of a player in a tri-series against Zimbabwe in 2016 as well as 2017 against South Africa in the absence of an injured Angelo Mathews.
He made his ODI debut on August 2, 2005 versus the West Indies at Dambulla and his last in on March 16, 2018 versus South Africa at Capetown while he debuted in test cricket on December 18, 2005 versus India at Ahmedabad, and last on August 12-14, 2017 at Pallakelle.