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June 7, 2011
Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sri Lanka's captain and Man of the Match in the second Test at Lord's, fears he will not be fit to play in the series decider at the Rose Bowl on June 16, after being advised to rest for three to four weeks following a hairline fracture to his right thumb.
Dilshan's first-innings 193 was the outstanding performance of a match that petered out into a stalemate on the final day, with England's declaration target of 343 providing no incentive to take risks on an unresponsive wicket. Although he was padded up and ready to bat if needed, Dilshan stepped down from his opener's role, and remained unused as Sri Lanka closed on 127 for 3.
"At the moment I am out for the third Test," said Dilshan at the close of play. "The physio and doctors have advised that it will take three to four weeks to heal. I have ten days [before the third Test] so if it's a quick recovery, it might be that I can play, or else I'll give a youngster a chance and be ready for the one-dayers."
That youngster is likely to be the 21-year-old left-hander, Lahiru Thirimanne, who played in three ODIs in 2009-10, but has yet to make his Test debut. He is now certain to play in Sri Lanka's three-day warm-up against Essex later this week, with the prospect of higher honours to follow. "He is batting really well in the nets and ready to play international cricket," said Dilshan. "I think if I can't play, I can give him a chance to open the batting."
Despite the injury, Dilshan's team-mate Mahela Jayawardene backed his captain to play through the pain. "If he's ruled out, that is something we'll need to cope with," he told ESPNcricinfo. "But knowing him I reckon he'll be okay to play the Test match.
"After all, the way he batted on after two really painful blows shows what determination he has got, and though he didn't field yesterday or bat today, that's simply because we didn't want to take any risks with him," he added. "We wanted to give him three extra days to settle that sore thumb and see how it comes up.
"He'll now have five or six more days to rest and if he's feeling well enough to hold a bat, I know he'll want to play that Test match. If he's not there, it's going to be a big blow, but fingers crossed for him. Like we've always done when things get tough, we'll back the guys to stand up just like they did in this match."
In Dilshan's absence, the captaincy would pass to his predecessor, Kumar Sangakkara, who led the side in the field on the final two days of the Lord's Test. "We have one more chance to level the series so we have to come out strong at the Rose Bowl and try to win and draw the series," said Dilshan. "All the players have that mindset for playing good cricket at the moment."
Despite the obvious parallels with the situation in Cardiff, when Sri Lanka were left to bat for 51 overs on the final day and were bowled out for 82 in 24.4, Dilshan insisted that no such negative thoughts had crossed the team's mind when Andrew Strauss's afternoon declaration left them with 58 overs to negotiate at Lord's.
The draw was set up by another disciplined anchor role from Dilshan's opening partner, Tharanga Paranavitana, who made 44, while the veteran Mahela Jayawardene also helped soak up the pressure of the situation in a 53-run stand for the second wicket.
"We just talked about batting normally, whatever we got, 50 overs or whatever," said Dilshan. "Just bat those 50 overs and don't think about the result. They all played really well and I'm happy Mahela spent some time in the middle. The batting group did a great job."
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