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July 9, 2011
This tour of England has been a case of so near yet so far for Sri Lanka. A Test series lost in one manic session at Cardiff was followed by a one-day series defeat after they had two chances to clinch the trophy.
Sri Lanka understood before arriving that it would be tough to compete in the Tests, but the limited-overs matches offered a serious chance of silverware, as had been the case in 2006 when they won the one-day series 5-0. The limited-overs leg of the tour started promisingly with the Twenty20 victory and when they recorded back-to-back ODI victories at Headingley and Lord's the momentum was with them.
However, a juicy pitch and a crucial toss did them in at Trent Bridge and then they couldn't make the most of conditions that should have suited them at Old Trafford, where the pitch turned and lacked pace.
"In the last two months we've played some good cricket," Tillakaratne Dilshan said after the Old Trafford game. "We lost the Test series in one hour and again in this one-day series we lost three matches in about the first six overs of our batting. I think we can be a much better side than that.
"I have no complaints but we played some good cricket. We started badly but we restricted them to 260 and we were in trouble again at 29 for 3 but we came back from it. [Dinesh] Chandimal batted very well to put pressure back on England, but sadly we came out as the losing side."
It has been performances from the likes of Dinesh Chandimal, who followed his Lord's hundred with 54 at Old Trafford, Angelo Mathews, who showcased his talent with 62 in the deciding match, and Suraj Randiv, who took five wickets at Old Trafford, that have given Dilshan cause for optimism.
"We had a big issue in the last three or four years with the middle order not doing well for Sri Lanka," he said. "The top order was always getting runs but now we have more confidence in the middle order and that is good for the future. We can look forward to the upcoming series [against Australia] with these youngsters."
While Mathews was at the crease Sri Lanka had every hope of dragging themselves over the line. His most famous innings is the unbeaten 77 against Australia, at Brisbane, which carried them to a one-wicket win after they has slumped to 107 for 8 chasing 240.
"He has shown in the past he can finish matches, like in Australia, and we had a belief they could finish the game," Dilshan said. "When Jeevan [Mendis] was there we believed we had a chance and even at the end, too."
However, at the vital time the contributions of Mahela Jayawardene tailed off after his innings of 144 and 79 earlier in the series which, coupled with Dilshan's horrid trot where he made 17 runs in five innings, left a lot on the shoulders of Kumar Sangakkara.
Sri Lanka shuffled the batting order for the final match with Jayawardene moving back down to No. 4 to allow debutant Dimuth Karunaratne to open with Dilshan but the visitors were soon 12 for 2 when Karunaratne was caught at slip and Dilshan hooked to long leg.
"Dimuth is an opening batsman and we needed to give him a chance and he's scored a lot of runs in domestic cricket," Dilshan explained. "Also we wanted the left-hand right-hand combination and if he'd got some runs today it might have been a different story in the series. As a captain I didn't get any runs and I'm really disappointed with that."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?