South Africa v Sri Lanka, Champions Trophy, Group B, Centurion September 22, 2009

Dilshan thrilled with opening role

Cricinfo staff

Tillakaratne Dilshan has credited his move to the top order as the spark for his outstanding run of form this year, which continued with his match-winning 106 against South Africa. Dilshan closed out 2008 batting at No. 6 in the ODI side but began this year as one of Sri Lanka's preferred openers.

The switch has inspired a purple patch for Dilshan, who had only opened three times in his previous 152 one-day internationals. In 2009, he has scored 681 runs at 54.90 including two centuries, and his brilliant effort in the opening Champions Trophy game in Centurion earned him the Man of the Match award.

"I have been in good form for the past 12 months and believe moving from the middle order to the top has helped me a lot," Dilshan said. "As an opener I feel I have more chances to build an innings and Kumar [Sangakkara] and I have developed a wonderful partnership in which we know how to assist each other."

The Dilshan-Sangakkara pairing was again key for Sri Lanka as they put on 158 for the second wicket to leave their side in a commanding position at the halfway mark of their innings. Sri Lanka went on to post 319 for 8 and Sangakkara was full of praise for Dilshan's 92-ball innings, which finally ended when he was caught on the boundary off Dale Steyn's bowling.

"He's been exceptional from the end of last year through to this year," Sangakkara, Sri Lanka's captain, said. "I think he's matured a lot and understood how good he really is. He's performed exceptionally well for us during this time."

The momentum was carried on by the spinner Ajantha Mendis, who grabbed 3 for 30 and removed the important South African trio of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and JP Duminy. Sangakkara said it was vital that his side did not relax after one victory and focused on their remaining group matches against New Zealand and England.

"Tilla and Ajantha were outstanding but this victory is history now and we must capitalise on it otherwise it will be worthless," Sangakkara said. "As a side, I feel we are still firing at 75% maybe. So we have a lot of areas to improve, but the good thing is that we're still winning. But the sky is the limit if we can work harder, make sure we keep to our basics and not get too carried away with wins like this."