Chandimal earned his stripes
We're a happy and confident team at the moment, now that we've taken a 2-1 lead in the one-day series. Mind you, I have to admit we were a little bit anxious up on the balcony in the closing overs at Lord's, when Angelo Mathews was slowing the scoring down to help Dinesh Chandimal reach a hugely deserved hundred.
We would probably have finished the game off with five or six overs to spare if Chandi hadn't been going for his hundred, so we certainly didn't want it to come down to the last over. But the guys in the middle felt it was the right thing to do at the time. Besides, Angelo was a calm head at the other end, and if he had had to take a chance to win the match, he'd have backed himself to succeed.
Perhaps he should have rotated the strike a bit more, because it didn't look nice for the spectators, but he didn't want to take any chances with so few runs left, and that's fair enough, really. Whenever someone's close to a hundred you want to try to give them the opportunity if you can. On this occasion it took a bit more time than we'd anticipated, but we got there in the end, and everything was fine at the end of the day. We were convincing winners and a young guy got a hundred at Lord's after finishing the game off brilliantly.
As I know from personal experience, a century at Lord's is a big thing, especially for someone who's just starting out in the team. As a team we have tended to perform much better at Lord's than at other grounds. There's just something about the place that makes the guys lift their game.
Chandimal certainly earned his hundred, because it was a very good innings. It wasn't easy for him in his first 30 runs. England were at him all the time with short-pitched bowling, and he had some tough times out there. But once he rode out that initial period, he showed what a good cricketer he is. For a tiny bloke, he's got a great ability to hit big shots, as he showed with that six to reach his hundred, over the longest part of the boundary. I thoroughly enjoyed batting with him at the other end.
As a 21-year-old he's got a great temperament. He scored a brilliant hundred in Zimbabwe against India in a similar situation last year, chasing a big total and finishing the game off in about 40 overs. While we are winning matches it is our responsibility to build for the future, so it's great to have him coming through the system. We've always tended to introduce a lot of younger players to the side, and in the likes of Chandimal, Angelo and Jeevan Mendis, we've got a good brigade who'll be ready to take responsibility in a few years from now.
Another aspect of Chandimal's innings that impressed me was the way he stood up for himself against England's aggression. For a 21-year-old who's not well versed in English, he gave it to them out in the middle when they came at him. He wasn't going to give his innings away because of a bit of a rough time, and that was brilliant to see. It's not something I've ever seen him doing, and I enjoyed watching it from the other end. I was proud of him too
There are always words exchanged when you play England, but it's all good banter, and there was nothing ugly going on out there. But it was certainly very competitive, because no one wanted to give an inch.
I've got 144 and 79 in consecutive games, and I'm clearly really happy with how I am playing right now. Like I said during the Tests, I felt I was batting well in the nets but I couldn't get it right in the middle. Perhaps I should have been more aggressive, because I found that the Twenty20 really helped me free up a bit more and play a few shots. After that it was about consolidating my form, because you tend to go through these sorts of phases in cricket, and when you're in good form you have to maximise that.
I've definitely enjoyed opening the batting in the one-dayers, because I've had ample time to make a good start and then keep building on it. Whether I carry on as an opener depends on what the management want me to do, but I've thoroughly enjoyed it when I've had the opportunity, and every time an opener is sick, I've always put my hand up to do it.
For the last 10-12 years I have had a big responsibility in the middle order, being that bridge between the top order and the middle. That has been my role and it's been brilliant, but if I get the opportunity to open more often now, that would be a great challenge for this stage of my career.
For England, I thought Alastair Cook made a very good hundred, and batted very well in that middle period of the innings to get them to a competitive score, even though we didn't think it was enough on that wicket and with that outfield. Being captain, it's not an easy job, and in yesterday's situation he couldn't have done anything else with wickets falling all around him, although I probably helped him by dropping him on 15!
There's still some criticism of his slow scoring, but he's got his own game and he can't really get away from that. He just has to keep believing in himself and keep playing that role, and probably improve on it as well. Over a period of time, once you've played a certain number of matches, you find different ways of playing in a better way without getting away from your own game, and that's something Cook has to find by himself.
He has to stick to his own game rather than try to hit big shots and get out of shape, as he did towards the end of his innings at Lord's. You have to trust your ability and trust the shots you've been playing throughout, and hit those gaps - simple as that. It's tough when a guy like Lasith Malinga is coming at you, but every player has to trust his own ability and not try to be someone else.
We scored almost twice as many runs as England did in the first Powerplay at Lord's, and that made a big difference to the result. There are so many different ways you can handle the Powerplays. One way is taking big shots, if you have the ability - although that there is a good chance of giving your wicket away. Personally, I find that on these wickets, which are very good, with fast outfields, you can just hit the gaps and get value for your shots.
Of course, you have to strike a balance, and there are some situations when you might have to take a few calculated risks, but there are 300 balls in a one-day game, which is like half a Test innings. You have to give yourself time to settle down and then get the innings going.
Lord's in particular was a very good wicket, and the outfield was lightning quick, so whenever the ball was in my area I just had to hit the gaps and more often than not it carried through them. In another situation, on another day, I might have had to do something different and maybe go over the top, but yesterday I didn't have to do that.
In terms of their one-day tactics, England probably haven't evolved very much since I first played against them 15 years ago. I certainly believe they have the talent in the batting department, but it's the combinations and other factors that come into play. Finding the right combinations, and players finding their roles, is as important as having the right talent. Those are things they might have to work on to improve.
Former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene is the country's leading Test run-scorer