Tillakaratne Dilshan plays the big iinnings in the big match
On the best batting track of the tournament so far, still not a flat belter by any means, Tillakaratne Dilshan's risk-free yet urgent century left India with a target never achieved under Dambulla lights. Dilshan was supported well by Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, but it was his impact innings that proved to be the major difference on the night.
The platform for the biggest total of the tournament was set by the biggest opening stand - 121 runs. The way Jayawardene and Dilshan batted without taking any undue risks, it was easy to see why the previous best of 79 too belonged to them. The ball may not have swung wildly, but the batsmen were tested by the early movement that Praveen Kumar and Munaf Patel extracted.
Neither batsman tried expansive shots until the ball stopped jagging around. When Praveen went too far down the leg side, looking for the magic outswinger, he got away by clipping a four through midwicket. It wasn't that easy to hit Munaf off his shortish length around off and slight seam movement either side. The batsmen didn't try to do that either. They played out Munaf's first four overs for 13, yet the score at the end of those overs read 47 for 0.
Instead Dilshan targeted Ashish Nehra and Ishant Sharma. Nehra's second ball and Ishant's first were punched away for fours. Both the shots were hit along the ground, and involved more enterprise than risk. By the time Ishant's second over was hit for six, four and four, Dilshan had moved to 43 off 30, and Sri Lanka 74 after 12 overs.
Praveen, struggling to cross 130kmph, came back to display his limitations once the ball got old and the pitch easy. Dilshan assumed total control then. The punch shot through the off side, with his front foot out of the way, caused the main damage. One of those, off Nehra, brought up Dilshan's fifty in the 16th over. Nehra's figures then read 4-0-31-0.
Only when he neared his century, Dilshan slowed down a little, spending 39 balls between his 11th and 12th boundaries. Excepting that period, the longest he went without a four was 17 balls.