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Sa'adi Thawfeeq in Colombo
July 25, 2008
The pressure was on Tillakaratne Dilshan going into the first Test. The two Chamaras - Silva and Kapugedera - had been named in Sri Lanka's squad of 14, but Dilshan was chosen for the No. 6 spot ahead of the duo. A failure at the SSC could have resulted in the axe, but Dilshan instead took advantage of a tired and insipid bowling line-up to rack up quick runs, and his fifth Test century.
On Thursday, Dilshan, having just scored 1, was given out by Mark Benson after Zaheer Khan appealed for a caught behind, but the decision was reversed after Dilshan asked for a review. He played circumspectly to finish the day on 20. On Friday, it appeared as though a different Dilshan had taken strike. He looked at ease scoring runs, which came at a limited-overs rate as he pushed Sri Lanka to 600 for 6, a total that was enough for Mahela Jayawardene to declare.
Dilshan needed only 90 balls to move from 20 to his first hundred in nearly three years. He gestured his bat to the pavilion in celebration, but later said he wasn't trying to put a point across to his team management. "I was only celebrating getting to that fifth hundred which I have been looking forward for quite a while," Dilshan said. "It was nothing personal. I had missed some in the last few series."
"I proved today that I could score runs at this position and that I was the best suited batsman for it," he said. "I must take whatever opportunity that comes my way because there are others waiting in the wings. In the last six months I have played very well in Test and one-day cricket."
Dilshan's century was the fourth in Sri Lanka's innings, and he was unbeaten on 125 when they declared. The last time he made a hundred was against Bangladesh in September 2005. In the next 18 Tests, Dilshan made eight fifties without reaching three figures.
"I played a little cautiously this time," he said. "Instead of going for my shots from the very beginning I took about 40-45 balls to get to my first five runs. I changed my game plan a little bit to adjust with my position. I was not going for my shots all the time but picking and choosing the right balls to hit. I hope this approach will benefit me in the future."