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August 16, 2009
Sri Lanka are likely to go in with a new opening combination for the first Test against New Zealand beginning on Tuesday in Galle. Having sat out the limited-overs leg of the recently concluded home series against Pakistan due to injuries, Tillakaratne Dilshan is likely to feature at the top of the order on his return.
Dilshan, 32, had fractured his right index finger and underwent several stitches above his left eye on the second day of the third Test against Pakistan at the SSC. But following his 68 off 60 balls while opening for Sri Lanka Cricket Development XI against the New Zealanders in the tour game in Colombo, he is likely to replace Malinda Warnapura as Tharanga Paranavitana's opening partner.
"The selectors told me to have a knock here [in the tour match] as opener and I got a great opportunity to bat in the middle facing the new ball," said Dilshan. "It was good practice for me I am now ready for the Test match.
"The coach and [Kumar] Sanga[karra] discussed with me and they wanted me to come up the order as an opener to balance the side. I said if you want me to open I will do it. It's a new position for me in Test cricket. It's not easy like in the one-dayers, but I will try to deliver 100%. I am ready to accept the challenge."
It will be the first time Dilshan will be opening the innings during his 55-match Test career, during which he has scored 3166 runs at 41.11. The pressure will also be eased off as he would no longer be required to don the wicketkeeping gloves (as he did in the Test series against Pakistan) with Prasanna Jayawardene having recovered from a finger injury.
Dilshan has continually strengthened his reputation as a limited-overs specialist, which has fetched him many accolades, the most recent being named Man of the Tournament at the World Twenty20 in England. However, he was keen to repeat the success in the longest format as well.
"I am not worried that I am playing in a Test but play in my own positive way and try to score runs off every ball," Dilshan said. "I am not going to change my gameplan because it is a Test. I will try to play to my strengths.
"I've been in good form in the last one-and-a-half years and I will try to continue that form. If the ball is in the right area to hit I will go for the shot straight away. I am not thinking whether it's one-day or Test cricket and whether it's the first over, it doesn't matter."
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