Dilshan relishing opening slot
Tillakaratne Dilshan has said he enjoyed the role of opener after hitting a blistering 92 off 72 balls, the fastest Test fifty scored by a Sri Lankan, on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand in Galle.
Opening the batting in a Test for the first time Dilshan helped Sri Lanka recover from 16 for 2 to an imposing 293 for 3 by stumps. Dilshan reached his half-century off 30 balls, one ball quicker than Arjuna Ranatunga who had done so against India at Kanpur in 1986-87.
"I was under a little bit of pressure after two early wickets went, but I knew if I played positively I could reverse the trend and put the pressure back on the opposition. I did that by playing my own game," Dilshan said. "It's much easier batting as opener as there is no pressure on me. It's not easy to bat at No. 6 and 7 because I am the last recognised batsman and I cannot play my shots but I have to play according to the situation. But opening I can go for my shots from the beginning. It's a new ball and the field is also up and runs come quickly.
"I didn't know until I came to the dressing room that I had broken a Sri Lankan batting record for the fastest Test fifty," he said. "I am proud to take the record off Arjuna Ranatunga and get my name in the record books. But I am really disappointed I couldn't get to my ninth Test hundred.
"In past two years I am batting well and I have been in good form. I want to carry on the form," he said. "The change came after I was promoted to open the batting in one-dayers. My career has changed for the better."
New Zealand fast bowler Chris Martin, who gave his team a great start with two early wickets, admitted that it was difficult to bowl to a batsman in an aggressive frame of mind like Dilshan in the morning.
"It is not often you run in and bowl to a guy like that in Tests and find that he is driving you through the covers and hitting you over the top," Martin said. "It was a tough experience. You can be hero to zero but today he was the hero. Dilshan's innings put us under pressure early and it took a while for us to recover.
"When Mahela came in he could just relax and get his innings together and the run rate was pretty good," Martin said. "Mahela plays with very soft hands and he waits for anything on length to hit through the covers. He just played a very nice innings and put the pressure back on us. I think he outplayed us today and that was a good hundred.
"The discipline of the Sri Lankan batsmen showed pretty true on a reasonable deck. If we could get a couple of early wickets when the ball swings then you've done well. Then it's a matter of discipline the way they played today."
Martin said the decision to bowl first was because it was humid enough for the ball to swing and that New Zealand had banked on their experienced bowlers to trouble Sri Lanka early.
"Even though the ball was swinging a little it didn't quite do the job for us. It's a toss that some captain's wouldn't mind losing," Martin said. "It's a very difficult decision. Whatever you choose to do you have to do well. Today it was a reflection we didn't do quite well enough."