South Africa v Sri Lanka, 4th ODI, Kimberley January 21, 2012

Dilshan wants strong finish to lost series

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What if Tillakaratne Dilshan had come good more than just once in the Tests and in the four ODIs so far? What if Sri Lanka's bowlers had been able to take 4 for 47 in one of the previous matches as well? What if their fielders had shown the commitment they did in Kimberley throughout?

Then, according to Dilshan, "the last match could have been a final." Instead, the corpse of the series will travel to Johannesburg. However, Sri Lanka's steady improvement in each game promises a contest worthy of more than dead-rubber status, and if they can further redeem their reputation at the Wanderers it will take some pressure off the team, which will return home to face the possibility of a change of regime.

"We need to finish strongly," Dilshan said after his team chased 300 with five wickets in hand and eight balls to spare. "A 3-2 result will be a fantastic effort, but we have to play well. We can't relax because South Africa are a good team and they are playing well. We know we are capable, and knew we could do much better than the first game."

Dilshan probably has the most at stake. Whispers are becoming louder that his term as captain, which runs until the end of the tour of South Africa, will not be extended and that he may be dropped from the team after a string of poor performances and badly judged dismissals. Through the tour, however, the Sri Lankan camp has used the same excuse when asked about Dilshan's poor form - that when he fires, the fireworks are worth the wait.

In Kimberley, Dilshan showed why people were willing to wait. He recorded his highest score of the ODI series - a run-a-ball 87 - and looked good for many more. After two ducks and an uncharacteristically watchful 33 in the first three games, Dilshan was himself again.

"It feels good to score some runs, but it's a bit late," Dilshan said, unable to hide his regret. "The pitch was really good and when Upul [Tharanga] got out, I took a few chances because we were chasing 300. I just played my own game. After the Dilscoop went for six, I got more confident."

Dilshan brought out his signature shot off Vernon Philander's second ball. It sailed over the fine-leg boundary and the ease with which Dilshan conducted the rest of his innings was noticeable.

He took the bullishness of his innings to the press conference as well and, for the first time, defended his leadership with some aggression. "I am not listening to the news, anyone can write anything," he said. "I want to finish this series because they [the selectors] appointed me for the South Africa tour. It's up to them if I carry on. I am waiting for their call. I'm still enjoying my captaincy."

Although Dilshan has not led Sri Lanka to a single Test or ODI series win during his tenure since the World Cup, he said he had achieved other goals for the country, among them blooding the next generation at enormous self-sacrifice.

"The main thing is that I want to see youngsters performing for Sri Lanka. I have done everything for my country. When they wanted me to keep wicket, I did it. When they wanted me to bat at No. 1, I did it. When they want me to bat at No. 6, I do it. These are the last few years of my international career and I want to finish strongly. After another few years I can sit and watch these youngsters do these things for Sri Lanka."

One of the most promising youngsters to have emerged under Dilshan's captaincy is Dinesh Chandimal, who has been the shining light of Sri Lanka's ODI series. Dilshan has talked up the 22-year old and, after Chandimal scored 59 in Kimberley, had more praise for the young man. "He is improving in every single game and learning in every game. He will have a long career and I think he will become one of the best cricketers in the world."

Sri Lanka's Man of the Match in the fourth ODI was Thisara Perera, another youngster who has started to flourish. Dilshan sent him in at No. 6, ahead of Angelo Mathews, and Perera responded with a match-winning 69 off 44 balls, hitting a flurry of sixes to take Sri Lanka past the target.

"We thought we would give him an opportunity because he hits the ball hard," Dilshan said. "Even his mis-hits can clear the boundary easily. He grabbed the opportunity well."

Sri Lanka's last opportunities will present themselves in Johannesburg. What if Sri Lanka are able to take every one of them?

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • samuda on January 22, 2012, 10:26 GMT

    Boy that was a real team spirit.... Keep the ego aside and work as a team SL will deferentially find good wins. My view on dilshan's captaincy Yes he was not good in it everyone feels it but he has a strong reason to shout that is "He has never been trained as a captain" so how could we expect him to perform in a role where has hasn't been trained ? I can recall Arujana's statement on this issue if SL had a proper plan for future they could have appointed Dilshan as a VC when they appointed Sanga as a captain for Dilshan to get the exposure where as Sanga picked Mahela for him to stay in comfort zone. Personally i feel sorry for Dilshan coz he is paying interest for someone else's loan. Yes Well accepted Chandimal is a asset and needs to look-after him. All the best Lions ..........

  • playitstraight on January 22, 2012, 0:56 GMT

    Great to see Dilshan saying things like this, only if he performed more often........

  • Sambola on January 21, 2012, 22:15 GMT

    Sri Lanka needs a major shake up starting with the captain. Time for a fresh start. Dilshan's time is clearly run out both as a captain and player. It's also time to phase out Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena. SL should consider having 2 different captains(maybe Tharanga/Mathews for ODI's and Samaraweera for tests).

  • suve on January 21, 2012, 20:46 GMT

    oh no, only if we had a full match in the 3rd ODI , Sri Lanka would have won that and the 5th ODI would be a thrilling decider

  • dummy4fb on January 21, 2012, 20:30 GMT

    What if Mahela came good at least once. Why is Dilshan always the scapegoat?If they sack him it won't be his loss. They can never win without his explosive starts. He can never win against those with their own favorites.

  • Gintotage on January 21, 2012, 13:32 GMT

    Next match could have been a serious decider if not the second last match interrupted by rain. So here we go SA. Now you have context which you have always been waiting for. I have no doubt that SA cricket board have their second thoughts to call Kallis and Amla back in to the attack. Well this going to be anyone's bite. Good luck SL. Hope you boys make BBQ on SA's grill.

  • KingOwl on January 21, 2012, 12:39 GMT

    Sinhaya - Please don't say things like "SL would have definitely won if not for the rain". It sounds so like what people in the sub-continent say - makes no sense. They had a very good chance of winning - sure. And please highlight that. Otherwise, it sounds kind of stupid, even though you may have good intentions. So, rain did rob SL the chance to fight for a win in the series. No doubt about that.

  • KingOwl on January 21, 2012, 12:33 GMT

    I think the critics are all missing or ignoring one point. This is SL's best test tour to SA EVER. If they can win the last One Day, it would end up being a fantastic tour. To go to SA and face some of the best fast bowlers in the world on fast bouncy tracks and beat them in some of the big matches (including tests) - that is a great achievement. SL needs to be under pressure to perform. So, I do not see the pressure as a problem at all. But the management needs to make sure that there is no NEGATIVE thoughts due to the pressure. My concern is the negativity. But I am sure that will change with a couple of big wins. As far as I am concerned, things are looking good.

  • dummy4fb on January 21, 2012, 12:29 GMT

    True it was a team effort and Dilshan's return to form was great. Perera's Sixes were a treat to watch. Sangakkara is a class act and we know that. BUT had not for the steady role of Chandimal SL could have lost this too. Chandimal to me is the NEW Aravinda De Silva which SL were short of

  • Hrit24 on January 21, 2012, 12:26 GMT

    Dinesh Chandimal is really talented. I have noticed since the World Cup that he is shining consistently in a struggling Sri Lankan outfit. All the best to him for the future.

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