South Africa v Sri Lanka, 5th ODI, Johannesburg January 23, 2012

Happy to see youngsters perform - Dilshan


For the third time on this tour, a Sri Lanka youngster played a vital role in a victory. Bear in mind that Sri Lanka have only won three matches on this tour and it will tell you the importance that the up and coming cricketers have had on the six-week tour of South Africa.

Lahiru Thirimanne's composed 69 off 63 balls was a performance worthy of the Man of the Match award. Even though he didn't get it, he was the man considered important enough to discuss the match with the media, the task usually given to the person who wins the award, after the day's events.

He said he took his innings in his stride even though the task facing him was an enormous one. "When I went in to bat, the asking-rate was 6.80 and it was a difficult situation to adjust to," Thirimanne said. "Kumar [Sangakkara] guided me and we narrowed the gap and got into a situation that was manageable."

Thirimanne was brought on the tour as a reserve opener in the Tests and got his opportunity when Tharanga Paranavitana was dropped. He had to wait for a similar situation in the ODIs and was picked in the starting XI when Mahela Jayawardene got injured. He said that the lessons he learnt on his visit to South Africa will serve him well as his career grows.

"In the Test match, I had to handle a very sharp pace attack as an opener and that was an experience which will help me in the future. The main adjustment one has to make when playing in South Africa is to adapt to the bounce of the wicket," he said. "In the one-dayers, my role was to rotate the strike and try to prolong the innings but I was unable to. In this game I played that role quite well, rotated the strike and hit boundaries that helped us win the game."

While Thirimanne recalled his series with careful thoroughness, Sri Lanka's captain Tillakaratne Dilshan sat with a small smile on his face. He would return home empty handed but he had achieved something that may prove more important in Sri Lanka's future.

"In the last few series I gave the opportunity to youngsters, especially in this series, and we saw them doing it [well] for Sri Lanka," Dilshan said. "I am really happy to do that and to see that they grabbed the opportunities and performed under pressure. I believe in my youngsters, that's the future for Sri Lanka. I want to give them more chances in the middle, so they can get experience. Maybe after the next three to four months, there will be more experienced players in the side. They are showing that they are ready for an international challenge."

Although Dilshan did not lead with the bat, he showed signs of real leadership with his decisions in the field and the faith he showed in the youngsters. Whether he will continue in the position for long enough to see them establish themselves in the national team remains to be seen. Rumours are rising that Dilshan will be replaced as captain before the tri-series in Australia but he said if he asked to carry on, he will do so. "If they offer it to me I will take it, because I am really enjoying my captaincy."

Sri Lankan cricket is set for a mini overhaul in the next few weeks, with Graham Ford confirmed as the new coach in the wake of the Geoff Marsh sacking. It leaves this series little room for context besides acting as the catalyst for major action from the Sri Lanka board.

For Dilshan, there is more to it than just that. A Test win, two victories in the ODIs and to come close in Bloemfontein, which could have changed the complexion of the limited-overs series altogether, was cause to celebrate. "Before we came here everyone thought we were the underdog but we proved we are one of the best sides in the world, especially in one-dayers," he said. "Hopefully, we can carry this performance into the next few tours."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Panduka on January 24, 2012, 5:51 GMT

    @Vijit Coomara Very well said. Can't believe the number of our guys calling for Mahela's head. Very short term memory.

  • Dummy4 on January 24, 2012, 5:13 GMT

    Please do not drop Thirimanne just to keep Mahela the captain in the team. He is now well passed his use by date. Mahela you should retire with dignity. Why SL and INDIAN cricketers like to play until they are 40.

  • Sai on January 23, 2012, 22:41 GMT

    SL are finding some valuable youngsters for the future, Chandimal, Thirimanne, Tharanga, and Matthews are all great guys. Thirimanne and Tharanga need to be given more chances in Tests though.

  • Dummy4 on January 23, 2012, 18:43 GMT

    Come on guys. It was a great innings from Thirimanne for sure but it was just one knock. But seriously, he is not yet anywhere in the league of Mahela. Do any of you remember one of the greatest world cup innings of all time in a losing cause less than a year ago against India? I guess not!! Thirimanne will have his day for sure, but not yet. Some of you so called Sri Lankan fans are just like the management. Just look at their stupid Knee jerk reaction resulting in the firing of Marsh. Mahela has had a bad patch I agree, but its natural for all cricketers to go through this. Let's support him just like we should support Samaraweera or Marsh.Mahela has been one of our greatest and has a lot more to contribute not just as a player but as captain.

  • Mohanan on January 23, 2012, 16:04 GMT

    The need for Samaraweera arises on a situation like 43 all out.

  • MRIDUL on January 23, 2012, 15:47 GMT

    Thirimanne: A right handed Atapattu !!

  • Dummy4 on January 23, 2012, 13:53 GMT

    I think Dilshan should be the captain for sometime... If he gets a good support from the seniors like Sanga in the last ODI.. He can bring our national team to a higher level. There is no cricketer in the team who has cricketing talent than Dilshan.. He can bat, bowl, field and keep wicket as well. See.. When he get a good start, team always get a big opportunity to win matches... I don't think anyone in the present team can lead the team better than Dilshan in South Africa... He failed in the overall picture.. But some memories he kept can not be removed in any day... Like the test win and winning 2 consecutive games by chasing 300+.. (That was only the 2nd time in history of cricket)..

  • Uwe on January 23, 2012, 13:45 GMT

    Some players like Mahela, Sanga and even Matthews think they have a special right to be in SL eleven though they are not performing. Mainly Mahela. What has he done since WC 2011 final. His contributions are very lean. Also Mattews. As an all rounder he is flop. Great to see young players have courage and patience to face tough face bowling. Biggest weakness we have is bowling. Dilhara and Ajantha Mendis are done and be gone. I suggest give Chandimal, Tirimanne, Thisara and also Banuka R more chances to get experience.

  • Thilan on January 23, 2012, 13:16 GMT

    Thirimanna , Chandimal , Thisara & Sachithra they played very well for SL & they see the world what they can do. Now I think SL future is perfect all the youngsters in the form, that is very good for team that give a more presure for senior player. WELL DONE SRI LANKA WELL DONE YOUNGERSTERS

  • Sinhhalaya on January 23, 2012, 12:07 GMT

    Apart from Thirimanne, did the youngsters really perform in this game? A reality check is needed by SL fans. Perera 0/64 at 9.14 RPO and faied with the bat. Chandimal strike rate of 57% when we needed 6 RPO plus. Mathews and Sachitra - below average contributions at best. Tharanga, Dilshan, Sanga and Thirimanne did the scoring. The next highest was extras. Also Kallis (world's best all rounder), Amla (world's best ODI batter) and Steyn (world's best international bowler) were all missing. So SL can take the positives and congrats for hanging in there, but don't think this is some marvelous victory or that 3-2 is a glorious fightback. Even Kepler would not say this was a SAf second XI but we did not beat their best team. Overconfidence or cockiness will be our worst enemy in Australia. As for dropping Mahela at this point: Suggest you get your head examined SL_Cric!

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