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Andrew Fidel Fernando in Dambulla
November 16, 2013
Tillakaratne Dilshan has said he is more comfortable opening with Mahela Jayawardene than with any of the young players who have been trialled in that position this year, after the pair put on a 91-run stand at better than a run-a-ball against New Zealand. The partnership was the highest in the match, and had set up Sri Lanka's 211 for 8 in 33 overs, in their series-leveling victory.
"It's easier for me to bat with Mahela because he's a very experienced cricketer and sometimes he guides me as well," Dilshan said. "It's not the same when batting with a youngster. Even today, I got struck but Mahela came and hit couple of boundaries to put the pressure on bowlers.
"I have no particular liking for an opening partner but to be honest, it's easier batting with Mahela."
Upul Tharanga, Kusal Perera and Dimuth Karunaratne have all been tried in the position this year, as the team attempts to lock in the opening combination that will appear for them in the 2015 World Cup. Both Jayawardene and Dilshan are intent on playing in that tournament, and average 50.61 together, scoring at 5.78 an over. Both Dilshan and Jayawardene also have considerably better ODI records as openers than they do in any other position.
Dilshan had also bowled six overs in New Zealand's 25-over innings, and captain Angelo Mathews said his heavy use of spinners early in the innings had been a ploy to rush through the overs and ensure a result. Spin bowlers delivered 16 of the first 20 overs, taking all but one of the six wickets to fall, but it was bad light, not rain, that stopped play early.
"Thankfully, we got the 20 overs done. If we didn't get the 20 overs, that would have been another disappointment as we would have lost the series. That's why I bowled the three spinners and they responded brilliantly."
Rangana Herath had conceded 25 runs with a wet ball in the final over of the second ODI to hand New Zealand victory, but Sri Lanka refused to drop him in favour of another bowler. He returned Sri Lanka's best figures in the decider, taking 3 for 25.
"Every captain should have confidence in his team. You cannot brand a bowler good or bad for his performance in just one match," Mathews said. "Conditions had a lot of say in the second match, but players like Rangana Herath, Sachithra [Senanayake] and Dilshan have won many matches for us. We have to back the players who're with us."
Mathews also said the decision to drop Dimuth Karunaratne and promote Jayawardene to the opening position had, in part, been an attempt to give Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal the opportunity to build into their innings. Thirimanne batted at No. 4 and Chandimal at No. 6.
"We thought to open with Mahela and Dilshan to give the opportunity to Thirimanne and Chandimal, because they've been bating at number six and seven. I think those are not ideal positions for them to bat. They should get more opportunity batting in the middle order. When the senior guys retire, one day, they can hold the team together."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala