Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st Test, Galle, 1st day

Dilshan's sensible aggression wins the day

Tillakaratne Dilshan scored his first Test century in a year, negotiating testing spells of bowling and providing Sri Lanka with a positive start

Kanishkaa Balachandran in Galle

June 22, 2012

Comments: 7 | Text size: A | A

Tillakaratne Dilshan celebrates his 13th Test century, Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st Test, Galle, 1st day, June 22, 2012
Tillakaratne Dilshan's innings was smartly built, with a mixture of attack and defence © Getty Images
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When Tillakaratne Dilshan reached his century in the second ODI in Pallekele, his celebration seemed like a release of pent-up frustration that had accumulated for months. He had battled for close to 50 overs, some of them with cramps, to carve out a match-winning century after five ordinary scores. His celebration after his century in Galle today was relatively subdued. After sweeping Abdur Rehman to the boundary, there was no war cry or leap, just a simple acknowledgement to his team-mates and the average weekday crowd. Dilshan's modest celebration hid the fact it was his first Test century at home in three years and also the first since he quit the captaincy.

Midway through the one-day series, Dilshan had spoken of how his decision to resign as captain was taken based on his batting form. The fluency of his run making had become sporadic, so he had to take some tough decisions, which meant giving up the leadership to allow him to focus on scoring freely, which is his strength.

Dilshan's century came after a year - his last was his personal best of 193, at Lord's. Since then, he scored three fifties, including 92 against Pakistan last year in Sharjah. Mahela Jayawardene said on the eve of this Test that the opening combination didn't look as settled as the middle order. While Dilshan occupied one slot, his partners like Tharanga Paranavitana and Lahiru Thirimanne have rotated. What the team needed was consistent scores from at least one of them. Dilshan did exactly what his captain had asked for.

His innings in Galle gave Sri Lanka an advantage that they kept through the day. Dilshan wasn't flawless, though. He couldn't resist the urge to slash at deliveries wide outside the off stump. Junaid Khan beat the bat a few times, and almost induced a leading edge with a delivery that bounced a bit more than Dilshan would have liked. In the half hour before lunch, he also survived a few lbw appeals against the spinners. He had release when Junaid came on for a second spell and pitched short on a slow wicket, allowing the freedom to pull.

The turn and bounce in the opening session could have unsettled Sri Lanka after Paranavitana's dismissal, but Dilshan's aggressive style ensured it did not. He raced to 50 off 49 balls. His approach forced the Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez to change his fields. Saeed Ajmal, who had settled into a round-the-wicket line, had a rather defensive set up, with three fielders deep on the leg-side. Abdul Rehman had a long-off and a short cover against Dilshan.

Dilshan was more conservative after lunch, setting himself up for a long innings. He gave credit to the bowlers for that. "After lunch, they bowled to their fields, bowling good line and lengths," he said. "That's why I slowed down a bit."

However, Dilshan did not let the pressure of tight lines and close fielders get to him. It helped that he had Kumar Sangakkara, who ended the day unbeaten on 111, for company. The fields for Rehman were unorthodox, because he had a silly mid-off, a long-off and two slips. Dilshan found a way to get past that security cordon, with powerful drives through extra cover.

Ajmal changed ends and returned for a new spell, bowling with the sea breeze. He had a slip, short leg and leg gully in place, and bowled a leg stump line. It didn't work, though, as Dilshan swept past leg gully and sped towards his hundred. It was an innings of three parts - he began aggressively, settled down to respect the bowling and then accelerated as his landmark neared. His last five scoring shots to reach his 13th Test century were boundaries.

The end of day score - 300 for 2 - might suggest Sri Lanka were batting on a featherbed pitch, but Dilshan disagreed. "We expected the pitch to start turning from the second day but it started taking turn from the first session itself," he said. "It was not the easiest wicket to bat on. I thought myself, Mahela and Sanga handled the pressure and bowling unit well."

Dilshan did not carry on after reaching his century, but his approach put Sri Lanka on course for 500.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (June 23, 2012, 6:48 GMT)

i think the dilshan's fast scoring is better becoz then SL can go to a good target quickly, put the pressure on the oppositions.

Posted by   on (June 23, 2012, 3:47 GMT)

Time to get either Chandimal or Bhanuka Rajapaksa or Dimuth Karunaratne a chance at opening

Posted by   on (June 23, 2012, 1:03 GMT)

well batted dilshan!! i agree, tharanga should be given a go in tests. he should be groomed for the future well as he was back in 2006. no idea why he's been given such limited opportunities with such a talent! paranavitana has not shown yet that he belongs

Posted by PunchDrunkPunter on (June 22, 2012, 23:46 GMT)

Just shows Ajmal is only good on doctored dust bowls. Always struggles on flat decks and true pitches!

Posted by Philip_Gnana on (June 22, 2012, 19:00 GMT)

I cannot see why Tharanga cannot be given a run as opener. All he requires is the confidence of the selectors to back him up. If the youngsters do not take the opportunities (many) that have been given them, then it is time for a change. Well played innings by Dilshan. He deserves it too. Good to see some real cricket instead of Pot Noodle cricket. SL need to start winning matches and series at home and away to established themselves as a foe to be reckoned with. This does take time the less tinkering the better (other than the opening slot) Philip Gnana, Surrey

Posted by KingOwl on (June 22, 2012, 17:08 GMT)

That is the hugely under-appreciated strength of Dilshan; the way he makes runs. It was the same in England when he was in full cry last Spring/Summer. He takes the game away from the opposition. His runs at the top are far more valuable than the numbers suggest.

Posted by WPDDESILVA on (June 22, 2012, 16:29 GMT)

I said Paranavithana would be a failure and he livd upto it. Time to find a new opener!!

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