Mahela Jayawardene believes Sri Lanka have found a special player in Dinesh Chandimal after his third half-century of the series helped set up a record chase at Bellerive Oval. Chandimal scored 80 and kept the chase on track after Jayawardene fell for 85, and although he was out to an ill-judged attempted paddle off Ryan Harris, he had done enough to allow the tail to finish the job.
Chandimal now sits on top of the series run tally with 306 at 61.20, and since the World Cup only Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara have made more ODI runs for Sri Lanka. Jayawardene said Chandimal had embraced the No.4 position and had all the hallmarks of a long-term international player.
"[He's] definitely something special," Jayawardene said. "Even before the World Cup, he was very close to being in that 15 but we felt he didn't have the experience to be a part of that. But we made a decision soon after the World Cup that he was definitely going to be in the side permanently.
"It was just trying to find a position for him and I feel that No.4 is a good position for him to bat long periods, and he's got the big shots if he wants to. He's learning every day, which is great. He's a guy who learns a lot, asks a lot of questions as well off the field, which is good for Sri Lanka. Hopefully he will be one of those guys who will take us through the next ten years."
Together, Chandimal and Jayawardene were largely responsible for keeping Sri Lanka in the hunt after Australia posted 6 for 280. Jayawardene said there were some nervous moments towards the end as wickets started to fall, but he was impressed by the way Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews helped to steer the side into a winning position.
"These guys, a couple of them haven't had much experience, but I thought they handled the situation very well," he said. "They didn't go for those big shots, they just kept it going, singles, singles, and dragged the game as far as they could. And then when they wanted to hit that big shot, we knew that Thisara can do that, Angelo can do that, so we set it up nicely. They're learning, that's the most important thing.
"I saw the domestic matches and the Tassie (Tasmania) boys have chased some big totals. The wicket looked pretty good and it's tough to defend on this ground because there's big boundaries on one side and then the smaller one on the other. It was just about trying to get a couple of partnerships. That's what we discussed in the break."
The three-wicket victory has pushed Sri Lanka to the top of the series table and both they and Australia are now one match clear of India. India need to win both their remaining matches to be a certainty for the finals. Sri Lanka take on India in Hobart on Tuesday and Australia at the MCG next Friday, and a win in either of those games will be enough to confirm their place in the finals, which would be a fine achievement after they lost their first two games of the series.
"If we can control our destiny we should do that," Jayawardene said. "I'm quite happy with the effort. We knew we were playing good cricket, we just had to execute a few things better, which we are doing. Today also I thought we were probably a bit flat on the field. In that middle period we probably gave away the game but we managed to drag it back in the last six or seven overs, to a decent score, and then batted really well to finish the game off."
Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran