Tillakaratne Dilshan was in the thick of the action from start to finish of Sri Lanka's crushing ten-wicket victory over England in the World Cup semi-final at Colombo. First he was thrown the new ball - the first Sri Lankan spinner to be called upon in that role in the tournament - and responded with the superb figures of 1 for 25 in six overs. Then, back in his more conventional role of opening batsman, he spanked a brilliant century under the Premadasa floodlights, to chase down a target of 230 that ought to have been a challenge but ended up being a cakewalk.
The first sign that Dilshan was onto a good thing today came when he took on Andrew Strauss, one of the most fluent batsmen in the tournament to date. Right from his first over, Strauss was made to flounder, and he had already resorted to cross-batted mows in a bid to break the shackles when he was bowled for an ugly innings of 5 from 19 balls.
When his own turn came to bat, there was never any danger of Dilshan becoming so bogged down. England bowled with spirit in the opening exchanges of the innings, and he was made to wait for his scoring opportunities. However, with Upul Tharanga cutting loose at the opposite end, he was able to chisel the singles and keep the strike rotating, before upping his tempo against the pace of Chris Tremlett, whom he cracked for two fours in four balls.
England managed 12 boundaries in the whole of their 50 overs. Dilshan managed that many in his own 115-ball stay, two of them sixes, as he brought up his tenth ODI hundred, and his second in World Cup cricket. At the end of his innings, he was in such control of the contest, he was able to shepherd his team-mate to his own century, as the seal was set on a formidable performance.