England got 229 on one of the lower-scoring venues in the world, and thought they had plenty. The comfort with which Dilshan ran down this target occasionally verged on the comical. He socked Graeme Swann through cover early in his innings, then set about slapping the England quicks through the off side, planting that front leg and sending Chris Tremlett through cover point with particular abandon. As he pulled Upul Tharanga through in his slipstream, Andrew Strauss scratched the skin off his chin, and the Khettarama bayed itself hoarse. There were only a few more runs to get after Dilshan reached his hundred. He hit Swann through cover-point one last time, and immediately apologised to Tharanga, who was still on 97. Two wonderfully exuberant forward defenses were Dilshan's final acts of this match - Sri Lanka winning by 10 wickets, with more than 10 overs remaining to seal a semi-final berth.
If Australia's 271 for 4 was a little light, given the track, it was Dilshan who helped restrict them. Taking the new ball, he dismissed Matthew Wade, conceded only 40 from his full quota, and also claimed a running catch in the deep to send back centurion David Warner. When he came to the crease himself, the shots behind square came to him first: a couple of backward cuts, a lap-scoop, and a couple of thick edges thrown in. Before long, he was running at Shane Watson to thump him down the ground, and smearing left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty through the legside. His 179-run opening stand with Mahela Jayawardene broken the back of the chase, and though he was dismissed with 38 runs still to get, Sri Lanka sauntered home.
It was the flattest of tracks, and a thimble-sized ground, but even in such conditions, 415 is a gargantuan score to be tracking down. It was Dilshan's audacity at the top of the order that put Sri Lanka in contention. The square boundary boards on either side of the wickets were regularly stung, and the whiplash through the covers, and the advancing lofted drive were all on show. Just to complete the full Dilshan set, there were also scoops - of both the lap and Dil varieties - and a searing hook off Zaheer Khan as well. The hundred came off 73 balls, and eventually the 160 was off 124. Sri Lanka needed only 76 from 69 balls, with six wickets in hand, when Dilshan was dismissed. But in what was to become a theme of his late career, middle-order bungling left his work squandered.
Dilshan's talent had never been in doubt, but his returns from the middle order were largely modest. This was one of only a handful of pre-transformation innings that suggested a 10,000-run ODI batsman lay behind the gold chains and pirate hair-dos. In pursuit of 286, Sri Lanka were 155 for 5, and set to lose their fifth consecutive match, until Dilshan took the chase by the collar, with Russel Arnold's assistance. The pair ran briskly between the wickets - another Dilshan trademark - as they put on 131 runs off 107 balls. Dilshan finished with a strike rate of 120, despite having struck only eight boundaries.
If two previous hundreds at Pallekele suggested Dilshan had a particular fondness for the venue, this was the innings that confirmed it. Chasing 197 in a rain-reduced 33-over innings, Dilshan sent swinging balls through cover early in the innings and slammed plenty square on the legside when Trent Boult, Tim Southee et al. switched to short balls. What should have been a challenging chase - with the ball nipping around - was run down effortlessly.