Hashan Tillakaratne - dug in when it most mattered © Getty Images

Sri Lanka's embattled captain, Hashan Tillakaratne, produced a crucial unbeaten 74 to carry his side into a position of strength on the third day against Australia in Colombo. But afterwards he admitted he had been driven on by the belief that he was playing his final match for his country.

"When I read the newspapers there were so many things being said and done," said Tillakaratne. "I just went in there thinking it was my last innings. I just played my normal game and wanted to be there to the end and make a big score.

"Until I got to about 30-odd I was struggling a bit, but after that I was okay. We all know that I have had a lean period, but after this knock I should be able to get more runs. I spoke to [the manager] Ranjith Fernando in the morning and asked him what I should do, and he was very supportive and encouraging and told me to play my natural game. If I am not scoring I don't want to be a liability to the team."

It's not the first time that Tillakaratne has had to bat for his career, and once again he produced the goods when it most mattered. "It was very important for me," he said. "I rate this 74 as highly as my 136 I scored against India in 2001, when I came back into the side after two-and-a-half years. I thought that would be my last innings as well, but I managed to get a hundred there."

Three late Australian wickets put the cap on Sri Lanka's day, but Tillakaratne warned that the fourth day would be another tough battle. "We were looking at a lead of 50-60 runs which would have been a psychological advantage for us," he admitted. "But there are two more days to go and we have to pick up early wickets tomorrow. The wicket is starting to turn and it will definitely help our spinners. I think 250 is gettable on this track."