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Dilshan issues rallying cry

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Tillakaratne Dilshan

Tillakaratne Dilshan believes the npower Test series with England, starting tomorrow, will provide a stern evaluation of their credentials

Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan is relishing the chance to lead his side into a new era after the retirements of Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga.

Spinner Muralitharan, who quit the Test scene in July of last year, retired from all cricket after Sri Lanka's World Cup final defeat to India, while paceman Malinga has opted to forego the longest version of the game due to a knee complaint.

The tourists have also been hit by injury to the impressive Nuwan Pradeep, who was set to earn a debut when the first npower Test against England begins tomorrow.

The absence of their two bowling figureheads leaves them with an inexperienced attack at Cardiff, but opener Dilshan wants his side to prove that they are up to the challenge of facing an England team fresh from a first Ashes win in Australia for 24 years.

The 34-year-old said: "We are all international cricketers and have played a couple of matches on this tour and the experienced guys like Kumar (Sangakkara) and Mahela (Jayawardene) are used to these conditions. So we are looking forward to playing good Test match cricket from tomorrow.

"It’s not easy playing here in early summer but as cricketers we have to take this challenge even though we haven’t played outside home (the sub-continent) for a long time. This is a good challenge for everyone.

"We have a few youngsters who will get a chance and it will be good for their development in international cricket. We are looking forward to a new era for Sri Lankan cricket."

The skipper also feels his side can take confidence from their wins over Middlesex and England Lions so far on tour, and Sri Lanka's 1-1 draw in their last three-Test series here in 2006.

He said: "The last series we drew here and we have had good preparations this time.

Muttiah Muralitharan

Dilshan has conceded that the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan, pictured, is a blow. "We can’t find another Murali in Sri Lanka," he said

"The last two matches we have played well in the bowling and batting departments. We were behind after two days of the last match but we batted well and the bowlers did a great job to bowl them out for 180 and that can give our bowlers confidence."

But Dilshan acknowledges it will be difficult for his side to adjust to not having the experience of Muralitharan, Test cricket's record wicket-taker with 800, to call on.

"We can’t find another Murali in Sri Lanka, he was a special guy for international cricket," said Dilshan.

"But we have two young off-spinners in (Ajantha) Mendis and Suraj (Randiv) so if we can get the maximum out of them it might be good for our future."

Dilshan revealed that he will go with six batsmen and five bowlers in Cardiff, with Rangana Herath the only spinner in the line-up and wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene batting at six.

The visitors also have an injury concern over Dilhara Fernando, with the seamer struggling with a sore knee.

"Herath has been bowling really well over the last few matches and he is a very experienced guy who has played a lot of Test cricket over the last few years," added Dilshan.

"It's a young inexperienced bowling attack and he is an experienced bowler who I am going to give a chance to.

"We have to play (with a) six-five (split). Murali normally bowled 40 overs every day, now we don't have that type of bowler so we need to have five bowlers in our team."

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