Dilshan takes the plaudits
Captains Kumar Sangakkara and Graeme Smith were united in their praise of Tillakaratne Dilshan after his stunning century set Sri Lanka on the way to a convincing win in the opening match of the Champions Trophy.
Dilshan hit 106 off just 92 balls to propel Sri Lanka to 319 for eight at Centurion, before three wickets from Ajantha Mendis undermined the hosts’ reply.
They were 206 for seven when rain forced the players off after 37.4 overs, giving Sri Lanka victory by 55 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Dilshan’s tally since he was promoted to open the innings on a permanent basis early this year now stands at 604 runs at an average of 54.90, including two hundreds.
“He’s been exceptional from the end of last year through to this year,” said Sangakkara, who contributed 54 to a second-wicket stand of 158 with Dilshan.
“I think he’s matured a lot and understood how good he really is. He’s performed exceptionally well for us during this time.”
Smith concurred, although he admitted his side - playing their first competitive game since the World Twenty20 in England in June - were some way below their best with the ball and in the field.
He said: “Dilshan played really well up front which didn’t really allow guys to settle. He’s the type of player you know is going to go after you as a bowler.
“I think you can have game plans to him that can work. But it’s about executing them well and we just didn’t do that.
“The things we need to look at as a team are we were very tentative with the ball, especially for the first 20 overs.
“We bowled too many extras and we lacked the basics. I think not having played for three months – those were crucial aspects for us. We were just unable to execute our game plan.”
Sri Lanka’s formidable total was also built around Mahela Jayawardene’s superb 77, and a 116-run stand for the fourth wicket with Thilan Samaraweera, who made 37.
If Mendis was the key figure with the ball - he finished with 3-30 off seven overs - Angelo Mathews and Lasith Malinga claimed 2-43 to underline Sri Lanka’s all-round excellence.
But Sangakkara warned: “As a side, we are still firing at 75%. We have a lot of areas to improve, but the good thing is that we’re still winning.
“The sky is the limit if we can work harder, keep to our basics and not get too carried away with wins like this.”