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Dilshan opens up in style

Tillakaratne Dilshan

Tillakaratne Dilshan punishes an unusually wayward South Africa attack as Sri Lanka set the early pace in the 2009 Champions Trophy

A composed century from Tillakaratne Dilshan helped Sri Lanka start the Champions Trophy with a comprehensive 55-run Duckworth-Lewis victory over a rusty South Africa at Centurion.

The opener made batting look easy on a slow pitch, hitting 106 off 92 balls and sharing a record 158-run partnership with Kumar Sangakkara, who made 54, for the second wicket. It was Sri Lanka’s highest stand against the Proteas in one-day cricket.

Mahela Jayawardene also cashed in late on with a fine 77, while Thilan Samaraweera contibuted 37 to a fourth-wicket stand of 116 in a total of 319 for eight. Dale Steyn took 3-47 but Wayne Parnell’s three wickets came at a cost of 79.

The hosts, who had not played a competitive match since the World Twenty20 in June, struggled in response with only Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis playing with any fluency. They made 58 and 41 respectively.

Ajantha Mendis claimed 3-30 and Angelo Mathews and Lasith Malinga 2-43 to reduce South Africa to 206 for seven before rain forced play to be abandoned after 37.4 overs.

Dilshan helped Sri Lanka recover from the early loss of Sanath Jayasuriya, who was lbw for 10 playing across the line to Steyn.

He was particularly harsh on Parnell, whose fourth over cost 14 and included Dilshan’s famous scoop shot over the wicketkeeper.

Sangakkara also joined in as the pair raised the 50 stand in 46 balls, followed by Dilshan’s half-century off 38 deliveries and then the 100 partnership in 93 balls.

Thilan Samaraweera & Ajantha Mendis

Ajantha Mendis celebrates the departure of Jacques Kallis, the second of the spinner's three wickets

The introduction of spinners Johan Botha and Roelof van der Merwe did stem the boundaries, but Dilshan and Sangakkara continued to score freely.

The captain brought up his half-century before Dilshan went to his hundred, off 87 balls and containing 15 fours and a six, with a single off JP Duminy.

The next delivery, however, brought the downfall of Sangakkara, who offered a simple return to the same bowler, and Dilshan promptly followed when he top-edged a cut off Steyn to Albie Morkel at third man.

Jayawardene combined orthodox strokeplay with moments of improvised brilliance as he spearheaded Sri Lanka’s late charge, with help from Samaraweera during their entertaining 17-over alliance.

Hashim Amla fell for two when South Africa began their reply, the man deputising for Herschelle Gibbs playing on to Mathews.

Smith and Kallis responded admirably, sharing a rapid half-century stand which saw the skipper go to a 40-ball fifty full of sweetly timed strokes.

However, he succumbed moments later, bowled through the gate by Mendis’ first delivery.

The spinner then grabbed two wickets in two balls, Kallis superbly held by a diving Mathews at mid-off as he drove on the up, before Duminy was bowled via an angled bat.

South Africa’s hopes of victory faded further when AB de Villiers skied a pull off Malinga to Jayawardene at midwicket, and, though Mark Boucher, Botha and Morkel threatened briefly, Sri Lanka’s dominance was confirmed when the heavens opened.