January 9, 2009

Dilshan the unlikely hero in record win


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Tillakaratne Dilshan has been around for quite sometime, having made some useful contributions during his international career. He has played his role in the middle-order and also provided the odd breakthrough whenever the champion bowlers in the Sri Lankan side were at the receiving end for a while.
But Dilshan produced a sensational all-round performance in the second Test against Bangladesh at Chittagong’s Divisional Stadium playing the lead role in Sri Lanka’s record 465-run win.

It was the fifth biggest margin of victory in terms of runs but it was Sri Lanka’s highest ever so far. They rattled Bangladesh for 158 on the penultimate day to complete one of the most crushing victories of Test history.

Dilshan stole the limelight by scoring a century in both innings and if it was not enough he picked up four quick wickets for just 10 runs to the fourth evening to make the game his own. He followed up his brilliant knock of 162 in the first innings with another one of 143 in the second outing. 

Mind you Bangladesh were in high spirits after having gone down fighting in the first Test. They were looking quite ominous on the opening day of the second Test as well and it was Dilshan’s knock that allowed Sri Lanka to snatch the initiative. His 162 helped his team register a first innings score of 384 that represented quite a recovery.

The devastating spin duo of Ajantha Mendis and Mutiah Muralitharan forced the Bangladeshi batsmen to submission but Sri Lanka still faced challenges to set a daunting task for the hosts who had batted so bravely in the first Test while chasing an improbable target of 521.

Sri Lanka needed to put a big total in their second innings to dictate terms and it was Dilshan who came up with the most impressive batting display. He completed his second century of the game in style.

Bangladesh had done so well in the Mirpur Test that the Sri Lankan skipper, Mahela Jayawardene, delayed the declaration until the overall lead was over 600. If the target of 521 in the first Test was improbable the task of getting 624 in the second Test was impossible.

Bangladesh had five sessions to negotiate but they knew the task was an uphill one and they had to play even better than they had done at Mirpur. They were confronting the most lethal spin attack in the world on a wearing pitch. Not many sides would be expected to come to terms with Mendis and Muralitharan in such environment.

There was hardly any surprise in watching the mystery spinner Mendis picking up wickets at regular intervals but there certainly was an element of shock when the Bangladesh lower-order succumbed to the friendly off-spin of Dilshan. 

It was Dilshan whose spell ensured the Sri Lankan victory on the fourth evening and it allowed them the luxury of an additional day for sightseeing in the Bangladesh port city. It was a match Dilshan is going to remember all his life.

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