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Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Lord's final is something special

Kumar Sangakkara, Saturday, June 20, 2009

In the last six month's Tillakaratne Dilshan has discovered just how good a player he is. Six months ago he was on the fringes of the ODI team, excluded from our team to Zimbabwe in October. Since returning against Bangladesh in December, however, he has batted with such vim and vigour that he is now one of the world's most feared openers.

 The move up the order to the opening position gave him an opportunity to play longer innings and it was a chance he grabbed. We gave him the freedom to play aggressively and he has formed a fantastic combination with Sanath (Jayasuriya), solving one of our weaker areas post the 2007 World Cup.

 We have long spoken about how much talent he has but now, aged 32, he is finally realising this potential. I think we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg in this tournament and I hope this experience, both in his high-scoring IPL and the ICC World Twenty20, helps him become a top-class international batsman in all forms of the game.

 Friday night's innings was remarkable not just because of his normal energy and flashing strokeplay, but because of the manner he shouldered so much responsibility. It was a big game and we needed him to go on and make a big score having got in on what was a slightly two-paced pitch. He responded brilliantly to that extra pressure.

 The innings was also well-timed. During quiet periods - like the first three overs when we scored only 12 runs and between the 11th and 13th overs when we scored just 10 runs - he held his nerve and then dragged us back in-charge with a flurry of boundaries.

 While Dilshan was the stand-out performer, there were others that deserve special mention. Firstly, Sanath (Jayasuriya). He struggled to find his timing and was labouring by his normal fast-scoring standards. But his 24 was the third highest score in the match and their opening 73-run stand was a winning platform.

 Then there was Angelo Mathews. He has grown steadily in confidence during this tournament and looks at home in international cricket. We have given him some key responsibilities and in the semi-final he performed those superbly - his final over six and four was priceless, and those three wickets in the first over was a moment he'll remember for life.

 Having made 158, I was very confident with our bowling and they did us proud again. The whole unit has bowled out of their skins during the past two weeks. Even when we concede a few boundaries we know that a wicket is around the corner. We now need them to provide one more performance in the final.

 The final will certainly not be easy. Pakistan's bowling is well-balanced and contains some high-class bowlers. The manner in which they ousted South Africa, the tournament favourites, shows just how dangerous they are. We need to raise our game again to match them.

 Crucially, though, I'll be telling my players to enjoy themselves. A Lord's final is something special for any cricketer to cherish. We have got here by playing with flair, passion and a great togetherness. If we can do the same against Pakistan then we'll stand a very good chance of lifting the trophy.

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