Dilshan, Tharanga centuries propel Sri Lanka to 327/6

Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga slammed centuries as Sri Lank post a formidable score of 327 against Zimbabwe at Kandy

By Jamie Alter

Kandy: Mar 10, 2011

This surely wasn t what Elton Chigumbura had in mind when he won the toss and opted to field. From the first over of Sri Lanka s innings, Zimbabwe were made to chase leather and didn t pick up a wicket until the fourth ball of the 45th over, when Upul Tharanga held out to a sweeper in the deep to end a mammoth opening partnership.

Sri Lanka dramatically collapsed thereafter, losing six wickets for 26 runs, but eventually reached 327, the second highest total ever conceded by Zimbabwe in a World Cup.

If Tillakaratne Dilshan s ninth one-day century was fashioned with shots of fury, Tharanga s silken 133 formed the more temperate half of a partnership of 282 a World Cup record and four runs shy of the best opening stand in one-day history. It was the first instance of two openers scoring centuries in the same match during the World Cup, and nearly sent the Kandy faithful into delirium.

For the first time this tournament Zimbabwe opened with pace from both ends, and the gentle medium pace on offer suited Sri Lanka s openers wonderfully. A lovely drive for four got Sri Lanka going, but it was Chris Mpofu s opening partner, Tinashe Panyangara, who wound up Dilshan.

A straight drive for four; six over midwicket; a slap between the covers for four more; and a rasping cut behind point made it 19 from the second over. Two boundaries off the next over meant Sri Lanka had flown to 33 without loss.

While Dilshan was crashing leather across the turf, Tharanga who came into this match averaging 45.77 against Zimbabwe was no less purposeful, if lacking the ferocity of his opening partner. He swung off the pads effortlessly, pulled sweetly, and his punchy drives on the up past cover were a treat. The combination of Tharanga’s front-foot driving and Dilshan s back-foot play was so dominant that no one bowler was spared during the Powerplay.

Ray Price, introduced into the fifth over, was welcomed with a flowing extra-cover drive by Dilshan and taken for four more in his second as Dilshan again used his feet wonderfully. A third boundary came through square leg when Price tried too hard, and he was promptly taken out of the attack. The first Powerplay was rounded off with Tharanga carting three fours off Mpofu s third over, leaving him with figures of 0 for 28.

The pair slowed down hereon, perhaps mindful that big innings were up for grabs with a little application. Tharanga knows a thing or two about batting big. He features in the ODI record opening stand (286, alongside Sanath Jayasuriya) and before today had also contributed to stands of 215, 202, 201, and 188 during his career.

Today his appetite for runs was on ample view, and yet again his application was laudable. There was no rush, no rash shots. Run by run, he ground Zimbabwe down and when the loose balls came, Tharanga was quick to pounce.

Dilshan reached fifty from 43 balls, Tharanga his from 67. Along the way Sri Lanka s previous best World Cup opening stand was surpassed, and to celebrate Dilshan and Tharanga each grabbed boundaries off loose offerings in the space of three balls. Soon after, they registered the highest opening partnership of this World Cup.

Dilshan s century came up in the 31st over with a single into the off side, and ten overs later Tharanga joined him by taking a boundary off the first ball of the batting Powerplay. Three boundaries by Tharanga in the next over took him almost as close to flagging Dilshan s score he had only managed 24 runs in the ten overs since he reached his century, with Price and Prosper Utseya bowling tidily and he was soon past his partner an edged four off the wayward Mpofu.

Tharanga s first rude shot, a big hit over extra cover, was picked in the deep and Zimbabwe had their first breakthrough. As so happens when one half of a dominant partnership is dismissed, Dilshan followed Tharanga back after pulling to deep midwicket. After such an opening act, Sri Lanka should have reached 350 but yet again a lack of firepower in the middle-order was brought to the fore.

Suddenly the floodgates opened with Mpofu grabbing three wickets in one over, but that shouldn t bother Sri Lanka after the efforts of Tharanga and Dilshan.

Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 327 for 6 in 50 overs (Tillakaratne Dilshan 144, Upul Tharanga 133; Chris Mpofu 4 for 62, Ray Price 1 for 46, Prosper Utseya 1 for 50) vs Zimbabwe.

(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine. His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now)

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