When Sri Lanka arrived in Australia around six weeks ago, there was a fair amount of uncertainty around Tillakaratne Dilshan. He had just been sacked as skipper and replaced by Mahela Jayawardene despite leading the team to its maiden Test win in South Africa.
There were doubts whether the attacking opener would be focused after the treatment by his board.However, Dilshan has put aside that disappointment in style. As Sri Lanka, who have rallied from the brink, face Australia in the deciding third final on Thursday, the 35-year-old is a frontrunner for the Man-of-the-Series award, irrespective of who wins. Only Australian opener David Warner, who has also scored two centuries like Dilshan, can pip him to the accolade.
While Sri Lanka have cashed in on Dilshan's brilliant form - he is the only player in the series to aggregate more than 500 runs — Australia will again miss Michael Clarke.
The home team's skipper, who struck a fine century on his return from injury in the second final, is nursing a left hamstring injury.
The in-form batsman will miss Thursday's tie and could even miss out the limited overs part of the West Indies tour which starts immediately after this series. Peter Forrest will replace him. Australia will also miss fast bowler, James Pattinson, who has a buttock strain.
Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene was full of praise for Dilshan after levelling the finals on Tuesday. “Dilly batted beautifully. He is now playing controlled cricket, which is great, and hopefully we can continue to improve as a team,” said Jayawardene, who was involved in a huge partnership for the first wicket along with Dilshan. “Both of us wanted to make sure we batted positively, and try and take advantage. We needed a good start when chasing. That's what we did.”
Coach Graham Ford also praised Dilshan's attitude: “Although he is not the captain, he is still contributing in many ways as a leader and as an example setter and there is no doubt that he wants Sri Lanka to be a successful team.”
If Dilshan can produce another trademark knock then Sri Lanka will have Australia in danger of failing to clinch the series.