Dilshan's century made the difference

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Prior to the first Test against Pakistan at Galle this week, Tillakaratne Dilshan had been in woeful form. Along with his inexperienced partner at the other end, Sri Lanka's openers were often exposing their middle order to the new ball over the last 12 months, which resulted in them being blown away for less than 250 more often than not.

Damith Samarakoon explains,

Since the lofty heights of 2009, Dilshan has only scored one century. While centuries from an opener are important, the issue has been the scores in-between. In 19 of his 28 innings as an opener since January, 2010, he has failed to score more than 35 runs. This has meant that Sri Lanka’s opening pair have only gone past 35 runs on 13 occasions out of 30 innings in that period. That is a failure rate of nearly 60-percent.

Poor starts figure prominently in every one of Sri Lanka’s defeats in the last year. They have been unable to reach a competitive total in their first innings, with scores over 300 being scarce.

Dilshan might not be at fault entirely for those losses or the paucity of big totals. But as the senior opener, he plays a significant role in providing his number three and the middle order a platform to build on.

Kumar Sangakkara has virtually become an opener in the past 12 months. This is one of the reasons why he has developed a dangerous trend in starting a series so poorly. As a number three, it is indeed a workplace hazard one should expect. But when you are consistently being put under pressure early on, failure is just around the corner. It hasn’t helped that Mahela Jayawardene has also been out of touch. But that again only personifies the importance of the openers’ role in getting Sri Lanka off to a solid start.

Dilshan's century against Pakistan at Galle in the first Test was his first on home soil in three years and it paved the way for a big first innings total and a Test victory. Importantly, he took pressure off the middle order and allowed them to bat more freely.

His approach in this knock was one of cautious aggression, which helped him play out the good balls and attack the loose ones. It's quite a contrast to his batting in general, where he throws his bat at everything senselessly and needlessly. It's time he approached batting in Test cricket differently. It paid off for him in the last Test.

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