Sri Lanka in SA
SL youngsters impress Dilshan
Tillakaratne Dilshan (File)
Johannesburg - Former captain Tillakaratne Dilshan said the performances of the squad's young players on their tour of South Africa boded well for the future of Sri Lankan cricket.
Sri Lanka, who lost the Test series 2-1, fought back to win the last two one-day internationals (ODI) against the Proteas, eventually going down down 3-2.
Dilshan reportedly resigned from the captaincy in all three forms of the game on Monday, a day after the tour came to a close.
Sri Lanka coach Geoff Marsh was also reported to have been sacked after a poor showing from the sub-continent outfit for most of the tour.
"Before the tour started, I believed in my youngsters and I wanted to give them more time in the middle to get experience," Dilshan said.
"That was my main target when I took over the captaincy, and they have proved they are ready for the international challenge and the future looks bright for Sri Lankan cricket."
Particularly impressive were the trio of 22-year-olds - Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne and Thisara Perera - and 26-year-old Sachithra Senanayake.
Chandimal took the gloves for the first time in Test cricket and scored half-centuries in both innings in his debut match. He made 92 not out in the second ODI, a half-century in the fourth and shared a vital 56-run partnership with Kumar Sangakkara in the final match at the Wanderers on Sunday.
Thirimanne was introduced for the third Test, replacing out-of-form opener Tharanga Paranavitana, but more significantly he replaced injured middle-order batsman Mahela Jayawardene in the ODIs.
His innings of 69, though he holed out in the last over, and a big six from Senanayake took Sri Lanka across the finish line in Johannesburg.
Seam bowler Perera proved he was no slouch with the bat when his unbeaten 69 won the fourth game for the visitors in Kimberley.
"I'm really happy to give these guys the opportunities to perform, especially under pressure," Dilshan said.
"To those who said we can't play without Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan], we have learned to play one-dayers without him.
"In the Tests we still struggle but we showed that without him we can win a Test.
"So, no more Murali and no more excuses for the Sri Lankan team.
"We've got the youngsters and we must try to get 100 percent out of them."
Dilshan was disappointed not to win the ODI series after the third match could have gone either way, with rain delays forcing a Duckworth-Lewis result.
"After the first ODI, which we started really badly, the batting unit showed character and showed we are a good one-day side," the skipper said.
"We lost the series but I'm happy with the way we finished."
Delighted with their comeback, after losing the first three matches, Dilshan was satisfied that his players lifted themselves and finished on a high note.
"I'm really happy with the way we came back in the last two matches, chasing 300 in both," he said.
"On one hand, I'm very disappointed we lost the series, but the way we finished the series has a lot of pluses for our next tour.
"Overall, I'm happy - we'd never won a test in South Africa, so that was a fantastic effort to win one here.
"It was a great effort as a team and in the ODIs, and only our first match we played badly, but all of the other four were very close, playing against one of the best batting line-ups in the world."
Dilshan gave credit to Marsh, whom he said had put in his best efforts.
"Geoff tried his best over the last three months and always gave 100 percent to the players and the team."