Following the bitter experiences of the 1999 World Cup, Sri Lanka’s selectors learned their lessons and were pretty good at planning for subsequent events although there doesn’t seem to be much planning going into the upcoming event
One of the best opening combinations that Sri Lanka had was between Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu and they were replaced by an efficient combination in T.M. Dilshan and Upul Tharanga. It was a combination that worked well during the 2011 World Cup as both batters posted two 200 plus partnerships with Sri Lanka reaching the finals of the competition.
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Dilshan attacking from the start and Tharanga trying to bat through the innings, holding one end up was exactly the roles of Jayasuriya and Atapattu as well when they formed a successful combination during the 2003 edition. Atapattu scored most runs for Sri Lanka in South Africa followed by Jayasuriya as Sri Lanka went onto reach the semi-finals.
Dilshan and Tharanga’s 282 run stand against Zimbabwe at Pallekele is the record for the opening wicket in World Cups. The stand also remains the third highest partnership in World Cups for any wicket.
In fact, the pair missed the then World Record for the first wicket by just four runs. Incidentally that was held by Tharanga and Jayasuriya as they posted 286 for the first wicket against England at Leeds as Sri Lanka completed a 5-0 whitewash.
In 2011 at Pallekele, when Tharanga was dismissed in the 45th over, trying to loft one over the covers, he had made 133 off 141 balls with 17 fours.
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Dilshan fell in the next over having made 144 in 131 balls with 16 fours and one six. At the fall of Tharanga, Sri Lanka experimented by sending in Thisara Perera at number three instead of captain Sangakkara. It didn’t work as Thisara fell for three.
Eventually, in search of quick runs, Sri Lanka lost six wickets in five overs but they were happy with a total of 327 runs. Zimbabwe were bowled out for 188 with 11 overs to spare as Sri Lanka won by 139 runs.
A healthy Net Run Rate was crucial for Sri Lanka having already suffered a loss at the hands of Pakistan in the group stage and had their game against Australia washed out by rain. Sri Lanka eventually finished second in the group with nine points behind Pakistan. Australia also had nine points, but more importantly, Sri Lanka enjoyed a healthy Net Run Rate of 2.5 ahead of Australia’s 1.1 and thanks to that they were able to avoid a quarter-final clash against India in Ahmedabad.
Instead, they were playing their quarter-final fixture against England at home. Tharanga and Dilshan scored a 200 plus stand again in the quarters too. England had posted 229 for six in their 50 overs while Sri Lanka chased down the target without losing a wicket.
Tharanga made an unbeaten 102 off 122 deliveries with 12 fours and one six while Dilshan was 108 not out off 115 balls with ten fours and two sixes. No team had won a World Cup knockout game so handsomely.
Such solid batting stood Sri Lanka in good stead. With the middle order comprising stalwarts of the caliber of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene and the young Angelo Mathews, the team’s batting was impregnable.
Dilshan was the highest run getter of the 2011 World Cup – 500 runs at 62. Sangakkara finished third behind Dilshan and Sachin Tendulkar with 465 runs at 93. Tharanga meanwhile was the fifth highest run scorer with 395 runs at 56.