Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe, only Test, Colombo, 5th day July 18, 2017

Dickwella asked me to keep talking to him - Gunaratne

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At the start of the day, Asela Gunaratne had assured his captain that he would "get 70 and win the game" © AFP

Niroshan Dickwella has played more Tests, but during the 121-run stand that turned the match, it was Asela Gunaratne who found himself constantly pestered for advice. Sri Lanka had been five-down and 185 runs short of their target when the two came together. Dickwella played aggressively through the partnership, and helped ensure some of the pressure Zimbabwe had exerted, was reversed.

"Since he came to the crease, what Dickwella told me was: 'Talk to me all the time, and make me score runs.'" Gunaratne said. "I think what he meant was that he hasn't scored a big Test innings, where I have. He just wanted me to tell him how to handle situations. Sometimes when the game was going a certain way, he wanted me to keep advising him. Occasionally I'd tell him not to go for certain shots. In the end, he stuck around and scored."

Gunaratne's own hand in the victory had been a little more measured than Dickwella's. At the crease when the winning runs were hit, Gunaratne compiled a sensible 80, despite having suffered a mild hamstring injury earlier in the match. Captain Dinesh Chandimal revealed he had expected Gunaratne to play a major role, at the start of the day.

"I told Asela this morning: 'You're going to get a hundred today'." Chandimal said. "But very confidently, Asela said to me: 'No Chandi, there won't be need for me to get a 100. I'll get 70 and win the game.' That's the kind of faith I expect from my players. There's a chance he might not have been able to do that today, but the way he spoke, even I became confident as a captain that we could win this match. I'm really happy I have players like that."

Though Chandimal himself had been out for 15 on the fourth evening, he said it was important to him that his middle order batted with freedom. Of the three Sri Lanka players to make fifties, two - Dickwella and Kusal Mendis - batted at a strike rate of around 70 for much of their innings (though they would both slow slightly in the approach to their dismissals).

"When it came time for us to bat yesterday, most of what we talked about was playing your own game as batsmen," Chandimal said. "We knew that it was tough for us to bat out the time and draw the match. If we tried that, it was likely we'd lose. So we said: 'play your own game'."

"As a captain I told them that I'd take the responsibility for any mistakes, so don't be afraid to make mistakes. Kusal, Dimuth Karunaratne and Upul Tharanga played well. Then at the end, Asela and Dickwella were excellent."

Dickwella and Mendis had also perished playing aggressive strokes: Mendis a sweep and Dickwella a reverse-sweep. Chandimal, however, refused to characterise those dismissals as wasteful.

"We've played on these kinds of pitches before in Sri Lanka, and in India and Bangladesh. On these pitches, it's with sweeps and reverse-sweeps that we can score runs. There's a risk in that, but if we are chasing scores, we have to play those shots. At training we had practiced those things, and they bore results today."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • gsa2bl8350370 on July 20, 2017, 11:00 GMT

    Asela has become the unsung hero for a few games now during his short career.

  • Sid on July 19, 2017, 13:50 GMT

    I would give more credit to ZIM than SL players here. They fought hard. No body gave them a chance and that too in SL's backyard.

  • Sam on July 19, 2017, 12:57 GMT

    What a find, Asela. We just need to keep him fit. Mendis is not a bad leggie, chance to get him coached and ready to bowl a few. With Mathews not bowling, Dhanushka should play for Dimuth I think.

  • Rutvik on July 19, 2017, 10:20 GMT

    Well done Asela! He has been a godsent inthis SL team in the absence of the big three. Terrific batsman, accurate bowler and a cool headed player. Plus, unlike English County Players, he has upped hos game by several levels after getting selected in the national team.

  • hpslp96312985 on July 19, 2017, 7:44 GMT

    There is nothing wrong with the revealing what were their plans and tactics when the game was over. Haven't you seen any post-match presses?

  • Dhawala on July 19, 2017, 6:49 GMT

    Chandimal is trying to show that he can be a good captain by telling all his plans to the media but from now onwards he shouldnt tell all his plans bcz we all know he is the perfect player to lead SL in tests to become the top team in the world Good luck Chandimal and Co.

  • Sugath on July 19, 2017, 4:34 GMT

    Now that India is coming in just about 2 days and with a test scheduled for 26th the need of the hour is to seek where Lanka went wrong. Herath was great and batting was ok barring the two seniors Angelo and Chandi not making it in second innings. But the biggest flaw was in field setting in the second innings of Zimbabwe. At 23 for 4 there should have been at least 6 fielders around the batsman for may be 5 to 6 overs and see the fun. When a batsman has 14 eyes focused on him simultaneously, there is bound to be some mental concern. The other reason is that human body emit kind of static electricity and this has an impact on those around. Sadly Chandi did not do that and you cannot expect such an advise from Mathews as he was always protective and not going forward. So the cricket manager imported should have some sessions on leadership training provided he knows to do or get a professional to do it. With Indian it will be not easy at all.

  • Janaka on July 19, 2017, 3:43 GMT

    Why chandimal is boasting

  • Panduka on July 19, 2017, 1:24 GMT

    First of all, this was a win for the ages. The amount of pressure the players must have been under was evident from the 4th day morning where Chandimal basically changed the field every ball. Honestly I didn't think they had it in them to chase these runs. But the way they have been criticised, riled upon and written off was so painful and I was hoping they would get over the line. They had some luck, and with all that has happened, they deserved it. Hopefully this will be just a stepping stone and will make the group stronger for it. And hopefully the trigger happy selectors will stick with this team (Batting at least) for some time to build on their moral. I'm certainly not expecting them to do wonders against India. Just hope the selectors see it that way as well.

  • Chatty on July 19, 2017, 0:55 GMT

    I think Asela is a cool customer. I hope he stays that way. That was a brilliant inning from him to hold things together. Mathews used to be a very cool too. But these days, he seems a bit overly defensive. I think he has been scarred by captaining SL. I hope he will recover quickly and get back to his old ways.

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