Captain predicts youngster will be next Sri Lankan to 10,000 runs

Sanga, Dilshan and Marsh overawed with what Chandimal offers


Rex Clementine
reporting from Cape Town

Two days after Sri Lanka’s historic triumph in the second Test in Durban, the national cricket team was overjoyed with what young Dinesh Chandimal could bring into the team. The 22-year-old wicket-keeper batsman, who replaced Kaushal Silva in the side, slammed two half-centuries and was a key contributor to Sri Lanka’s success in winning their first-ever Test Match in South Africa.

There’s never been a doubt on Chandimal’s talent since the time he made headlines at school cricket. His Lord’s hundred in an ODI against England earlier this year was further proof as to what he had to offer, but when Sri Lanka arrived in South Africa, it was hard to think that he would make his Test debut as a wicket-keeper batsman. The selectors took the gamble and must be given the credit for the bold decision.

"Chandimal had been a fantastic. There were two 100 plus partnerships he was involved in both innings and that was crucial. In the first innings when he arrived at the wicket he took the pressure off from Thilan by playing a few shots," captain Tillakaratne Dilshan told journalists.

In the first inning Chandimal arrived with the total on 162 for five with South Africa ahead after Sri Lanka had elected to bat first. Given Sri Lanka’s collapse in the first innings at Centurion from a similar position, the Proteas were fancying their chances, but a 111-run stand between Chandimal and Samaraweera changed the complexion of the game.

Then on day three, under overcast conditions he arrived with Sri Lanka enjoying a lead just over 300 and together with Kumar Sangakkara put the game beyond the Proteas’ reach with a 104-run stand for the sixth wicket.

"He is one of the fine youngsters we have found. It’s been a fantastic debut for him. Not just his batting, but keeping as well. He kept the bowlers going from behind the stumps and I am sure he will be a big star in future. Once I retire I am glad that I can watch talents like Chandimal doing well for the country. I can tell you today that he will be the next Sri Lankan batsman to score 10,000 Test runs," Dilshan added.

Even coach Geoff Marsh was excited with what Chandimal had to offer the team. "He has worked very hard and we have Dilshan at top of the order who plays his shots and we feel that we should have someone at number seven who will give us that edge. He is only a young boy and we hope that this will be the start of a good career. He has all the shots and doesn’t mind playing those shots," Marsh said on day-one of the Test.

Sangakkara speaking to journalists after his hundred also looked Chandimal fan. "The way he batted in the first innings was really good for a guy on debut. Replacing a good wicket-keeper like Kaushal Silva, he has shown that he is strong both mentally and physically and the way he batted shows that he is not overawed for a by the South African attack."

Chandimal didn’t concede a bye in the first innings and was decisive in his calls to the captain when to review a decision like when an appeal to Jacques Kallis was ruled not out and every time he was proved right.

"He will come and give you the odd idea saying we could try this or that. Then while batting he will go and speak to even the senior partners when they play and miss. He is learning fast and that’s the most important thing. He is one of the best youngsters to come through," Dilshan, who has promoted the cause of more than just one young player added.

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