Oldies continue to be goodies
Stalwarts Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara underlined the huge loss of batting talent Sri Lanka cricket must eventually face when the pair struck match-winning centuries to sink Bangladesh at the World Cup yesterday.
The evergreen batsmen, a collective 75 years in age, teamed up for a majestic unbeaten stand of 210 runs to set up an emphatic 92-run victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, boosting Sri Lanka's hopes of making the quarter-finals after a stuttering start to their campaign.
Man-of-the-match Dilshan hopes to play on for a couple more years, which would see him padding up in his 40s, but 37-year-old Sangakkara, who played his 400th ODI match against Bangladesh, has declared he will quit the format after the tournament.
The World Cup will also be former captain Mahela Jayawardene's last hurrah in all formats.
That the three veterans are the only Sri Lankans to score centuries at this World Cup - and be the difference in each of the team's wins over Afghanistan and Bangladesh - is not only a testament to their enduring class but also a worry for skipper Angelo Mathews.
Succession plans may have been in place for years but ready replacements are few and far between.
Of the batsmen in "generation next", opener Lahiru Thirimanne has shown the grit needed against the world's best attacks, but Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne remain raw talents and Sri Lanka's staff will pray the pair can blossom quickly to fill the void.
"No doubt two great players are retiring after this World Cup," Dilshan told reporters after smashing 161 off 146 balls, Sri Lanka's highest score at a World Cup.
"It will be a big loss for Sri Lanka, but I know they can help the youngsters to come through, and share their experience."
Dilshan and Sangakkara, who blasted 105 from 76 balls, have long tormented Bangladesh's bowlers and added 115 runs from the last 10 overs to drive Sri Lanka to a virtually unassailable 332-1 as their opponents had a miserable afternoon in the field.
The pair later combined to dismiss Bangladesh captain Mushrafe Mortaza, with wicketkeeper Sangakkara stumping the tailender after he charged down the wicket at part-time spinner Dilshan.
- Wire Services.
- Brief scores: Sri Lanka 332-1 in 50 overs (L Thirimanne 52, T Dilshan 161 n.o., K Sangakkara 105 n.o.). Bangladesh 240 all out in 47 overs (S Al Hasan 46, M Rahim 36, S Rahman 53; L Malinga 35-3). Sri Lanka win by 92 runs.