Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara hailed Tillakaratne Dilshan as a “pioneering strokemaker” after the opener batted his side into the World Twenty20 final.
Dilshan's 96 not out was only five fewer than the West Indies managed for the loss of all 10 wickets in yesterday's semi-final at The Oval.
He took only 57 balls over his knock, the highest of the tournament to date, as he led Sri Lanka to 158 for five having been inserted by Chris Gayle.
Three wickets from Angelo Mathews in the first over of the reply, at the cost of a single run, then put the Windies on the road to a crushing defeat.
Muttiah Muralitharan weighed in with three wickets of his own while Ajantha Mendis recorded remarkable figures of 4-0-9-2.
Afterwards Sangakkara was full of praise for Dilshan, saying: “I've run out of superlatives to describe him.
“He's been a pioneering strokemaker in the Twenty20 World Cup and I think the best thing about him for us as a side is over the past year and a half he's understood his role.
“He's become very responsible and very mature and has finally come to understand how just good he is.
“(It was a) fantastic knock, greatly supported by all the other guys around him: Sanath (Jayasuriya) again, a great start; Angelo Mathews, Chamara Silva in the middle and it's a great team effort.”
Sangakkara admitted the conditions had played into his side's hands.
“The ball was not really coming on, probably not a typical Oval wicket,” he said.
“We expected it to be a lot better and come on really well but this was a perfect pitch for us — batting first, putting up a good total and really turning the screws on the West Indies.
“We've got a great bowling attack and all of them are thinking cricketers so hopefully we can go one more step in this tournament.”
West Indies captain Gayle was upbeat despite defeat.
Gayle chose to congratulate his players for reaching the penultimate round — the Windies weren’t expected to be a major force in this competition — rather than dwell too much on their poor performance once they had got there.
“I was really happy with the guys for the performance to reach the semi-final” he said.
“It was just one of those things (last night) — hopefully we can use it for a learning experience and next time around we can actually be strong.
“We didn't start well and with the batting as well, we just couldn't get the runs on the board.
“It didn't happen but like I said, it's just one of those things.”