GALLE - Tillekaratne Dilshan vows to replicate the deeds of unconventional opening batsmen Chris Gayle and Virender Sehwag in New Zealand last summer when Sri Lanka start their quest for back-to-back test cricket series victories tomorrow.

The languid West Indian captain and fearless Indian slugger successfully took the gloss of the new ball during boundary-laden campaigns either side of Christmas.

And should leaden skies lift and whipping rain subside to enable play at Galle International Stadium, New Zealand's seam bowlers risk another battering in the first test here because Dilshan has bullishly proclaimed a new found responsibility at the top of the order will not curb his aggressive streak.

Dilshan has been an international cricketer for a decade but only recently has the 32-year-old become indispensable to the Sri Lankan selectors in all forms of the game.

Ditched after a poor test series against England in 2001, he was on the outer for two seasons; and as recently as last year he was culled from the limited overs unit only to return with a vengeance, particularly at June's Twenty20 world championship in England.

Dilshan's savage hitting and audacious innovation - he happily risked injury when bowing to execute ramp shots over his head - propelled Sri Lanka to the final.

Pakistan might have emerged victorious at Lord's but Dilshan scooped the player of the tournament accolade by averaging better than 50 at a rocket-fuelled strike rate of 144.

Dilshan has played just two of his 55 tests against New Zealand; four years ago he had a modest three innings aggregate of 110 at 36.66.

But the right-hander is a far more formidable opponent these days, as evidenced by his latest encounters with the tourists.

His almost pedestrian 48 from 37 balls helped eliminate New Zealand from the world Twenty20, and last week he con firmed his rehabilitation from a finger injury by clouting an ominous 68 for a Sri Lankan Development 11.

The simplicity of Dilshan's dissection of New Zealand's test-strength attack convinced captain Kumar Sangakkara and coach Trevor Bayliss to shunt him higher than No 4 for the first time in an 86-innings test career that has yielded 3166 runs at 41.11.

In last month's successful test series against Pakistan Dilshan batted as low as eight and underscored his adaptability by also keeping wicket.

Now first-choice gloveman Prasanna Jayawardene has been also been passed fit after his own finger injury Dilshan is expected to squeeze out Malinda Warnapura.

The prospect of opening does not faze the self assured Dilshan, who makes no differentiation between test and limited overs cricket.

"If the ball is in the right area to hit I will go for the shot straight away," he said.

"I'm not worried that I'm playing a test ... I play in a positive way and try to score off every ball.

"Why would I change my gameplan and not play to my strengths? I won't be thinking whether it's one-day or test cricket and whether it's the first ball, it doesn't matter to me."

Offspinner Jeetan Patel, who ended Dilshan's whirlwind 60-ball knock at Nondescripts Cricket Club last Thursday, admitted New Zealand's strategies required revising after he was initially offered far too much width and short deliveries by the quicks and Jacob Oram.

"We always knew he was going to be aggressive ... and we had plans against him that we probably didn't implement as well as we could have," Patel said.

Meanwhile, New Zealand captain and senior slow bowler Daniel Vettori will not exactly be complaining if Dilshan plays to form in New Zealand next summer as they will be teammates at Northern Districts.

Northern Districts secured Dilshan's signature last month for the domestic Twenty20 competition, in Vettori's view a coup for his province and an encouraging sign for the sport's national profile.

"For ND to get a player of that calibre is really exciting," he said.

"Hopefully it's the start of something for NZ cricket. If provinces can pick up players of that quality New Zealand can be seen as an attractive destination for world class players.

"Once you get that, you'll get the crowds back to games."

- NZPA