Sri Lanka entered the ICC Champions Trophy as a side that relies heavily on its batting. They showed glimpses of their batting potential against South Africa but lost wickets in a bunch and suffered a heavy defeat. On an overcast Thursday at the Oval, the plucky Islanders showed their patience and flair to cause an upset against one of the tournament favourites.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan once again compiled a great opening stand for India. They blunted away any threat against seamers on an overcast morning and punished Sri Lankan pacers whenever they were presented with any width outside the off stump.
Rohit once again got out just when he was looking to cut loose hitting one straight down the throat of Thisara Perera at deep fine leg. That was just the boost Sri Lanka needed to come back into the game. Their bowlers dried the singles for the new men at the crease. The next 9 overs after Rohit’s dismissal brought just 41 runs and 2 wickets. Sri Lanka also managed to squeeze out all overs from their part-timers during this period without giving away much.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav finished well but Sri Lanka went into the innings break knowing they aren’t out of the game with a target of 322. The pitch already looked like a batting paradise and Sri Lanka had batting power and batting depth to overhaul this total.
India’s lively pace and tight lines in the opening burst with the new ball didn’t allow Niroshan Dickwella to get away and he ended up skying a Bhuvneshwar Kumar knuckleball to Ravindra Jadeja. Danushka Gunathilaka meanwhile looked in great touch as a drove and pulled the Indian seamers with aplomb. Kusal Mendis took his time in the beginning but opened his shoulders against Jadeja hitting him for a six and two boundaries in one over.
Sri Lanka calculated this brilliantly. They weren’t going out trying to blast away half of the runs required in the first power play itself. They knew that India’s weak link is their fourth and fifth bowler. Jadeja and Pandya were never allowed to settle and eventually knocked out of the attack. When Kohli was forced to use Jadhav and himself, Sri Lanka could sense they had India on the mat.
Both Gunathilaka and Mendis missed out on their hundreds getting run out in quick succession. Even though the platform was set for a comfortable chase, Sri Lanka knew India has a lot of fighters in their ranks and another batsman will have to step up and guide them through to the end. Enter captain courageous.
Angelo Matthews brought a sense of calm to the proceedings for Sri Lanka. He has been in similar situations before. He has the game to take the chase deep and the power to punish anything loose.
At the other end, Perera and Gunaratne were giving great support to their captain. Gunaratne, in particular, was audacious right from ball one. The six he hit against Bumrah going down on one knee and swatting the ball over fine leg was one of the shots of the tournament.
This was a must win game for Sri Lanka to stay in the competition and they batted like they had nothing to lose. Going into pressure games with the underdog tag isn’t the worst situation for a team. India, on the other hand, looked a bit rattled when their bowlers were put under pressure.
Angelo Matthews said in his post-match interview that he thought 321 is a very chasable target. The statements show the confidence he had in his batting line-up and the pitch. The result also sets up the tournament beautifully. Group B is now open with all the possibilities and other teams in the competition will take notice of the ease with which Sri Lanka chased down 321 and will reassess their par scores for these pitches.
For Sri Lanka, a win like this against their neighbours could be the launching pad for greater achievements. This team has gone through a long restructuring phase after the retirement of stalwarts like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena.
Mendis was already a rage in Sri Lanka after scoring a memorable test hundred against Australia but doing it in an ICC tournament will make the world stand up and take notice. The game against Pakistan promises to be a mouth-watering contest now. It will be underdog vs underdog in the winner-takes-all contest with both the teams carrying the confidence of beating a top dog in the group.
Updated Date: Jun 09, 2017 16:40 PM