Make the tournament more interesting Yesterday..

In a result that will only make the tournament more interesting in the days ahead, self-confessed underdog Sri Lanka thumped India by seven wickets after successfully chasing a stiff target of 322 at The Oval on Thursday (June 8).

Victory was made possible by aggressive batting, as promised by captain Angelo Mathews. The personnel who did that were Kusal Mendis (89) and Danushka Gunathilaka (76), who wasn’t even in the squad until an injury to Chamara Kapugedera on the eve of the game.

The pair added 159 in 139 balls for the second wicket to set up the chase before passing on the baton to Mathews (52) and Kusal Perera (47), who took the game away from India with a 75-run stand for the fourth wicket before the latter was forced to retire hurt. Asela Gunaratne then played his part with an unbeaten 34 as Sri Lanka won with eight balls to spare.

The impeccably timed chase meant Shikhar Dhawan’s third century (125) in seven ICC Champions Trophy innings that powered India to 321 for 6 went in vain. It also meant that after two matches each, all the four teams in Group B have one win each, rendering the last two league games virtual quarter-final clashes.

Sri Lanka’s chase started with Niroshan Dickwella misreading a knuckle ball from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and popping a leading edge to point. With Bhuvneshwar and Umesh Yadav finding swing, Sri Lanka managed only 22 runs in the first seven overs.

But it all changed quickly when when Gunathilaka pulled Umesh into the stands at the beginning of the eighth, signalling a shift in fortunes. Gunathilaka took charge with some glorious drives, particularly down the ground, while Mendis too started confidently, shifting the pressure on to India gradually.

India could have had Mendis in the 15th over but Hardik Pandya could not hold on to a sharp return chance. Gunathilaka rubbed salt into Pandya’s wounds by heaving him for a massive six to get to his half-century, in the process taking Sri Lanka to 108 for 1 in 20 overs. It was one run ahead of where India was at the same stage.

But a good beginning is not even a job half done, as Sri Lanka found out the hard way against South Africa. The middle-overs batting was the most crucial phase of the chase, and how Sri Lanka handled Ravindra Jadeja was in particular important, given that it had crumbled against ’s leg-spin.

Mendis took that task upon himself and dismantled the left-arm spinner’s threat with smart batting. With only four fielders allowed inside the ring, Mendis targeted the mid-wicket boundary to perfection, getting past fifty with one such massive swipe into the crowd.

Jadeja conceded 36 from four overs, the partnership crossed 150, and India’s shoulders began to drop. It didn’t help that Rohit Sharma could not hold on to a very tough chance in the deep when Gunathilaka was on 70.

India’s desperation was evident when Kedhar Jadhav and Virat Kohli came on to bowl, but the breakthroughs came via run outs.

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