The Champions Trophy took another twist as unfancied Sri Lanka swatted aside the holders India on a dramatic day in south London. Less than 24 hours after Pakistan had stunned South Africa at Edgbaston, the Sri Lankans
knocked off an imposing target of 322 with seven wickets and eight balls to spare to throw Group B wide open.
And it left a crestfallen Indian captain Virat Kohli – who had fallen for a five-ball duck – to admit: ‘We’re not invincible.’ Defeat by South Africa on Sunday and they will be out. Only once before, at Headingley in 2006, had Sri Lanka pulled off a higher one-day chase.
That, though, was against a shambolic England team still clueless about the demands of modern one-day cricket. This was against one of the savviest 50-over sides in the world game, in front of a crowd of over 22,000 dominated by Indian fans, and with the memory of their collapse against South Africa at the same venue still fresh.
Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews compared the raucous atmosphere to a World Cup final, adding: ‘No one really expected us to win. That took a lot of pressure off us. It doesn’t matter if the opposition respects us or not. We knew underneath we had the talent to beat a fantastic team like India.’
To the delight of the ICC, the upset leaves Group B exquisitely poised, with the final two matches now in effect quarter-finals. If Sri Lanka bat like they did here, they will have every chance of beating Pakistan at Cardiff on Monday, with a semi-final against England in the Welsh capital two days later the likeliest outcome.
Their apparently futile pursuit was based around an audacious second-wicket stand of 159 in just 23 overs between Danushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis, following the early loss of Niroshan Dickwella.
Then, after both men were run out in quick succession by electric Indian fielding, Kusal Perera and Mathews – who had missed the South Africa game with a calf niggle – put on 75, placing valour before caution and hitting India’s seamers off their lengths.
Even the normally accurate left-arm spin of Ravindra Jadeja was hit for 52 from six overs as Kohli searched in vain for a breakthrough – and the Sri Lankan papare band in the OCS Stand turned up the volume.
Perera was forced to retire hurt on 47 with hamstring trouble, but Mathews completed a classy 44-ball half-century, and Asela Gunaratne deposited Jasprit Bumrah towards the gas holders over fine leg. The job was completed with something close to disdain.
Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan’s 125 off 128 balls had appeared to give India room to breathe as they racked up 321 for six – at that stage the tournament’s highest total. But the pitch was firm, the outfield fast, and Sri Lanka – dogged by rumours about board interference in their selection policy – found the will to upset the odds.
‘I thought we had enough on the board at halfway,’ said Kohli. So did almost everyone at The Oval. After a slow start, this tournament is alive and kicking. (MailOnline)
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