Sri Lanka have pulled off a stunning run chase to upset defending champions India by seven wickets and force the two remaining Group B matches into virtual quarter-finals. Set 322 to win after Shikhar Dhawan blazed a brilliant century, Sri Lanka – through significant contributions from their middle-order – reached the victory target and their equal-highest ODI pursuit ever with eight balls to spare. The win means all four teams in Group B have one win and one loss next to their name following Pakistan’s upset win over South Africa yesterday in Birmingham.
Sunday will see reigning champions India and world No.1 South Africa square off at The Oval while on Monday Sri Lanka and Pakistan will do battle in Cardiff, with the winners advancing to the semi-finals and the losers eliminated. The run chase was set up by a 159-tun second-wicket stand between Danushka Gunathilaka (76) and Kusal Mendis (89) before returning captain Angelo Mathews (52no) and Asela Gunaratne (34no) iced the game. Mathews won the toss and sent India in under gloomy London skies, but as it has refused to do all tournament, the white Kookaburra ball didn’t swing for Sri Lanka’s new ball bowlers. Taking full advantage of the lack of shape in the air, Dhawan and Rohit Sharma picked up where they left off against Pakistan and found the boundary at will. The pair brought up their 10th century opening stand in ODIs and their fourth in Champions Trophies to extend their lead as the most prolific first-wicket combination in the tournament’s history. Rohit was the aggressor and the first to go having survived a dropped catch that fell over the rope to bring up his half-century. On 78, and after top-edging Lastith Malinga for six the ball before, Rohit’s luck ran out when he skied a catch to the fine-leg fielder and end his partnership with Dhawan on 138 in the 25th over. Six balls later India’s first-drop and captain Virat Kohli was back in the dressing room sitting next to Rohit after edging Nuwan Pradeep behind looking to get off the mark with a dab to third man for one.
Unfazed, Dhawan marched towards his 10th ODI century, reaching the milestone in the 40th over and the 77th innings of his career, three knocks faster than India’s 50-over benchmark Kohli. The swashbuckling left-hander left the field dismissed on 125 in the 45th to a standing ovation from the healthy Indian supporter base at The Oval, who still had one champion to cheer on. MS Dhoni was busy during his 52-ball stay at the crease, scampering hard between the wickets and finding the rope – either on the bounce or over it – seven times before he was dismissed for 63 in the final over. Kedar Jadav added the finishing touches with 14 runs after Dhoni’s departure to lift India to 6-321 and the highest score of the tournament to date. In reply, Sri Lanka lost Niroshan Dickwella early to bring Gunathilaka and Mendis together in the fifth over. The dynamic pair batted 23 overs and put on 159 for the second wicket, a partnership that looked untroubled by India’s diverse bowling attack. Seemingly out of ideas, captain Kohli turned to himself to try and conjure a wicket, and it worked to some degree. While Kohli didn’t strike with the ball, his over did produce a wicket when a risky two proved fatal – Gunathilaka run out as Dhoni whipped off the bails in a flash. A run out was the only plausible mode of dismissal on a fine batting track and sure enough it took another brilliant piece of fielding to remove a Sri Lankan from the middle. Gathering the ball in his follow through, Bhuvneshwar Kumar fired down the stumps at the striker’s end to catch Mendis desperately short of his ground and 11 runs shy of a classy century. At 3-196 in the 33rd over the match was up for grabs, but a 61-ball 75-run stand between Kusal Perera and Mathews dramatically swung the match back towards the Sri Lankans. Perera played magnificently for 47 before he was forced to leave the field – not from being dismissed but retired hurt with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. His replacement, Gunaratne, shrugged off a shaky start to poleaxe India’s death bowlers with a rapid cameo that sealed the upset win. One audacious sweep shot, which was described by former England captain Mike Atherton as “unbelievable” on commentary, sailed over the leg-side boundary for a huge six off the bowling of paceman Jasprit Bumrah. Mathews calmly reached his half-century, albeit hobbling in the closing stages, and the victory target to set up two mouth-watering clashes and keep his side’s Champions Trophy hopes alive.
Sri Lanka stun India to leave group wide open.
Sri Lanka stun India to leave group wide open.