Champions Trophy 2017 | Mendis, Gunathilaka lead Sri Lanka to an emphatic win over India

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Champions Trophy 2017 | Mendis, Gunathilaka lead Sri Lanka to an emphatic win over India

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SportsCafe Desk

06/08/2017

Sri Lanka showed some wonderful grit to secure a seven-wicket victory over India to keep their Champions Trophy semi-final hopes alive. Earlier, after posting a competitive 321 runs India allowed the Lankan top-order to dictate terms and will, now, need to beat South Africa to ensure qualification.

Brief Scores: India 321/6 (Shikhar Dhawan 125, Rohit Sharma 78; Lasith Malinga 2/70, Asela Gunaratne 1/7) lost to Sri Lanka 322/3 (Kusal Mendis 89, Danushka Gunathilaka 76; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 1/54) by 7 wickets. 

In what was a do-or-die game for Sri Lanka, Angelo Mathews won the toss and decided to let India make the first use of the green-tinged strip on a cloudy day in London. While Virat Kohli didn’t make any changes to the team that thrashed Pakistan by 124 runs, the Island nation had to make three changes - more out of compulsion than choice.    

Rohit, Dhawan give India a solid start, yet again

Indian openers, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, started the innings at a normal pace without going berserk right from the outset - a trait that has become regular in Indian batting recently, After setting the base, they capitalized to milk runs at will with even Sri Lankan seamers, Lasith Malinga and Suranga Lakmal, struggling to restrict the batsmen - Lakmal’s shorter deliveries allowed Dhawan to cut and pull easily to keep his love affair with the Champions Trophy going and the team’s lethargic fielding didn’t help their cause at all. Rohit pulled Thisara Perera for two sixes in the 20th over to go past his third consecutive half-century in One-day Internationals. But in the 25th over, after hitting a Malinga short ball for a six to long-leg, he perished to the mood on a similar type of delivery, scoring 78 off 79 deliveries. By the time of his dismissal, India, though, were in a good position with 138 runs on the board.

Dhoni mayhem helps India post a competitive 321

After Rohit’s dismissal, Virat Kohli edged a Nuwan Pradeep delivery in the next over to the wicketkeeper without troubling the scorers. From 138/0, India suddenly slipped to 139 for 2, but Dhawan wrested the momentum back in India’s favour once again by hitting five boundaries over the next three overs. But with Yuvraj playing slowly, India failed to muster enough steam after that but started to blossom once again after MS Dhoni arrived at the crease. Although Mathews tried to tie down one of their biggest tormentors in last decade by bringing six fielders inside the ring, Dhoni, intelligently, slashed Lakmal for a six over point to get off the mark. Meanwhile, Dhawan, batting with calculated aggression, went past his century by cutting Pradeep to the deep point boundary and went on to score 125 runs off 128 balls. Dhoni also unfurled his booming strokes and helped along by some juicy full tosses from Sri Lankan pacers to complete his half-century in the 48th over. Dhoni holed out to long-off in the final over, but pinch-hitter Kedar Jadhav, who slammed 25 off 13 deliveries, made sure that India had a comfortable 321 runs on the board.

Gunathilaka, Mendis give Sri Lanka edge

India seemed to come out with a definite plan of bowling straight, and not giving any room to the Sri Lankan openers to free their arms as the Lankans could manage only 11 runs in the first four overs. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was rewarded for the pressure that had been created, by deceiving the struggling Niroshan Dickwella off a knuckleball. Sri Lanka, however, were not ready to go out without a fight as Kusal Mendis and Gunathilaka showed that on a true wicket, scores around 320 were not going to be a huge challenge. Needing to score more than six an over, the pair ensured that the Island nation were always in the chase. The duo was hardly in any trouble and kept up with the required run-rate without having to take too many risks as the team completed 50 runs in the 11th over and 100 in the 20th. Meanwhile, both of them completed their respective half-centuries as well and found them at a more-than-comfortable position of 143/1 at the midway point of the chase.

Perera, Gunaratne ensure a comfortable win for Sri Lanka

It made one wonder where the next wicket would come from, but against the run of play, Sri Lanka lost two wickets quickly. It took a fantastic effort on the field from Yadav and Dhoni to send Gunathilaka back to the hut for 76. Bhuvneshwar, then, sent another big fish Mendis packing with an immaculate throw while following up on his own bowling. Kusal Perera partnering Angelo Mathews rebuilt the innings and disturbed the Indian bowlers’ lines by making room and finding boundaries on either side of the pitch. But India sensed an opening of luck when Perera had to retire hurt after suffering cramps, but the incoming Asela Gunaratne pulled Yadav over backward square leg on the fourth ball he faced to make his intent clear. His blazing cameo of 21-ball-34 and Mathews’ measured half-century propelled Sri Lanka to win the historic 150th encounter between the two sub-continental nations. With the victory, Sri Lanka have kept their semi-finals hopes alive, and now both the league games in the group have become virtual quarter finals for the teams with the winners assured a direct entry into the last four of the competition.

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