After having beaten the arch-rivals, Pakistan, in their first encounter of the ongoing Champions’ Trophy 2017, the game against Sri Lanka was a ‘must win’ game for Team India so that they could have an easy access to the semi-final stage.
Put into bat, India started off very well with their openers, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, putting together a partnership of 138 runs in 24.5 overs and were cruising well.
Rohit, after scoring 78 runs off 79 balls, with 6 fours and 3 sixes, fell to Lasith Malinga, offering a catch to Thisara Perera.
Indian skipper, Virat Kohli (0) and the veteran of many battles, Yuvraj Singh (7) did not do much to bother the Sri Lankans or the scorers.
The former skipper and wicket-keeper, MS Dhoni joined Dhawan in the middle and the duo went on plundering runs against every Lankan bowler. The pair added 82 runs in 10.4 overs.
Vintage Dhoni was on display as he exhibited his shot variety, dispatching the Kookaburra to every nook and corner of Kennington Oval.
Shikhar, who was also scoring freely, notched up his ton, facing 112 balls with 3 hits to the fence. He eventually got out, trying to force a Malinga delivery out of the ground, faltered in the distance and ended up giving a simple catch to Kusal Mendis in the deep, but not before putting up 125 runs off 128 balls with 15 fours and a six, against his name.
Dhoni scored 63 runs off 52 balls with 7 fours and 2 sixes, while Kedar Jadhav played a cameo, adding 25* runs off just 13 balls with 3 fours and a six, as the duo ensured that the team ended their innings at 321 runs for the loss 6 wickets in 50 overs.
Chasing 322 for a win was not an easy affair, given the brittle Lankan batting line up.
However, the batsmen rose to the occasion and displayed a lot of character in the chase. While any other team might have succumbed to the pressure of having to chase a huge target, the Lankans planned and paced their innings with a lot of alacrity.
Losing Niroshen Dickwella (7) very early on in the innings, Dhanushka Gunathilaka (76) and Kusal Mendis (89) took it on them to steady the innings. They were greatly successful in their efforts as they stayed together till Lanka reached 170 runs in 27.5 overs.
Two avoidable run-outs saw the pair exit one after the other but not before putting their team in a very comfortable position of 196 runs for the loss of 3 wickets in 32.4 overs.
Kohli tried as many as seven bowlers (including himself) but none could break the confidence of the batsmen from the Emerald Isle. It appeared as if they were on a mission and the target was not a difficult one.
Thisara Perera (47) and skipper Mathews (52*) later on added another 75 runs before Perera had to ‘retire hurt’ with a hamstring injury.
Notching up 34* runs off 21 balls with 2 fours and 2 sixes, Asela Gunaratne, stayed put with his skipper to reach the target of 322 runs for the loss of 3 wickets in the 50th over.
Sri Lanka won the match by 7 wickets with 8 balls to spare.
Indian bowlers (four regular pacers) and a spinner had nothing to take from the pitch and they all went for over 6 runs an over. Even the part-timers, Kedar Jadhav and Virat Kohli could not make any impact.
Possibly the team’s think-tank got it all wrong, leaving out the only specialist spinner in the team, Ravichandran Ashwin, to ‘warm the bench’ instead of being in the ‘thick of action’.
Now Team India will have to win their final clash against the world’s No 1 ODI team, South Africa. Only a win will take them into the semi-final stage, else they would have to return home ‘empty handed.’