We predicted an easy win for India in our match preview of their match against Sri Lanka, but like so many people, we got this one wrong. Sri Lanka shocked everyone by chasing a high score of 321 for 6 set by India in only 48 overs, losing just 3 wickets in the process. This should go down as one of the most remarkable wins by Sri Lanka in a long, long time.
What’s exciting about this win was that it was achieved by young batsmen, Kusal Mendis, who hit a brilliant 89, and Danushka Gunathilaka, called for this match, who played a smart innings of 76 off 72 balls. Kusal Perera took the game away from the Indians in the middle overs, before veteran Angelo Mathews saw off the saw the chase with help from young Asela Gunaratne.
Sri Lanka were do dominant that they lost only three wickets, and of the three wickets that were lost, 2 were run outs. The much vaunted Indian bowling was brutally exposed. Indian bowlers looked completely ineffective and none of the fast bowlers could make an impact. Ravindra Jadeja looked pedestrian.
Earlier, Indians did well with Shikhar Dhawan making a fine 125 and Rohit Sharma a breezy 78. MS Dhoni came to the party smashing 63 off 52 balls. But really, the Indians never looked like they were in a hurry and probably were 30 runs short. Their batsmen took it easy at different stages in the match instead of pushing on. This could have cost them the win, more than the bowling itself.
Speaking to the media, captain Virat Kohli admitted that they could have done better. He said, “I think batting did really well. We obviously have to consolidate and then explode in the end, and that’s the way we always play. We don’t – we are not a side that always plays explosive cricket throughout the 50 overs, but if a side comes out here and plays cricket with that kind of mindset and executes their shots so well, then you have to take your hat off sometimes and say very well played.”
“I thought we paced it well. I thought we had enough on the board. In hindsight, when you look back, maybe you think of phases that we could have accelerated, but I don’t see that as a major issue. Maybe we will have to push harder now in the next few games to give us a 20-run cushion. Maybe after seeing a result like this, because we’re playing on the same ground as well,” Kohli added.
Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews looked pleased as a punch at the official press conference after the match. He said, It was a very important game for us. You know, no one really expected us to win. That took a lot of pressure off ourselves, and we just went out there, expressed ourselves and you can see what we can do when we play with a lot of freedom.”
Mathews thanked his supporters profusely: “They come wherever we play. The Sri Lankan people like to have fun. It was very pleasing for us to give them a win because we had some terrible times in the recent past, especially with losing a lot of lives for floods, and we are very grateful that we could give them a smile.”
Now India and Sri Lanka both face must-win clashes against South Africa and Pakistan respectively. The teams that win those matches get through to the semi-finals. It’s do or die now for the Indians.