Lanka pull off massive upset

Lanka pull off massive upset

A day after Pakistan stunned South Africa, underdogs Sri Lanka shocked defending champions and favourites India in a sensational high-scoring Champions Trophy encounter here on Thursday to throw Group ‘B’ wide open.

The Indians look set for another routine win after amassing 321/6, thanks to a well-crafted century from Shikhar Dhawan 125 (128b, 15x4, 1x6), but the bowlers misfired miserably as Virat Kohli’s men suffered a seven-wicket defeat at The Oval.

The moment Indians posted a huge total and even scalped the wicket of Niroshan Dickwella in the fifth over, they looked well in control. But things changed on its head as Danushka Gunathilaka (76, 72b, 7x4, 2x6) and Kusal Mendis (89, 93b, 11x4, 1x6) staged a spectacular counter-attack for the second wicket that set the foundation for the Lankans.

The duo, who looked tentative at the start, quickly chose to go all-out, playing some outrageous shots to leave the Indians dazed. Showing no fear, they attacked everyone, reserving special treatment for Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja.

Cutting, pulling, playing lofted shots down the wicket and even picking which ones to attack vigorously, their calculated assault had skipper Kohli scratching his head and even seek help from his predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Sceptical of bringing in his ace bowlers amidst the carnage, Kohli summoned himself and Kedar Jadhav in hope of creating a miracle. Under the gun until then, luck did shine their way when a suicidal call for two runs resulted in the dismissal of Gunathilaka.

The end of that fascinating 159-run association between Gunathilaka and another run out of Mendis 26 runs later injected fresh life into the Indians, who sensed a turnaround. However, skipper Angelo Mathews (52 n.o., 45b, 6x4) and the dangerous Asela Gunaratne (34 n.o., 21b, 2x4, 2x6), coming on after Kusal Perera hobbled off injured, ensured there were no further damage as Sri Lanka crossed the line safe. The defeat has now left all four teams in the group on two points and the final round-robin game will act as virtual quarterfinal.

Earlier, Dhawan oozed class in scoring his 10th ODI century — third in Champions Trophy and fifth in ICC ODI events — while Dhoni typically stole the show with a belligerent 63 (52b, 7x4, 2x6) as India bossed the Lankan bowling. India's approach to their batting was exactly the same as it was against Pakistan on Sunday. Openers Dhawan and Rohit Sharma bided their time at the start, hardly going for anything extravagant but just happy to knock around for ones and pick up the odd boundary.

Although opening pacers Lasith Malinga and Suranga Lakmal were hardly threatening, Rohit and Dhawan chose to operate in second gear, focussed more on the bigger goal rather than immediate gains. Their agenda was to lay a strong foundation for the middle-order rather then risk losing their wickets in trying to attack.

They slowly started to open their shoulders after the 10th over as runs started to come at a faster clip. Dhawan played the aggressor first while Rohit, playing anchor initially, then started to open his shoulders too. Together they dominated the Lankan attack that seemed completely clueless despite overcast conditions that aided swing bowling.

Seeing the game slip away from his hands, skipper Mathews brought back his lead pacer Malinga and first change pacer Nuwan Pradeep and the duo got their side back into the game with a wicket each. While Malinga dismissed Rohit, Pradeep accounted for Kohli.

Despite the two dismissals, the Indian middle-order proved too strong and went on post a big target. The Lankans, given hardly a chance, surmounted it to haul themselves back into the tournament and leave India’s hopes hanging in the balance.

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