Pedestrian bowling performance from defending champions India saw them slump to an unexpected seven-wicket defeat against Sri Lanka in a high-scoring ICC Champions Trophy Group B match at the Oval in London, on Thursday.
Riding on Shikhar Dhawan’s 125 and half-centuries from Rohit Sharma and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India piled up a 321 for six only to be stunned by unfancied Lankan batting line-up that produced a splendid batting show to knock off the runs in 48.4 overs.
Danushka Gunathilaka (76 off 72 balls) and Kusal Mendis (89 off 93) added 159 runs to lay the platform before skipper Angelo Mathews (52 no off 44 balls) coolly finished off the job in company of Kusal Janith Perera (47 retired hurt) and Asela Gunaratne (34 not out off 21 balls).
Arguably, the biggest upset of the tournament also threw the group wide open with all four teams -- India, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka in with a chance to qualify.
India must beat South Africa on Sunday in order to qualify for the semi-finals.
For India, the 103 runs conceded by Hardik Pandya (51 off seven overs) and Ravindra Jadeja (52 off seven overs) in combined 13 overs tilted the game decisively in favour of Lankans on what was a batting belter where a target of 322 looked par for the course.
Call it complacency or unable to gauge the strength of unknown entity, the Indian bowling lacked the required discipline as Gunathilaka and Mendis went on the attack in the middle overs.
They were hardly bothered by any bowler during their 159-run stand.
Left-hander Gunathilaka especially was severe first up, hitting seven fours and two sixes. The first one was using Umesh yadav’s extra pace to pull it behind square while the next was another pull in-front of square when Hardik erred in length.
What hurt India during the phase was poor show from Jadeja, whose first six overs cost 52 runs including seven fours and a six.
Mendis was severe on him as he bowled short and also didn’t have any help from pitch made life tougher.
With regular bowlers failing to do the job, captain Kohli brought himself and Kedar Jadhav. And against the run of play, India bagged the wicket of Gunathilaka, who was run-out after a superb innings of 76.
India created further inroads when the other set batsman Mendis was also run-out, courtesy of brilliant pick up and throw off his own bowling by Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
But skipper Mathews and Perera added 75 runs in 10.2 overs to ensure that islanders don’t lose momentum.
However, Perera had to retire suffering cramps with Gunaratne joining his skipper with 51 runs required in a little over seven overs. The youngster then chanced his arms against Bumrah and Yadav to finish the game much to delight of Sri Lankan fans.
Shikhar Dhawan continued his love affair with the ICC Champions Trophy with yet another elegant hundred, guiding India to an imposing 321 for six.
Dhawan smashed his way to 125 off 128 balls, his 10th career ODI hundred, and added 138 for the opening stand with Rohit Sharma, who cruised his way to a languid 78 off 79 balls.
The final flourish was provided by none other than Mahendra Singh Dhoni with a quickfire 63 off 52 balls.
This was Dhawan’s third hundred in the Champions Trophy, having scored a couple during last edition. His entertaining innings comprised 15 fours and a six.
He got an able ally in Dhoni, who got an ideal platform coming in to bat in the 34th over. The fourth wicket stand produced 82 runs in 10.4 overs.
The former captain used all his experience, hitting seven fours and two sixes on way to reaching his 62nd ODI half-century. Kedar Jadhav smashed 25 off 13 balls to score some vital runs at the end.
Angelo Mathews wanted his bowlers to make first use of the wicket but the pace trio of Lasith Malinga (2/70 in 10 overs), Suranga Lakmal (1/72 in 10 overs) and Nuwan Pradeep (1/73 in 10 overs) most of the times bowled short of length only to be pulled time and again by the Indian batsmen.
The best part about Dhawan’s innings was the sheer effortlessness with which he shifted gears. He started on an attacking note only to drop anchor when Rohit upped the ante before another round of attractive strokeplay after the loss of Virat Kohli (0) and Yuvraj Singh (7) in quick succession.
For Rohit, the 91 on comeback against Pakistan had given him enough confidence to caress the very first delivery of the match bowled by Malinga through the covers for a four.
Dhawan in the very next over played an imperious cut shot off Lakmal. He followed it up with a cover drive off Malinga’s bowling but it was a cautious start during those first five overs that yielded 17 runs.
While the runs didn’t come at a quick clip but there was no incisive quality in Lankan attack that could have troubled the openers.
Malinga, who is nearing the end of his ODI career, lacked bite in his bowling. The openers didn’t take chances against the slinger but also weren’t in any kind of trouble.
But the successful pair just upped the ante in the second part of the first Powerplay. In the next five overs, India scored 31 runs.
Their understanding was there to be seen. When Rohit was playing himself in, Dhawan attacked the bowlers but once the Mumbaikar got a hang of the track, the southpaw quietly slipped playing the role of a second fiddle.
Dhawan took the charge in the sixth over hitting Lakmal through covers and then a mistimed pull got him another boundary.
In Lakmal’s next over, Rohit played the first of his effortless pull-shot to get a one bounce four.
By the 10th over, the Lankan bowling started losing its grip and by the 20th over, it lay in complete tatters with Mathews struggling to stop the duo from scoring freely.
The 100 came up in the 20th over – their second century stand in successive matches.
Rohit pulled Thisara Perera over deep square leg boundary to complete his half-century and then celebrated it with another pulled six over fine leg.
Rohit continued to pull as he got his third six – this time off Malinga before perishing trying to hit a fourth one.
His free flowing knock had six boundaries and three sixes. The opening stand produced 138 runs, two more than what the openers scored against Pakistan.