Team India met their Asian neighbours Sri Lanka in their last group stage match at Headingley in Leeds. Four teams, including India, had already progressed to the semi-finals of the present edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup before the clash between the two teams.
Sri Lanka had no chance of qualifying. Still, this was a match both teams wanted to win. India would have liked to maintain their good form before the semis. Sri Lanka sought their fourth win, their exit irrespective of the verdict notwithstanding.
India won by seven wickets with ease. Chasing Sri Lankan’s score of 264/7, the Indian top-order got their runs at a merry pace to overtake the target with 39 balls remaining. Every bowler struggled to make an impact on Indian batsmen, including their battle-scarred veteran Lasith Malinga who was completely off-colour and rarely produced the yorker.
As India went past their target, Rohit Sharma (94-ball 103) became the first batsman to score five centuries in a single edition of the World Cup. The prolific batsman shared a 189-run opening partnership with the other centurion KL Rahul, (118-ball 111) who was as resolute as ever. Sharma’s form has been nothing short of extraordinary. Team India must be hoping that the law of averages doesn’t impact his performance in the upcoming phase of the tournament.
Rahul was also impressive, peppering both sides of the wicket with delightful boundaries and picking up singles and twos to keep the scoreboard moving. Rishabh Pant (4-ball 4) didn’t stay on the pitch for long, but Virat Kohli (41-ball 34) and Hardik Pandya (4-ball 7) took the team past the finishing line without any further setback.
Earlier in the day, Sri Lanka faltered badly in the initial stages, losing their first four wickets with the score at 55 in the 12th over. Jasprit Bumrah was unplayable on occasions and picked up two of the first four wickets. Safe as ever behind the stumps, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had a role to play in all the four dismissals, taking three catches and stumping Kusal Mendis.
Everything wasn’t over for Sri Lanka though. Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne came to the rescue, sharing a 124-run fifth-wicket partnership. By the time Thirimanne was dismissed after scoring a 68-ball 53 with the score reading 179 in the 38th over, Sri Lanka found themselves on the road to recovery.
Mathews faced 128 balls for his 113, a responsible innings that played a big role in taking Sri Lanka’s total to 264/7. For India, Bumrah was the star of the day, bowling a near-immaculate line and length to finish with 3/37. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar (1/73) bowled too many loose deliveries in his spell, which would have disappointed him thoroughly.
Ravindra Jadeja (1/40), who made it to the playing eleven, was accurate and difficult to score off for the most part. Hardik Pandya (1/50) did not leak too many runs either, while Kuldeep Yadav (1/58) was ordinary without going for plenty. Indian bowlers managed to restrict Sri Lanka to a moderate score, which, thanks to the spectacular opening partnership of Sharma and Rahul, was easy to surpass.
India’s emphatic win against Sri Lanka will ensure that the players are in the right frame of mind before the semi-finals. Most batsmen weren’t tested, but the Men in Blue would enjoy the fact that they won the match with ease.
Everybody appears to agree that India are a firm favourite to win the World Cup. The tournament has progressed to the semi-finals stage, which is just one step away from the big match that will decide the winner.
What now? Let’s wait and see.