India crushed Sri Lanka by 7 wickets, moving to the top of the table in the process. Sri Lanka won the toss and opted to bat on a slow Headingly pitch. Sri Lanka were in trouble at 55-4. Jasprit Bumrah got the early wicket of Lankan skipper Karunaratne, to a cut which he edged to a diving Dhoni. Kusal Perera was next to fall, Bumrah angled one into Kusal Perera’s body. Dhoni dived to his right and held on to an inside edge. Avishka Fernando, last match’s centurion survived and LBW scare and got the decision overturned. India brought Jadeja, who beat Kusal Mendis with turn and handed Dhoni an easy stumping.
Hardik Pandya continued his good wicket-taking form, a slower ball bouncer catching Avishka Fernando by surprise. Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne steadied the innings with a 124 run partnership. The duo looked comfortable against the spin and rotated the strike easily, without taking any risks. Both the batsmen brought up their fifties and just when they were looking to up the ante, Kuldeep Yadav got the breakthrough, getting Thirimanne’s wicket. Mathews soldiered on and brought up his third ODI century but India finished strongly.
KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma got off to a flier, bringing up yet another huge partnership. Rohit Sharma was the aggressor once again, manipulating the field and stroking his way to a brilliant hundred, his fifth century of this World Cup. KL Rahul looked in good touch throughout, driving and pulling comfortably. Rohit could not stay till the end, mistiming a slower ball. KL Rahul reached a well deserved century. Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya finished things off in style as India romped to victory.
The Indian bowlers were on the money once again, not providing any width whatsoever to the Lankan batsmen. Bumrah managed to get some seam movement, which accounted for early wickets. Bhuvneshwar Kumar lacked the initial control which Shami possesses, raising questions about whether his injury is still a concern. India used spin early yet again, Jadeja getting instant turn and troubling the batsmen. Thirimanne and Mathews handled the pressure of early wickets well as they played the spinners out with ease.
Sri Lanka failed to use the slowness of the pitch to their advantage. Malinga, playing his last World cup game, did not start off well. The Indian openers played their strokes and Sri Lanka’s field placements was questionable at times. The Lankan pacers erred in their length as they continued looking for swing by bowling full, even where there was nothing on offer. Dhananjaya De Silva’s spin was ineffective as they bowled too short, allowing Rohit and Rahul too much time to pick their shots.
India finished the group stages on top and are firing as a unit. KL Rahul’s timely return to form ahead of the Semi-finals shows good signs for India.
India face New Zealand in the first semi-final at Old Trafford, their favourite hunting ground.
Sri Lanka will take pride from the way the bounced back from a bad start and finished well.
Also published on Medium.