LONDON, June 9: Unheralded Sri Lanka sprung the highest successful run chase in Champions Trophy history by stunning India by seven wickets at The Oval on Thursday.
Defending champion India made an imposing 321-6, the fourth highest total in Trophy history, but Sri Lanka, without two of its best batsmen, trumped that with 322-3 with eight balls to spare.
Sri Lanka didn't do it without drama under leaden skies. Danushka Gunathilaka, who joined the team the day before as an injury replacement, and Kusal Mendis were run out for 76 and 89 respectively in mid-innings, then Kusal Perera, hobbling on a suspected right hamstring injury, retired hurt on 47 with seven overs to go.
But fit-again captain Angelo Mathews, playing his first one-day international since August, coolly saw his side home beside Asela Gunaratne. Mathews cracked an unbeaten 52 off 45 balls and Gunaratne 34 off 21 to cap the most successful run chase in the 44-year history of ODIs at The Oval.
"Not many people expected us to win, and that took a lot of pressure off us," Mathews said. "It's one of the top wins, beating India."
Sri Lanka was coming off a 96-run loss to South Africa, while India appeared unstoppable after demolishing Pakistan and easily winning its warm-up matches against Bangladesh and New Zealand.
But after missing out on a tournament-record eighth straight Trophy win dating to 2009, India's defeat turned the remaining Group B matches into virtual quarterfinals: India vs. top-ranked South Africa on Sunday back at The Oval, followed by Sri Lanka vs. Pakistan on Monday in Cardiff.
"We're not invincible," India captain Virat Kohli said. "We have to forget it and move on because we're playing in three days, and we have to be fresh as a team, get back into the same mindset."
Sri Lanka hopes before the match appeared dim, even with Mathews over a calf injury. He could only bat and not bowl. Mathews' deputy, Upul Tharanga, was suspended for a slow over rate, and Chamara Kapugedera hurt his right knee badly enough in training on Wednesday that he was replaced in the squad by Gunathilaka.
Gunathilaka looked like an old pro. He and Mendis didn't dominate the bowlers but punished bad deliveries, and ran well. They reached half-centuries with sixes over midwicket.
After 25 overs, they were 143-1. India had been 138-1, and began to feel pressure for the first time.
It was relieved when Gunathilaka was run out for a career-best 76 off 72 balls in his 20th ODI, going for a second run, and Mendis was run out on 89 off 93 by a brilliant pick up and throw by Bhuvneshwar Kumar from short mid-on.
India was back on top. But Perera, on one leg, and Mathews got the momentum back. They were 19 runs ahead of India with 10 overs to go. Perera finally retired with seven left, hobbling off between two staff members.
When Gunaratne incredibly swept fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah for a six over square leg, Sri Lanka finally had more balls left than runs.
That was the cue for India fans, who made up most of the crowd and had been silent for at least half an hour, to begin clearing out.
They would have been disbelieving at how their team lost.
India was made to bat first in ideal bowling conditions, but the Sri Lanka battery had no bite.
Opening batsmen Rohit Sharma and century-maker Shikhar Dhawan each got off the mark with boundaries through point and combined for 138, just four days after sharing 136 in a big win against Pakistan.
It was also their fourth century stand in seven innings over the last two Champions Trophies. Two other innings were half-centuries.
Sharma was out first for 78 off 79 balls. Dhawan, on 51 at the time, moved on to his 10th ODI century. He and Dhoni combined for 82 before he hit out on 125 off 128 balls, including 15 boundaries and a six.
Dhawan's last five scores against Sri Lanka, over three years, read 94-113-79-91-125, but few torment the Sri Lankans more than the great Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who lived up to his average against them with 63 off 52 balls. Kohli believed they had enough runs.