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India vs Sri Lanka: India’s defeat to Sri Lanka doesn’t deserve the criticism

The Indian Express logoThe Indian Express 10-06-2017
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As Ravindra Jadeja came for his second spell, Kusal Perera reverse-swept him to the third-man boundary. Sri Lanka were in the middle of a superb run chase at The Oval but out of the box improvisations had been infrequent. They were thriving in convention, playing high-percentage shots and picking their spots with immaculate accuracy. As it turned out, Sri Lanka overhauled a victory target of 322 with eight balls to spare, losing just three wickets.

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Still it would be harsh to criticise the Indian bowlers, who put their best foot forward but were done in by a wonderful batting display from the opposition. On a surface where three Sri Lankan fast bowlers including the great Lasith Malinga conceded in excess of seven runs per over each, Bhuvneshwar Kumar finished with 1/54 in 10 overs. Jasprit Bumrah gave away 52 runs in his 10 overs, although he didn’t get a wicket. Umesh Yadav looked a lot better, a bit of death-overs profligacy notwithstanding, than what his figures, 0/67, suggested.

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But the Sri Lankan batsmen, Danushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis to start with, made optimum use of every loose delivery. Gunathilaka scored only his fourth ODI half-century yesterday but never looked short of class. He had so much time to play his shots, and this 72-ball 76 against India could be a catalyst in terms of his future progress. And when a batsman plays this well and finds an ally like Mendis at the other end – they shared a 159-run second wicket partnership – it becomes very difficult for any bowling side.

The Sri Lankan batting wagon wheel showed how intelligently they picked the gaps on the on-side, scoring 173 runs in the arc between fine leg and long-on. Their scoring pattern also confirmed a definite plan to unsettle Jadeja; India’s only specialist spinner. Gunathilaka scored at a strike-rate of over 160 against the left-arm spinner, Mendis and Perera collectively accounted for 35 runs against him in 25 deliveries. Together they neutralise Jadeja in the middle overs to take firm control of the proceedings.

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In hindsight, R Ashwin might have been a good option for India, with three left-handers in the Sri Lankan top five. But a thumping victory against Pakistan made it almost obligatory for the defending champions to retain the winning combination. That India finished about 20 runs short was also a poor logic. Batting first in English conditions, you will take 321 in 50 overs any day.

Not every post-mortem of a defeat needs to be a bollocking of the losing team. Sometimes you have to doff your hat to the opponents as well. Sri Lanka’s batting stunner has thrown Group B wide open.

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