Uncertainties and cricket, much like life, go hand in hand. Nobody would have expected at the start of the game that Sri Lanka would even stand a chance against the powerful Indian line-up. However, as I said, nothing is certain in this game.
When Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan gave the second consecutive good start upfront to the team, India looked to be on their way to a good score. Although Virat Kohli couldn’t score like he did against Pakistan, MS Dhoni played very well and Kedar Jadhav gave the finishing touch to the Indian innings.
321 looked to be a decent score at the end of 50 overs and we did have a chance at defending it. Sri Lanka, though, on this day, played exceptionally well, especially in the way they recovered from the early loss of their opener Niroshan Dickwella and built a match-saving partnership for the second wicket.
Pandya’s bowling a worry
The issue for India in this game, I feel, was Hardik Pandya’s bowling. As a batsman, the 23-year-old has proved himself to an extent with his big hits towards the end of an innings. However, as far as my knowledge goes, Pandya has been able to complete his quota of 10 overs only once in the 9 innings that he has played for India.
If you’re playing him as a fifth bowler and he goes for runs early on, it forces the captain to go to other part-time bowlers – in this match Jadhav and Kohli himself – and that disturbs the bowling line-up to some extent.
Pandya could neither pick up wickets nor could he stop the flow of runs, and that is where the match slipped out of India’s hands. The loss, however, shouldn’t be seen as something too disappointing or worrying as such. It was unexpected, yes, but it was also a bad day in the field for India and nothing else.
Also, it wasn’t an easy win for Sri Lanka. India made their opponents work very hard for it and fought it out until the final 10 overs. It was a good team effort by the Lankans, they built crucial partnerships, denied India wickets and so on, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked.
At the time India effected two run-outs, if Sri Lanka would have been five down or thereabouts, India would have had a strong chance to wrap-up the game. However, that did not happen and consequently, there was no pressure on the Lankans in the last 10 overs.
India need to hit the right lengths
This game has set up the group nicely as far as the qualification scenarios are concerned. The India vs South Africa game on Sunday would be a knockout match. However, I don't think there would be any sort of added pressure on the Indians going into that game.
This game didn't go according to plan, but India have been playing good cricket over past several months and one defeat should not dent their confidence.
Going into the next game, one small issue that India might address is the kind of lengths that they bowled against Sri Lanka. The percentage of the balls that were short of good length was high as compared to the good-length balls, something that should not have been the case on these pitches.
Perhaps it could have been a part of India’s strategy, trying to bounce the batsmen or such, but in my opinion not hitting the good length area was something that India should address as that is the ideal length to bowl on the English pitches.
Gunathilaka – the standout performer
Having said all of that, credit must be given where it is due. Danushka Gunathilaka, the left-handed opening batsman, was the game-changer, I think as he helped Sri Lanka recover from the early loss of a wicket and also helped set the game up for the middle-order batsmen.
His partnership was Kusal Mendis was vital, as it laid the platform for the rest of the batting order and made sure that Sri Lanka weren’t chasing too many in the final overs with seven wickets in hand.
All in all, it was a case of things not going right for India. The top edges landed in no man's land, a couple of shots flew over the boundary ropes and India could not pick up wickets in the middle overs.
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India must learn from this game and approach the next game against South Africa as a knockout before the knockout stages of the tournament, which is not a bad thing at this stage.