Young guns Kusal Mendis(89 off 93 balls) and Dhanushka Gunathilaka (76 off 72) fired the daylights out of 100 to 30 odds on India in blazing style as Sri Lanka smashed the championship record chasing the highest score at the Oval yesterday. The annihilation of the reigning champions came in a run blaze of a 159 alliance between 22-year old Mendis, and 26-year old Gunathilaka. If their coming together at the early dismissal of Niroshan Dickwella when the total was 11, cast a cloud over Sri Lanka’s run chase of 321for 6 wickets in 50 overs, the Indian euphoria that engulfed Mathews’ team fine edged by a majority vociferous Indian crowd ran into deafening silence in the face of the Mendis- Gunathilaka onslaught that gradually unfolded. As the high riding Indians moved in for the kill of a side Virat Kohli and company undersized to rag doll stuff, the firing Mendis and Gunathilaka unleashed was a manifestation of the ammunition the young guns had in their reserves. It was a great improbable victory scripting on the back of a new blood Sri Lankan crusade that had given the islanders virtually no chance against India fresh from crushing Pakistan.
Gunathilaka, who had made the team from the cold following regular opener Upul Tharanga’s slow overate related suspension, was literally an anointing that put the former Trinity College product in a rightful anointing of his class that the expert commentators marveled at his crisp driving to the boundary, one a straight drive that left the fielders stranding still. His 11 hits to the ropes illustrated an inherent talent that left the experts wondering how he was second best stuff. The two big sixes drove to boot the blood thirst for runs with which Gunathilaka mounted Sri Lanka’s run chase. If Gunathilake ascended the innings of his life that must without a doubt cement the selector encouragement of permanency, the schoolboy like small made Mendis unleashed a run flow in such a natural and casual outlook that only a born batsman of the genre is capable of that had former great Kumar Sangakkara hail from the commentary box. As he raced to his half ton, runs simply cascaded like a flowing water fountain, the right hander pointedly executing the sweep to leg in magic like elegance.
It was a vindication why the relative youngster from those older to him occupied the play maker No. 3 slot in the Sri Lankan side. His eleven boundaries and six exemplified his run value to Sri Lanka. That both Mendis and Gunathilaka before him perished in rash run outs only choked their thrust to century making records in the championship, before Kusal Janith Perera 47 retired from 44, 5×4, Angelo Mathews 52 not out from 45, 6×4, and Asela Gunaratne 34 not out from 21, 2×4, 2×6 took Sri Lanka to the victory post. It was a collective batting effort with Mathews playing a characteristic captain courageous knock well aided by Gunaratne who cut down a 15-run deficit that prevailed when they came together with the total on 271 at the retirement of Perera from cramps. India’s 321 was built up by upfront knocks of 125 by Shakhir Dhawan and Rohit Sharma 78 in a 138-run alliance on a day skipper Kohli failed with the bat well deceived by a Nuwan Pradeep delivery to be snapped up behind for a duck. It put the onus on former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to bolster India with 63 from 52 after two quick dismissals, Yuvraj Singh for 7.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-