Sri Lanka roared, cruised, spluttered, then roared again and then finally imploded, similar to South Africa against India on Sunday, to knock themselves out of the Champions Trophy in Cardiff on Monday.
Oh and their opponents? Pakistan, but we won’t talk about them.
Right from the beginning of the match, there was the feeling that Sri Lanka were the better batting side. And they certainly started like that. Despite the early loss of Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis and Niroshan Dickwella were motoring. In particular, Mendis was playing some delectable shots in an easy-on-the-eye, old-fashioned style. It needed something special to dismiss him and it was Hasan Ali going through his defences in a similarly old-fashioned reverse-swinging style. As if to make things worse, Dinesh Chandimal also dragged on two balls later.But we won’t talk about Pakistan.
Angelo Mathews radiates calm. It often rubs off on the batsman at the other end. Dickwella got to a 50 and looked good for more. The Sri Lankan captain was his usual serene self, merrily ticking on. When Mohammad Amir came on for a spell, Mathews greeted him by coming down the ground and slamming him over his head. The score read 161/3 in 31 overs, the umpires called for a drinks break and Mathews disappeared into the Lankan dressing room and soon reappeared…
...only to disappear again. Mathews played on to the stumps. This woke up the bowlers from slumber. In a blink of an eye, 161/3 had become 167/6. Junaid Khan and Amir had found that certain quality – of finding a way to go full clutch right in the middle of the siege. All while Sri Lanka, right when they were in a position to grab their ascendancy, had gone and thrown it away into the dustbin.They finally managed to get to 236. Most assumed that they had a chance because their opponents didn’t have the greatest chasing credentials. For that, they needed to strike a blow early. Off just the fourth ball of the chase, Azhar Ali cut Lasith Malinga straight to Gunathilaka who promptly dropped it like a hot potato. Next over, Ali rushed down for a single after being called by partner Fakhar Zaman, only to find himself miles out of his crease...except Gunathilaka (again) couldn’t hit the stumps.
But we won’t talk about Pakistan.After a flurry of boundaries, top-edges which flew for six, other edges which fell short of fielders, Sri Lanka, or more specifically, Asela Gunaratne somehow managed to take a catch. A tumbling one to send Fakhar Zaman back for a 36-ball 50 and leave Pakistan at 74/1 after 11 overs.