Match 5 of my Champions Trophy took me back to the Oval, I was very excited to be watching Virat Kohli and his India. I’d watched them play test cricket in England in 2014 and knew I would be watching a very different team. Virat Kohli has in the intervening years become one of the very best cricketers in the world, watching on the TV isn’t anywhere near to watching from a seat in the ground.
Having stowed my bag at Euston station I made what was a short journey to The Oval, I was in the pavilion for this match which would give me a great view of proceedings.
Sri Lanka were without their stand in captain Tharanga as he was serving a ban for slow over rates, but the good news for them was that regular captain Angelo Matthews was back . He won the toss and put India in to bat, many seem to thing that India are all about Kohli, but they have a strong batting line up and the openers Rohit Sharma 30 and Sirkar Dhawan 31 are two experienced campaigners.
The pair put on an opening stand of 138, Dhawan in particular was a joy to watch, like several of the India players he wouldn’t look out of place on a screen, they definitely have the look of being a superstar about them.
They faced the bowling of Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal and took all that was thrown at them until the 25th over when Sharma was caught by Kusal Perera, from the bowling of Malinga, he’d made 78 with 6 fours and 3 sixes with each boundary bringing wild cheers from the large India contingent in the crowd. India were 138 for 1.
Enter Virat Kohli, I was so looking forward to seeing him with bat in hand, but, he lasted only 5 balls before edging a ball to Dickwella behind the stumps, from the bowling of Pradeep, out for a Duck! Kohli has very high expectations of his team and of himself in particular, I can only imagine his distress at losing his wicket.
Yuvraj Singh was next in, at 35 he’s an old hand, he didn’t have a happy time at the crease facing 33 balls to make only 7 runs, he was bowled by Gunaratne, another key wicket for Sri Lanka. India were 179 for 3.
But, still the class continued to emerge from the dressing room and MS Dhoni another 35 year old walked to the crease. An exciting batsman he didn’t disappoint! He and Dhawan put on 83 runs, with Dhawan making a well deserved century, he fell to a catch, Mendis taking the ball from the bowling of Malinga, Dhawan had 125 to his name from 128 balls, including 15 fours and just the 1 six, a highly impressive innings.
Hardik Pandya was next in, a tall young all rounder, at 23 a spring chicken compared to Dhoni, he’d hit 2 sixes from the first 2 balls he faced against Pakistan. He was to hit just the single six in the 5 balls he faced before being caught by Perera from the bowling of Lakmal. India were 278 for 5 and building a decent score.
Kedar Jadhav, 32 joined Dhoni, with the latter scoring 63 from 52 balls before Being out, caught by Chandimal from the bowling of Perera in the final over. That left no time for us to see Jadeja bat but Jadhav with his 25 not out helped take the final score to a highly competitive 321.
It certainly felt that India had the result and a place in the semi-finals in the bag, but, cricket is a very unpredictable game and Sri Lanka had very different plans!
With Tharanga out and Chamara Kapugedera unable to take part due to injury I believe Sri Lanka had tried to persuade Sangakarra to come back into the fold, he wasn’t willing, which saw Danushka Gunathilaka coming back in to open the innings with Niroshan Dickwella.
Disaster struck early for Sri Lanka when Dickwella was caught out by Jadeja, who muct be very close to being the best fielder in the world, from the bowling of Kumar. At 11 for 1 the target of 322 must have looked a long way away.
Kusal Mendis at 22 joined the 23 year old Gunathilaka and the pair turned the game around with a partnership of 159, Kohli and his bowlers threw everything at the young pair but it took a piece of great fielding to break the partnership when Gunathilaka was run out for 76 from 72 balls, Yadav through the ball to Dhoni, one of the best wicket keepers in the world who did the work. Sri Lanka had moved to 170 for 2.
Perera joined Mendis but the younger man was run out by a direct hit from Kumar, he’d made 80 from 93 balls including 11 fours, a thoroughly entertaining innings! Mathews was next in and he and Perera had a fine partnership.
You can see so much more at the ground than on the TV, I found it very interesting that Kohli seemed to take himself out of the equation as far as captaincy was concerned. he went out to the boundary and didn’t interact with his bowlers or place the field, that seemed to rest with Dhoni. His body language said ‘we’re beaten here’ – I found it quite surprising. I also found it surprising that many of the seats were empty for much of the Sri Lanka innings and especially at the end when it became clear they were going to win.
On that note Perera and Mathews batted well together but it was clear that Perera was struggling to run and he retried hurt on 47 runs from 44 balls, Gunaratne joined his captain and made a quick 34 from 21 balls including 2 fours and 2 sixes, Mathews was Not Out 52 and Sri Lanka reached the 322 required with 8 balls and 7 wickets remaining.
An unexpected but thoroughly deserved victory Virat Kohli praised the opposition –
We felt we had enough on the board, we trusted our bowlers, but Sri Lanka were pretty good. They kept the momentum through the innings, they picked their areas to hit and executed really well. There’s always hindsight, I thought we bowled decently. But when you don’t execute properly there is always food for thought. Here you have to give credit to the other team.
Good to hear from the India captain, this win along with Pakistan’s meant Group B was blown wide open. I had to go to Vauxhall Station to head to Euston to get my case so walked around the back of the ground. I’m sad to say the atmosphere was unpleasant, I saw one young fan kick out at a bus and there was a nasty feel to things, I saw a Sri Lanka fan confronted by some India fans. It seems to me that a few young India fans need to learn to lose well along with winning well. Oh, and I make no apologies for so many photos of Kohli, he’s a favourite and I was thrilled to be seeing him live