As Sri Lanka stunned defending champions and tournament favourites India in a crucial Group ‘B’ fixture of the Champions Trophy with a seven wicket win at The Oval on Thursday, they broke many records. The victory also ended a 38-year wait for Sri Lanka to beat India in England.

The last time Sri Lanka had won against India in England was in the 1979 World Cup against a star-studded outfit that included Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Dilip Vengsarkar, Gundappa Vishwanath, Mohinder Amaranath, Srinivas Venkatraghavan and Bishan Singh Bedi. Duleep Mendis was the hero smashing 64 off 57 balls that included three sixes. That win came in the pre Test era and was largely instrumental in the country gaining Test status two years later.

Since then, these two teams have locked horns in England on five occasions across three tournaments, with India emerging the winner every time.

The Sri Lankans came into Thursday’s game in shambles and under tremendous pressure. They had lost three of their four warm-up games, including one to Scotland and were thrashed by South Africa in their opening fixture of the competition. India, meanwhile, were on fire having overcome arch-rivals Pakistan in their opening game.

There was more trouble after the 96-run defeat to South Africa as Sri Lanka’s stand-in captain and the in-form Upul Tharanga was suspended for two games due to slow over-rate. To make matters worse, Chamara Kapugedera was ruled out of the competition after hurting his knee while doing fielding drills, the day prior to the game against India.

That forced them to bring in Danushka Gunathilaka as replacement and that paid off big time. India thought they had the game in the bag after they set a target of 322. No team had chased that many at The Oval to win an ODI.

Gunathilaka, a left-handed opening batsman, anchored the run chase. He made 76 and added 159 runs for the second wicket with Kusal Mendis (89). Both batsmen were run out in quick succession and India were firmly back in the game.

Captain Angelo Mathews walked in with Sri Lanka still needing 122 runs in 103 deliveries. It was Mathews’s first ODI since August last year. Defeat here would have sent Sri Lanka home and Mathews batted with authority to give the team a famous win with eight balls to spare.

It was a crucial win. Not simply because they would have faced early exit had they lost, but Sri Lankan cricket had seen some tough times this year.

Early this year, they were whitewashed 5-0 by South Africa having been earlier humiliated in the Test series 3-0. Then they suffered a first ever Test defeat to Bangladesh. Coach Graham Ford was under pressure after board President Thilanga Sumathipala had openly criticised him.

They were not leaving anything for granted. Star batsman Kumar Sangakkara had been in stunning form – not for Sri Lanka but for English county Surrey having notched up five centuries in a row in First Class cricket. The team management on Monday had sent young Kusal Mendis to Sangakkara’s London apartment to get a few tips on what to expect in English conditions.

Mendis made the visit count with a fine 89 and was named Man of the Match.

“Yes, he met Sanga to get a few batting tips. Sanga is the king. All of us look up to him and we get advice from him. He taught us a lot of good things on how to play on these tracks,” Mathews said.

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