Sangakkara credits Kapugedera and Mathews
Kumar Sangakkara must be a relieved man. Despite their high net run-rate going into the game, Sri Lanka had some running to do to ensure their semi-final spot. And unlike West Indies and Australia, they had to contend with the Indian batting line-up on a wicket that favoured their style of play.
As if on cue, India's top order led by Suresh Raina forgot their travails against the short ball on the slow and low St Lucia pitch, to get off to a great start. Sri Lanka then clawed their way back into the game, with Thissara Perera, Thilan Thushara and Lasith Malinga bowling fine spells to restrict India to 163. Sangakkara acknowledged the efforts of his seamers who excelled with their yorkers in the end overs.
"I was thinking they would make a big score," Sangakkara said. "But we showed a lot of character to come back and not just cut down the runs, but take wickets too."
Sangakkara admitted that his side's first target was to reach 144, 20 short of the victory target but enough to stay ahead of India on net run-rate. "We were keeping an eye on 144. We said 'If we feel we can win this then we go on to chase this, but if we can't, we make sure we get 144'," Sangakkara said.
At one stage, even that target seemed stiff, after the in-form Mahela Jayawardene and the experienced Sanath Jayasuriya fell in the first two overs. Tillakaratne Dilshan shook off his indifferent form and brought Sri Lanka back into business with an attacking 33. Sangakkara then combined with Angelo Mathews to take Sri Lanka close to their first objective, which was met with seven balls remaining.
Buoyed by having knocked India out of the tournament, Chamara Kapugedera and Mathews sealed the morale-boosting win with a flurry of sixes, including one off the last ball of the match. Sangakkara was full of praise for the youngsters, who showed tremendous character to switch gears and turn the tables on India.
"You never want to lose guys early, especially Mahela, who is in top form," Sangakkara said. "But Dilshan got the momentum back for us and we talk about how capable our younger players are and they have shown how they can handle the pressure. Mathews and Kapugedera are going to be around for a long time.
"Everyone in the squad has to keep working hard and no one can sit back and relax as we have these young guys pushing everyone really hard," he said.
Sri Lanka's victory meant West Indies had to beat Australia by a substantial margin to get into the semi-finals ahead of them. As it transpired, Australia won that game comfortably to confirm Sri Lanka's rightful place in the knock-out round. There they will face a red-hot England side, but given his youngsters' ability to raise their game in the crucial moments, Sangakkara will be upbeat about his team's prospects.