Until the eve of this match, Danushka Gunathilaka
wasn't even part of Sri Lanka's squad. He came into it
after a knee injury ruled Chamara Kapugedara out of the tournament, but he may not have featured in the playing XI against India - Angelo Mathews, after all, was returning from injury and would fill Kapugedara's middle-order slot - had it not been for another turn of fate. Upul Tharanga, who had captained Sri Lanka against South Africa, in Mathews' absence, had to serve a two-match ban
for Sri Lanka's abysmal over rate in that match.
In the end, Gunathilaka's inclusion solved two issues for Sri Lanka. It gave them an extra bowling option - a luxury they did not possess against South Africa - who, summoned up in the midst of a century opening stand from Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, sent down eight overs and conceded less than a run a ball, quite a feat given that India scored 321.
More pertinently, Sri Lanka had a like-for-like replacement for Tharanga, their top-scorer against South Africa, a left-hand opening batsman capable of kick-starting a steep chase. Upright and punishing through the covers and down the ground, there was a hint of Kumar Sangakkara about Gunathilaka's batting as he steadied Sri Lanka after the early loss of Niroshan Dickwella. With Kusal Mendis taking his time to settle in, Gunathilaka took the responsibility of maintaining their run rate, and pulled and drove Umesh Yadav for a six and two fours in a span of two overs.
The partnership gradually grew in assurance, with both batsmen targeting Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya on a pitch that had little help for either, scoring a combined 71 off 54 balls against the pair. Gunathilaka and Mendis put on 159 in 139 balls, before both fell to run-outs. By then, though, they had built Sri Lanka a formidable platform. With Kusal Perera, Angelo Mathews and Asela Gunaratne carrying on from where the second-wicket pair left off, they romped home with eight balls remaining.
At the end of the 18th over, Sri Lanka were 90 for 1, and their required rate had crept up to 7.25. In the second ball of the 19th over, Gunathilaka premeditated slightly - with Hardik Pandya bowling around the wicket, he cleared his front leg early, looking to exploit the angle into him, and hoping he would also get the length to go with it. So it happened. An effortless swat, and an otherwise blameless delivery, just short of a good length, angling in towards off stump, went soaring over the midwicket boundary, bringing up Gunathilaka's fifty.