All star of the match

Gunathilaka announces his arrival

Only added to Sri Lanka's squad on the eve of their match against India, Danushka Gunathilaka stamped himself all over it

Danushka Gunathilaka raced off to 76 as Sri Lanka chased a record 322

ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Star turn

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.

The wow moment

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.

Stats that matter

  • Gunathilaka's 72-ball 76 was his highest ODI score, and his fourth half-century in 19 innings.
  • Mendis and Gunathilaka have batted together four times in ODIs, each time for the second wicket, adding 128, 57, 4 and 159.
  • This was Sri Lanka's joint-highest chase, and their first successful 300-plus chase since the 2015 World Cup

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo