Rohit Sharma’s record fifth century at the World Cup sent India roaring into the semi-finals in high spirits, but their seven-wicket victory over Sri Lanka was as notable for events in the sky as those in the ground.
Rohit’s supreme form continued with 103 in 94 balls, a third straight hundred taking the opener top of the run-scoring charts with 647, but a packed crowd at Headingley were frequently distracted by overhead flights carrying political slogans.
A series of flyovers took place, with a small plane trailing banners carrying phrases including “Justice for Kashmir” and “India stop genocide”. The incident drew an angry response from the International Cricket Council, who had sought assurances from West Yorkshire Police following a similar episode during Pakistan’s clash with Afghanistan at the same venue.
A statement from the governing body said it was “incredibly disappointed” and “very dissatisfied”, but the ICC is understood to be content that no-fly zones around Old Trafford and Edgbaston will ensure no repeat during next week’s knockout matches.
The line-ups for those were confirmed on Saturday evening, when Australia’s defeat to South Africa ensured India topped the group and will now take on New Zealand in the last four, with the Baggy Greens facing England.
The planes stunt drew eyes away from a game that did not quite qualify as a dead rubber, given India went in still with a chance of finishing first in the table, but with Sri Lanka eliminated it still lacked intensity.
They posted 264 for seven thanks to a battling 113 from Angelo Mathews, but it was never likely to be enough to challenge India, who saw KL Rahul follow Rohit’s lead with 111 before a late cameo from Virat Kohli.
Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne opted to bat first but was soon counting the cost of pitting himself against the excellent Jasprit Bumrah.
The seamer sent down a superb opening burst of two for 12 in four overs, Karunaratne nicking behind and Kusal Perera done on the inside edge, and later ended Mathews’ lengthy stay.
By the time Kusal Mendis was stumped off Ravindra Jadeja’s third ball and breakout star Avishka Fernando fell to Hardik Pandya for 20, they were in trouble at 55 for four.
And so began Mathews’ rearguard, adding 124 alongside Lahiru Thirimanne and 74 with Dhananjaya De Silva. It took the veteran 32 balls to hit his first boundary and there was a life on 61, dropped by Bhuveneshwar Kumar. That inspired him to hurry and he accelerated to his hundred with four fours and two sixes in his next 29 balls.
It was his just his third in ODIs despite passing 50 on 41 occasions.
Early wickets were a must if Sri Lanka were to repeat their shock defence of 232 against England but there was barely a false stroke against the new ball.
Rohit led the way as he and Rahul eased 59 from the powerplay overs and 50 from the next block of 10.
Sri Lanka’s seamers were tidy enough to control the scoring rate, but Dhananjaya De Silva’s mystery spin was swatted aside by Rohit and even Lasith Malinga’s appearance in the middle overs failed to change the tone.
A crushing 10-wicket win looked to be on the cards until Rohit fell softly, lobbing Kasun Rajitha’s slower ball to mid-off. Rahul departed with 21 needed, floored by Malinga’s bouncer while also getting some bat on it, but Kohli’s 34no finished things off with 39 balls remaining.