Sri Lanka seek answers against in-form India
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Start time 1930 local (1330 GMT)
India, seven wins from their last eight T20s, are fresh from a high-octane triumph against their greatest rivals. Sri Lanka, having lost six of their last eight T20s, have been comprehensively beaten by a team they used to lord it over. It seems like a distant memory but Sri Lanka did defeat India in a World T20 final, in the team's last bout at this venue. That will seem more distant still, if Sri Lanka continue to play as they recently have.
India's batting outlasted the sublime Mohammad Amir spell on Saturday, but it was their bowling that set up victory. The same attack has torn through Sri Lanka's brittle batting order in recent weeks. They had Sri Lanka 16 for 3, then eventually 127 all out, in Ranchi, then blew Sri Lanka away for 82 in Visakhapatnam. R Ashwin hasn't collected any big hauls in this tournament so far, but going by his record against Sri Lanka over the past year, he will expect to buff his stats a little on Tuesday night. Seamers Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah continued to settle nicely into their roles.
As for Sri Lanka's woes - where even to begin? Lasith Malinga appears unlikely to play again, the cellotape holding his body together seemingly giving out. There is still some quality in that bowling attack, with Rangana Herath, Angelo Mathews and Dushmantha Chameera, but maybe their strengths are not being maximised. The thing with Sri Lanka at present is that their batting is so fragile they need their bowlers to dominate. If opposition reaches a par score, they have effectively scored too many for Sri Lanka.
On one front, at least, there seems to be a sliver of hope for the men south of the Palk Strait. The strip awaiting them in Mirpur seems to have a lot of grass on the eve of the match. That should bring to mind the surface in Pune, where Sri Lanka did defeat India. Unless they get their bowling plans in order though, even that match will begin to look like ancient history.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LWLLW
Watch out for
If Angelo Mathews' batting doesn't get you, his bowling usually will. Coming off an ambling approach, Mathews delivers only a gentle pace, but it is uncannily effective. Last time these teams met - in that final - Mathews shared the new ball with Nuwan Kulasekara, and claimed tidy figures of 1 for 25 from his full quota. If the pitch tomorrow offers seam movement, he could reap even better returns.
Like Mathews, Virat Kohli had missed that bilateral series between the two sides, but has made his presence felt at the Asia Cup. He had close calls against Amir, but survived long enough to see his team to safety. Kohli generally loves playing Sri Lanka. Even if Malinga does play, no one has dominated him like Kohli. With so many weapons in that India top order, they are not reliant on Kohli's success, but he does seem the likeliest batsman to prosper against this attack.
Shikhar Dhawan has recovered from the niggle that kept him out of the previous match. He will likely open again alongside Rohit Sharma, who has also been cleared to play after sustaining a bruised toe, courtesy of an Amir yorker.
India (probable): 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 MS Dhoni (wk & capt), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 R Aswhin, 10 Ashish Nehra, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
If Malinga remains unavailable due to a knee condition, Sri Lanka may think about giving a misfiring Thisara Perera another match. They have no other seam-bowling options in the 15. They may also consider playing an extra batsman.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Milinda Siriwardana, 4 Dasun Shanaka, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Chamara Kapugedara, 7 Shehan Jayasuriya, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Lasith Malinga (capt)/ Thisara Perera
Pitch and conditions
The Mirpur pitch may have something in it for the seamers. The weather is expected to remain good for the encounter.
Stats and trivia
- Virat Kohli has crossed fifty in each of his two T20 innings against Sri Lanka so far, making 68 and 77.
- Angelo Mathews has taken 10 wickets in an innings' opening T20 over - more than any other bowler.
- In nine T20s against India, Sri Lanka have lost five and won four
"One thing we are always wary about Sri Lanka, is the fact that they can always punch above their weight and in a big game they will definitely raise their standards."
R Ashwin becomes the latest in a long list of players who refuse to take Sri Lanka lightly.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando