India v Sri Lanka, Super Four, Asia Cup, Karachi July 2, 2008

Under-pressure India face stern test

Match facts

Thursday, July 3, 2008
Start time 16.00 (local), 10.00 (GMT)


There's no respite yet for Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and he will have to find a way to beat Sri Lanka to seal a place in the final © AFP
 

Big Picture

Younis Khan's whirlwind 123 changes the nature of Thursday's clash. Pakistan managed to chase a target of 309, and instead of a dress rehearsal for the final, the contest against Sri Lanka becomes India's chance to seal outright a place in the final without waiting for the outcome of the last Super Four match between Pakistan and Bangladesh - a win then will be enough for Pakistan to go through.

The batting has clicked for both India and Sri Lanka so far in the tournament but Pakistan's performance against the two teams highlighted how undercooked India's bowlers are. They have failed to come to grips with the flat decks in Karachi and it's their batsmen who bailed them out in the wins against Bangladesh and Pakistan. Mahendra Singh Dhoni had complained about the gruelling schedule for his team after playing three games in four days, and they will have to bounce back less than 24 hours after the loss to Pakistan.

Sri Lanka have sealed their spot in the final, and have the luxury to rest key players, something Pakistan won't want them to do. However, they will look back to the loss to Australia in an inconsequential game last year, when they rested key bowlers for tactical reasons after having sealed their spot in the semi-finals of the World Cup - the same bowlers proved ineffective in the one-sided final.

Form guide

(Last five completed ODIs; most recent first)
India LWWWL
Sri Lanka WWWWL

Watch out for ...

  • Ajantha Mendis, who's had a terrific start to his international career with 14 wickets in seven ODIs at an average of 13.71 and economy-rate of 4.00. However, tomorrow's battle against an in-form Indian batting line-up is likely to be his toughest test yet, unless Sri Lanka rest him in order to spring a surprise if they play India in the final.

  • Yuvraj Singh hasn't had much to do in the Asia Cup because of the top order's consistent performances. However, he's showed excellent touch in all three innings, scoring 48, 36 not out and 37 at over a run a ball. His form will be tested though by Sri Lanka's strong spin attack, if both Muttiah Muralitharan and Mendis play that is.

    Team news


    Ajantha Mendis will look to increase on his tally of 11 wickets if he does play Sri Lanka's final Super Four match © AFP
     
    India would have ideally rested some players but their inability to beat Pakistan makes the Sri Lanka game significant. Dhoni suffered from cramps during his 76 and even Gary Kirsten, India's coach, has admitted the ODI captain needs a break. Dhoni, however, kept wickets during Pakistan's chase, and with no reserve wicketkeeper, he is unlikely to switch fielding positions as he did in the Indian Premier League.

    India might also change their bowling combination. Remove his four-wicket haul against Hong Kong, and Piyush Chawla has been listless in the tournament. He could make way for left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who impressed in the game against Bangladesh. RP Singh could also get a look in, while Yusuf Pathan's role will be under scrutiny after his failure with both bat and ball against Pakistan.

    India (probable): 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Pragyan Ojha, 11 RP Singh.

    Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have already qualified for the final and are likely to rest Sanath Jayasuriya, Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan as they did against UAE.

    Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 2 Mahela Udawatte, 3 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 4 Chamara Kapugedera, 5 Chamara Silva, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Kaushalya Weeraratne, 8 Thilan Thushara, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Dilhara Fernando.

    Stats and trivia

  • The head-to-head record in the last five ODIs between India and Sri Lanka is an even split, with both teams winning two each with one no result.

  • Gambhir averages 86.50 against Sri Lanka. He's scored 346 runs in six innings with two hundreds and a fifty against them.

  • India's openers - Gambhir and Sehwag - average 75.66 for the first wicket during the 2008 Asia Cup. Their effort, however, pales in comparison to that of Sri Lanka's openers - in three innings, Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara average 113.

    Quotes

    "It is good we have a chance to play them [India] before the final. It gives the opportunity to carry on our good form in the tournament and extract more from the players ... Thursday's game would be crucial, for it will set the mood for the final."
    Trevor Bayliss, the Sri Lanka coach, feels India were be their opponents on July 6 as well.

    "They tried everything, whatever they had in the armoury they tried."
    Mahendra Singh Dhoni tries to defend his less-than-impressive bowlers

    George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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