Batting giants prepare for final onslaught
Match factsSunday, July 6, 2008
Start time 16.00 (local), 10.00 (GMT)
Big PictureAfter a frenetic 11-day period that saw 12 matches, Sri Lanka and India have survived the crammed schedule, the heat, and a few wobbles to make their way to yet another Asia Cup final. Historically, these two sides have been the strongest in the tournament, winning seven of the eight editions so far; Sunday's game will be their sixth meeting in Asia Cup finals.
The excellent batting pitches have been a constant throughout the tournament, and the teams to survive have utilised these conditions better than others - India and Sri Lanka have easily been the best batting teams of the competition. Both have settled line-ups, with most of their top order in superb form, which points towards another run-fest on Sunday.
With both teams in such exceptional batting touch, the difference in the final could be a bowling spell or some inspiration in the field. Nine matches have already been played on the same square at the National Stadium, suggesting that spinners might have something to look forward to. Sri Lanka have the clear advantage in that department, with Muttiah Muralitharan and the exciting Ajantha Mendis leading the way.
Sri Lanka also have the edge in the field. India's exceptional batting has masked their generally sloppy fielding throughout the tournament. Catches have been missed, the ground fielding has been erratic and, in a crunch game, these factors could well be critical.
Form guide(Last five completed ODIs; most recent first)
Sri Lanka LWWWW
Watch out for ...Sanath Jayasuriya, who loves the big occasion, and he loves batting against India. If he survives the early overs, the Indian bowlers could be in for more tough times.
Gautam Gambhir. He has been consistency personified in ODIs this year, and his excellence against spin makes him a key batsman for India against an attack featuring Muralitharan and Mendis.
The battle of the openers: Gambhir and Sehwag have added 319 runs for the first wicket in four innings at an average partnership of 79.75 and a rate of 8.14 runs per over; Jayasuriya and Sangakkara have averaged 88.75 per partnership at seven runs per over. The new-ball bowlers from both teams clearly have their work cut out.
Murali v Yuvraj: Yuvraj has often struggled against slow bowlers at the start of his innings, and if he bats at No. 5, there's a good chance that he'll be confronted by Murali as soon as he comes in.
Team newsSri Lanka had rested Chaminda Vaas and Ajantha Mendis for their last round-robin match, against India, but both are certain to return for the final. Two out of Kaushalya Weeraratne, Thilan Thusahara and Dilhara Fernando will sit out. None of them has had tournaments to remember so far, but Fernando's experience might help him retain his place.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 3 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 4 Chamara Kapugedera, 5 Chamara Silva, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Chaminda Vaas, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Ajantha Mendis, 10 Muttiah Muralitharan, 11 Dilhara Fernando.
India's batting has been spectacular throughout the tournament, but the bowling is a worry. The biggest concern has been Irfan Pathan, who, after missing the first three games due to a side strain, has leaked 148 runs in 20 overs for just a solitary wicket. His place could be taken by Yusuf Pathan. Pragyan Ojha will keep his place after two tidy performances, which means Piyush Chawla misses out.
India (probable) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Praveen Kumar, 9 Pragyan Ojhan, 10 RP Singh, 11 Ishant Sharma.
Umpires Simon Taufel & Tony Hill. Third umpire Zameer Haider
Stats and trivia
Quotes"Mendis is a big-game player and he has the ability to play well in big matches and we will be counting on him in the final."
Mahela Jayawardene names his trump card for the final
"Our openers have given us good starts and if they continue to do so it would keep pressure off the middle order and set the foundation."
Mahendra Singh Dhoni looks forward to another strong start by Sehwag and Gambhir
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.