India v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup final, Karachi July 5, 2008

Triple threat for India's batsmen

A statistical preview to the Asia Cup final between India and Sri Lanka
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Double jeopardy: Chaminda Vaas and Sanath Jayasuriya have thwarted India in earlier finals between the two teams © AFP
 

Pakistan's inability to cash in on home advantage - India and Sri Lanka have always won the Asia Cup when hosting it - gives the tournament's two most successful teams a chance to add to their tally. India and Sri Lanka have played against each other in five Asia Cup finals - India prevailed on three consecutive occasions, but Sri Lanka have beaten them twice since, including the final of the previous edition in 2004.

Despite losing to India in the Super Four stage, Sri Lanka perhaps hold the edge, having not lost in six previous finals in all competitions between the two teams. The last five were in Colombo: Sri Lanka won three, with the ICC Champions Trophy final and its replay being washed out.

Sri Lanka have batted first in all their matches so far in the tournament, and the previous five decisive finals between the two sides have been won by the team winning the toss and batting first. India's last win in a final against Sri Lanka came in 1998.

Sri Lanka, though, will be wary of an Indian batting line-up that has chased down stiff targets in the tournament, including 309 in the Super Four encounter between the two sides. However, they had rested Chaminda Vaas - and, significantly, Ajantha Mendis, whom the Indians have never played.

Among India's current line-up, only Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh have played more than two finals against Sri Lanka. Neither has done anything spectacular: Sehwag has a best of 48 in five innings, while Yuvraj's four have fetched 59 runs. On the other hand, Sanath Jayasuriya will be one batsman India will want to dismiss early: in 11 finals against India, he has scored 567 runs at 51.54, which pushes up to 86.60 in Sri Lanka's wins.

Both teams will be expecting their top three batsmen to fire. The upper half has dominated the scoring in the tournament. Suresh Raina and Kumar Sangakkara have got over 300 runs, while the opening pairs for both sides have made an impact.

Break-up of runs by position
Position Runs Average Strike-rate 100s/50s
Top order (1-3) 2887 43.74 92.26 8/18
Middle order (4-7) 2388 34.11 87.34 4/12

Vaas didn't play the earlier game against India, and he has tormented them the most when it comes to finals. He has 16 wickets from nine games at 15.06 apiece. Both Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan have also managed to strangle the scoring in previous finals against India.

So far in the tournament, India have had brisk starts, consolidated and kept wickets in hand in the middle, and teed off at the end. Sri Lanka have scored at a healthy clip as well, but a loss of wickets in the final overs has prevented them from scoring briskly.

Batting patterns
Overs Runs scored by India Run-rate Average per wicket Sri Lanka Run-rate Average per wicket
1-20 687 6.87 68.70 676 6.76 75.11
21-40 588 5.88 84.00 570 5.70 43.84
41-50 302 9.34 60.40 343 6.86 18.05

For Sri Lanka, their two veteran bowlers and Mendis have maintained an economy-rate of less than four: the average for the tournament has been 5.54. If they can do so on Sunday, India's free-scoring batsmen - at least so far in the tournament - will be forced to take a few risks. Mendis has managed to strike almost every three overs, and Murali once in four, and India could be under pressure in the middle overs of their innings.

Bowling patterns
Overs Runs conceded by India Run-rate Average per wicket Sri Lanka Run-rate Average per wicket
1-20 496 4.96 49.60 522 5.22 47.45
21-40 529 5.46 44.08 414 4.35 16.56
41-50 292 8.22 36.50 160 5.96 40.00

Mathew Varghese is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo