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September 13, 2009
Match factsMonday September 14
After seeing off New Zealand's timorous challenge, Sri Lanka and India will contest bragging rights in the Compaq Cup final. Sri Lanka hold the edge in the clash between two sides who generally don't do dull finals. The winners will go into the Champions Trophy in positive mood, leaving the loser to put salve on their injured pride.
While Kumar Sangakkara said a decision on Muttiah Muraliatharan's availability would be taken on Sunday evening, the bowler is fit and Sri Lanka should be fielding their strongest side - Thilan Samaraweera remains a doubt - and an Indian team missing the experience of three big-match players will have its work cut out to be competitive. Sri Lanka trounced India in the dress rehearsal on Saturday and again proved that once they have a score on the board at the Premadasa, they defend it resolutely.
Sri Lanka have all the weapons they need in two brisk new-ball operators, a vicious slinger, and two spinners with an assortment of tricks. Each of those bowlers is capable, more so under lights, of denying batsmen the space and time to score. The support cast is no less impressive, with the ever-improving Angelo Mathews and India would do well to be wary of Sanath Jayasuriya, who sorted out a couple of New Zealand batsmen with his variations last week. On Monday, India could face the world's most potent spin attack, with Murali and Ajantha Mendis possibly back in tandem. There will be a few flashes of the Asia Cup final last year.
India's concern is the batting, particularly at the top. Dinesh Karthik may have just played his way out of the XI, despite MS Dhoni having twice spoken of how wary he is to stick young Virat Kohli in as opener. Sachin Tendulkar has got starts on two occasions, but most worrying is the form of Yuvraj Singh, who has struggled to start against pace and spin. He scratched around dreadfully in both matches. India's fielding was also rather shabby in the previous game.
India's only real hope is to put up a big total and then pressure Sri Lanka's batsmen into committing errors. Chasing against the likes of Murali, Mendis and Lasith Malinga is a difficult task at the best of times, and as India found out yesterday, the anaconda grip gets you eventually.
Form guide (most recent first)Sri Lanka WWLLW
Watch out for...After his performance on Saturday, surely that's got to be Sanath Jayasuriya. Harrying between the wickets like a man possessed and then finding the boundary freely while under pressure, Jayasuriya's innings was an omen for India going into the final. In case they need reminding, in 12 finals against India, Jayasuriya has scored 692 runs at 57.66. The grand old man of international cricket rumbles on.
India will also rely heavily on one veteran at the top. In nine finals against Sri Lanka, Sachin Tendulkar has scored 361 runs at 51.57. The last time he played Sri Lanka in a final was in the 2004 Asia Cup at the Premadasa where his 74 couldn't produce a winning chase. Tendulkar will need to dip into the reservoir of 73 games against this opposition to correct a worrying trend for India.
Brendon Kuruppu, Sri Lanka's manager, said that Murali could have played on Saturday but that the management wanted to give him the extra day to rest for the final. His return means that Sri Lanka will have to take a tough call between resting one of the three quicks or Mendis. Nuwan Kulasekara and Thilan Thushara have led the attack all year and Mendis hasn't done much in two matches this week, so he may be the one to make way. Sri Lanka are also waiting on the fitness report of Samaraweera, who strained a hamstring after his century against New Zealand and missed the previous match.
Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt & wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Chamara Kapugedera/Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Thilina Kandamby, 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Thilan Thushara, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Muttiah Muralitharan, 11 Lasith Malinga.
Karthik may continue to open the innings in Gambhir's absence, given Dhoni's reluctance to send Kohli in early. Kohli is not a specialist opener, though he filled the role in five ODIs in Sri Lanka last summer. He was impressive in handling Murali during this year's IPL, so should present a credible case. There are a couple of other possibilities for India; after Mathews nipped out six with his canny seamers under lights, there's an outside chance that the allrounder Abhishek Nayar gets a game. That would mean India have to drop Yusuf Pathan or one of the three fast bowlers (probably RP Singh, who had a poor last game). Praveen Kumar is another option.
India: (probable) 1 Dinesh Karthik/Virat Kohli, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Yusuf Pathan/Abhishek Nayar, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 RP Singh/Praveen Kumar, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Ashish Nehra.
Stats and Trivia
"If you win it, you have 60% chance of winning the match. Moreover, if you score 230-240, then you have a good chance as the bowlers will find it easier to bowl second."
MS Dhoni, matter-of-factly, explains the importance of the toss.
"He is fit and ready to go. We will see how he is, his body is. This evening we will make a decision as to whether he is available for tomorrow's game. Because we have a very important Champions Trophy coming up, we don't want to rush him into anything too soon. But to give him ample time to recover and get fully fit."
Kumar Sangakkara keeps everyone waiting of Muralitharan's availability for the final.
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