India v Sri Lanka, Champions Trophy, semi-final, Cardiff June 19, 2013

Teams fret more over rain than familiar opponents

252

Match Facts

Thursday, June 20
Start time 1030 (0930 GMT)

The Big Picture

Even as Clint McKay and Xavier Doherty were doing their darnedest to drive Australia to a sensational victory over Sri Lanka at The Oval, there were plenty of non-Australians cheering them on, just so that the cricket world will be spared yet another India-Sri Lanka ODI. In the last five years, the two sides have met a mind numbing 44 times in ODIs, and will face off again in a tri-series in the Caribbean starting next week. The teams are so familiar with each other and their strategies that MS Dhoni said: "You can also cut the extra 15 minutes of time in a team meeting and keep it simple."

At least unlike a majority of those previous encounters, Thursday's clash is a high-stakes, high-profile game. Even that could be ruined, though, as the weather forecast is dire. Sri Lanka, whose cricket season at home is regularly blighted by rain, are the only team to have been fortunate to get three full group matches, but that run looks set to come to an end with plenty of showers expected in Cardiff.

What's worse for Sri Lanka is that, in case of a washout, India will go through on account of being winners of Group B. The Champions Trophy is marketed as a "short, sharp" tournament, but not having a reserve day for the knockout matches is stretching that concept a bit too far. The only other times these teams have met in the Champions Trophy was also in a big game, the final in 2002, which was washed out despite the reserve day.

A week ago, midway through the league stage, Sri Lanka seemed headed for the exit as Ravi Bopara's burst in the final over lifted England to 293. Sri Lanka, however, hunted down that total before reeling off an impressive victory over Australia to progress to the semi-finals, a stage they regularly reach in global tournaments. Despite that, they have precious little silverware to show so far, something the likes of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara will be desperate to change.

To achieve that, they have to get past the form team of the tournament. There had been a bit of trepidation over how a revamped India would cope with the loss of vastly experienced players like Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan. Their absence hasn't been felt yet, as India's new opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have been prolific, and Ravindra Jadeja's miraculous season continues. A team traditionally filled with slow-coaches has now been transformed to one the normally cautious Dhoni calls "the best fielding side in the world". In the crunch matches, though, will the inexperience show?

Form guide

(Most recent first, last five completed matches)

India WWWLW
Sri Lanka WWLLW

Watch out for...

Two of Sri Lanka's batting giants, Sangakkara and Jayawardene, have already played match-winning innings in this tournament. The third, Tillakaratne Dilshan, hasn't hit the same heights, though he has contributed with the ball, and took an athletic caught-and-bowled that confirmed Sri Lanka's qualification. Dilshan has top scored in Sri Lanka's two longest ODI tournaments in recent years, the World Cup and the CB series in 2011-12. Sri Lanka will be looking to him to lift his game when it counts once again.

R Ashwin has firmly established himself as India's lead spinner, and has grown so much in confidence that he even attempted a conventional legspinner in the Pakistan match. India's bowling has yet to be strenuously tested in this tournament, and with a callow pace attack that is yet to prove itself under serious pressure, Ashwin's role assumes even more importance.

Team news

India are unlikely to make any changes to the line-up that has served them so well in the league phase.

India (probable) 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Dinesh Karthik, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Umesh Yadav

Sri Lanka are also likely to retain the same XI. The one change they might consider is bringing in Thisara Perera for Shaminda Eranga.

Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Kusal Perera, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt), 6 Dinesh Chandimal, 7 Lahiru Thirimanne, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Lasith Malinga, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Shaminda Eranga/Thisara Perera

Pitch and conditions

Pitches in Cardiff have been of contrasting nature. More than 600 runs were scored in the opening match, and the next was a low-scoring thriller between Sri Lanka and New Zealand in which 19 wickets went down for 277 runs. The semi-final will be played on a fresh surface that hasn't yet been used in the tournament.

More than the pitch, though, the weather will be key - light to heavy rain is expected through the day, which will lead to a curtailed match or, at worst, a washout.

Stats and trivia

  • In the last five years, India and Sri Lanka have played 54 matches against each other across formats, the most by any two teams in a five-year span

  • Among active players, no batsman has more runs against one team than Kumar Sangakkara has against India - 2435.

  • Of Rohit Sharma's eight ducks, five have come against Sri Lanka.

Quotes

"There's no room for revenge in sport, but yes, if we can beat the Indians, I think it'll be a great achievement for the whole team because, you know, there are thoughts about the World Cup final, and the recent history against them is not very good for Sri Lanka."
Angelo Mathews

"We are used to [Lasith] Malinga. We play him so many times in IPL. He reverses the ball and remains dangerous."
MS Dhoni

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Haleos on June 20, 2013, 12:45 GMT

    People should stop calling Ashwin as the best spinner in India. Thats not fair on Jadeja. Look at their records in this tournament. Ashwin is so so overrated limited overs players. Takes off the pressure as soon as he comes one.

  • maddy20 on June 20, 2013, 11:38 GMT

    @LALITHKURUWITA How will they make 200? SL are effectively 4 down, scoring at 2.2 runs an over . Need to score at over 5.5 runs per over from here on to make it! Even 150 would be a miracle!

  • LALITHKURUWITA on June 20, 2013, 10:53 GMT

    Looks like pitch is very difficult to bat. I think 200 runs is enough to beat India.

  • IndianCoolGuy on June 20, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    SL has so much hope about winning the TOSS. Unfortunately they were put in to bat first. It will be a one sided match. India wins comfortably.

  • android_user on June 20, 2013, 9:59 GMT

    i think toss is important in such kind of whether... and dhoni again rocks....

  • espncricinfomobile on June 20, 2013, 9:56 GMT

    Good toss to win . Come on india

  • warneshane on June 20, 2013, 9:54 GMT

    Manowara

    Dhoni need not not be answerable to the Indians of what did he gain by reducing team meetings by 15 minutes. He as well IND fans are matured enough what is required to do in a game. He never ever think about defeat in his mind. He believes in a player's ability and give him confidence to play naturally without any fear in mind. That's why he is most successful. You still not able to understand.

    Please God sake, don't use this "IF" again. "IF", "HOPE" are the words will not found in our dictionary.

  • android_user on June 20, 2013, 9:49 GMT

    By winning toss...india's job is half done. Lankans have to play their skin out....

  • dummy4fb on June 20, 2013, 9:44 GMT

    Even if this match is washed out it will good as then India have to face the real foe in the finals. However, india will be good in spin but english are really good in fast bowling while batting will be at par with India slightly ahead in the context of the tournament.

  • spot_on on June 20, 2013, 9:44 GMT

    Tough luck SL.. Dhoni wins the toss... will D/L help the cause ??? Let us wait and watch !!!!