Unheralded Sri Lanka look to trip up India again
February 12, 2016
Start time 1930 local (1400 GMT)
In the first match, India's batsmen seemed not to know much about the pitch in Pune. They also seemed not to know much about Sri Lanka's second-string seam attack. Actually, no one did. Why would they? After a year of modest performances, and with the frontliners all in the sick bay, these new guys were selection Hail Marys. For a change, someone up there answered the prayers of Sri Lanka's fan base.
The result suggested there was truth to what Sri Lanka's local coaches have been saying all along. The domestic structure is so sick it could be used as a pro-euthanasia poster case. The administration sometimes veers towards the ridiculous. But there is no shortage of talent in Sri Lanka, even if, judging by the size of some players, there could be a dearth of protein. Kasun Rajitha was sharp, and seamed it beautifully away. Dushmantha Chameera's pace is beginning to trouble batsmen all around the world. And if Dasun Shanaka's batting is anywhere near as good as the balls he sent to Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni, he could be settling in for a long career.
India were left reeling, but they will most likely land on their feet in Ranchi, and find the track there is much more to their liking. Dhoni seemed unfazed by the loss, because in the fantasy land of limited-overs batting, the Pune pitch was an anomaly. The top order is still rocking - it hasn't been long since they were so good as to make the middle order obsolete. The spin attack also seems well drilled, and Ashish Nehra was effective with the new ball in Pune.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: WLLLW
In the spotlight
Sri Lanka did not like facing R Ashwin in the longest format last year, and now he is troubling them in T20s. On a night that belonged to the seam bowlers, Ashwin spun the ball sharply to take two wickets in Pune. A return to slower conditions will tip his offbreaks with a little more venom. Ashwin will understand a little of the weaknesses of the Sri Lanka top order, and will also know that as a group, they have not played spin well over the past year. Ashwin's 31 not out with the bat was not enough to cover for the top-order collapse, but on other days, such runs could be invaluable.
Like the man himself, Sri Lanka have seemed a bubbly, dynamic unit with Dinesh Chandimal at the helm. In the past, Chandimal's major worry has been his own batting. Chandimal's leadership was coming along, but that T20 international average continued to flounder. Even now, it is less than 15. There won't be many matches in which Chandimal can afford to soak up balls and play himself in, as he did on Tuesday, but if that innings can serve as a launching pad for the series, Sri Lanka may begin to consider him for more permanent leadership roles.
India may opt to give left-arm spinning allrounder Pawan Negi a debut, and assess him ahead of the Asia Cup and World T20. Hardik Pandya, who managed only two runs in his first outing with the bat in addition to going wicketless, in Pune, is likely to miss out.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 MS Dhoni (capt.)(wk), 6 Yuvraj Singha, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Ashish Nehra
Tillakaratne Dilshan is available for selection again, following recovery from a hand injury. He will probably take the place of Niroshan Dickwella. With plenty of spin cover via Milinda Siriwardana and Dilshan's finger spin, Sri Lanka will likely look to give their quicks another run, regardless of the surface's nature.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Niroshan Dickwella, 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Dinesh Chandimal (capt.)(wk), 4 Chamara Kapugedara, 5 Dasun Shanaka 6 Milinda Siriwardana, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Seekkuge Prasanna, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Kasun Rajitha
Pitch and conditions
Ranchi has never hosted a T20 international, but two of the three ODIs played there have yielded moderately high totals. The track for the second match appears dry, and the weather is expected to remain good for the encounter, with temperatures in the low 20s.
Stats and trivia
- In 15 T20s at the helm, Dinesh Chandimal averages 12 and has a strike rate of 90. His 35 on Tuesday was his highest score as captain.
- India's home win-loss ratio is 0.625 - worse than all the full member teams apart from Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
- Sri Lanka have the highest away win-loss ratio, with 13 victories from 17 away games.
"[Pune did] A little too much but we should have adapted well. We should have got 140. That would have been a competitive score on the surface. What we have to learn is very early you have to make sure what the conditions are, what the pitch entails and what is a competitive score on that pitch is."
Ravi Shastri, India's team director, looks back at the first T20 international
"It's very important that people in Sri Lanka know that there are back-up players. When most of the seniors play in the last few years, we need back-up players [now]. It's good to see them do well."
Chamara Kapugedara on Sri Lanka's bench strength
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando