India hold the edge on run-friendly pitch
Friday, December 18
Start time 14:30 (09:00 GMT)
The bowlers will head into Nagpur with the Rajkot run fest on their minds, but they won't get much relief from another hard track at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium. India have the momentum and victory in Nagpur will give them a formidable 2-0 lead in the five-match series. Making it worse for Sri Lanka is the fact that they are down two bowlers. Muttiah Muralitharan and Dilhara Fernando have been ruled out for the series, meaning the visitors have two fresh faces, both potential debutants, which will not help a side aiming to level the series. It will take a huge effort for them to turn the tide their way on this surface.
The most alarming feature of the limited-overs leg of this tour has been the fielding of both sides; on what is believed to be another belter of a track, bowling straight and full and, most importantly, taking every chance will be paramount. The fast bowlers on either side were carted around for the first half of both innings in Rajkot, and the epidemic of spilling catches continued from the Tests and Twenty20s. Three catches and one half chance to Zaheer Khan went down, taking India's drop tally from three limited-overs games this past week to an even dozen.
For one side aiming to tighten their grasp on the series, and the other attempting to clutch a piece of it, wrapping their fingers around the key moments will be decisive.
Form guide(last five completed matches, most recent first)
India - WLLLW
Sri Lanka - LLLWL
Watch out for...
Mahela Jayawardene: Sri Lanka's former captain has experienced an unusual run of form in 2009 where he either gets a start and can't convert or falls early. In 23 innings this year, he has a century and three half-centuries; his next-highest score is 33 and three times he's been dismissed without scoring. The law of averages says it's about time for a century, but it will be against a side off which he has only one hundred in 55 innings. To do so, Jayawardene will need to get over his struggles against India's spinners, who have now dismissed him five times - six if you count the run out in Rajkot during a Ravindra Jadeja over - from his seven ODI innings against them in 2009.
Gautam Gambhir: He's been India's most consistent Test batsman this year but his figures aren't so hot in ODIs. His only century came against Sri Lanka in the first week of February and since then Gambhir has managed four half-centuries. For a determined player, who has made a superb effort to convert fifties into centuries in Tests, changing a habit that hampered him for some time, doing the same in ODIs must be a goal. Given the nature of the Nagpur track - India eased past 350 runs when they played Australia here in October - it is tough to visualise one of the top three not getting a big score. Gambhir has been able to bat at the top in only ten of 20 innings in 2009; if he gets the chance to bat at No. 3 tomorrow, count on a significant innings.
The batting Powerplay: This five-over block turned out to be a bit of a worry for both sides. In Rajkot, India seemed on course for 450 before they lost Sehwag, MS Dhoni and Gambhir while scoring just 33 runs during their batting Powerplay, taken after 34 overs. Sri Lanka opted for theirs at 291 for 1 after 35 overs and scored 21 runs off the first over, but managed 32 for 3 from the next four. And that was where the match turned.
Yuvraj Singh is almost ruled out - he has the flu, in addition to his finger injury and missed practice on Thursday - but Sehwag has been cleared to play after picking up a knee injury in Nagpur. The batting will remain the same as the first ODI, though Sudeep Tyagi may just fancy a debut ahead of Praveen Kumar.
India: 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Virat Kohli, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Praveen Kumar/Sudeep Tyagi, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Ashish Nehra.
Apart from the injuries to Murali and Fernando, Sri Lanka also had to sweat on Lasith Malinga's fitness. He missed the first match and the management will be hopeful of his return to replace Fernando. If not, it could mean a debut for rookie fast bowler Suranga Lakmal, who teamed up with the squad today, or a spinner coming in. If it is the latter, Ajantha Mendis remains the safe bet but one of Muthumudalige Pushpakumara or Suraj Randiv could debut.
Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt & wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Sanath Jayasuriya, 6 Thilan Samaraweera, 7 Thilina Kandamby, 8 Angelo Mathews, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Chanaka Welegedara/Ajantha Mendis/ Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, 11 Lasith Malinga/Suranga Lakmal.
Pitch and conditions
This will be only the second one-day international played at this venue - the first was a run fest. India racked up 354 against Australia and then won by 99 runs. The pitch is expected to be conducive for run-making, as it was during the Twenty20 when Sri Lanka made 216 in 20 overs. Scattered showers are forecast by the weather bureau, with temperatures of 27C predicted.
Stats and trivia
- Virender Sehwag, during the course of his 102-ball 146, was most severe on Angelo Mathews, plundering 27 runs off 10 balls.
- Harbhajan Singh was India's best bowler in the face of an onslaught from Sri Lanka's top order. It showed in his figures against centurion Tillakaratne Dilshan: in 26 balls bowled to Dilshan, the batsman only managed 17 runs.
"I expect scores of over 300 for sure. But the fast bowlers will definitely get some help early on with the new ball, and fielding first may not be a bad option."
Chief curator Praveen Hingnekar promises there won't be a repeat of Rajkot.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo