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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Must-win scenario beckons battle-weary Sri Lanka

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Agarkar: Vijay and Rahul are my first choice openers (3:20)

The former India bowler tackles questions about India's combination looking ahead to South Africa (3:20)

Big picture

There will be - at least physically - two teams taking the field in Delhi for the deciding match of a Test series. But their minds are busy peering into the future. India are obsessed with events that will take place in January while Sri Lanka are looking further ahead, willing the mists to clear and reveal a time in which they aren't being bullied. An innings and 239 runs isn't so much a margin of defeat as a brand across their faces.

Fire, though, is where iron can be forged and the interim coach Nic Pothas is of the belief that these experiences can, in the long term, be helpful. Like how losing the Galle Test in 2015 shook India up. In the time since, they have won 21 out of 28 Tests and their dominance in many of them was barely even up for debate. That boils down to bench strength. It is the advantage Virat Kohli has and the luxury Dinesh Chandimal craves.

Makes sense then that Sri Lanka would lose their best bowler at a time everything is on the line, isn't it? Rangana Herath has been sidelined with a back injury and there is every possibility that Lakshan Sandakan might be asked to replace him. Herath, the fingerspinner, has had no impact this series - average 115 - so a wristspinner might not be the worst plan against a batting line-up that goes into each Test hungry to make big runs. India's top four have provided four centuries this series, including a double, whereas no one from the visitors has gone past 67. There are vast gaps between the two teams. And unless the Sri Lankans show they can bridge it, they may well lead the brigade that harrumphs there is too much cricket being played between these two sides.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)

India: WDWWW
Sri Lanka: LDWWL

In the spotlight

Three ducks in five first-class innings is not normally a sequence of events Ajinkya Rahane has had to go through. He is yet to get past single-digits in this series, heightening the divide between his home and away form. Now, there is little doubt over the quality he possesses - remember Lord's. Nor is there question over his will to fight - remember Indore. But considering his status as one of the first names India put down in a Test XI, both he and the team management would prefer he find some form before leaving for South Africa.

Speaking of unusual experiences, Herath wouldn't have thought he would have only one wicket to show for nearly 50 overs' work. He is steady. His traps are subtle. But India have avoided them without breaking a sweat and in light of that, it may not be such a bad thing to bring in a bit of a wildcard. Like Lakshan Sandakan. The 26-year old left-arm wristspinner took a five-for in Pallekele; included in that bag were the wickets of Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara. Not bad for the second spinner.

Team news

India's combination remains a mystery. Among the openers, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul were involved in slip-fielding practice and M Vijay came out for the press conference. And would they really drop Rohit Sharma soon after he had scored a cathartic Test century?

1 M Vijay, 2 Shikhar Dhawan/KL Rahul, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 R Ashwin, 8 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 9 Ravindra Jadeja, 10 Ishant Sharma/Mohammed Shami, 11 Umesh Yadav

Batting failures in both innings on a more-or-less traditional subcontinent pitch in Nagpur suggests Sri Lanka need to consider adding Dhananjaya de Silva and perhaps even the uncapped Roshen Silva in their XI.

1 Dimuth Karunaratne, 2 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 3 Dhananjaya de Silva 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 6 Niroshan Dickwella (wk) 7 Roshen Silva/Vishwa Fernando, 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Lakshan Sandakan, 10 Suranga Lakmal, 11 Lahiru Gamage

Pitch and conditions

The pitch looks green but Chandimal said it was closer to Nagpur than Kolkata. Nothing extraordinary about it. Weather is clear but light could fade early and be a factor

Stats and trivia

  • India have not lost a Test match at Feroz Shah Kolta for 30 years. The last team to beat them here was the Viv Richards-led West Indies in November 1987.

  • Dimuth Karunaratne is one of three batsmen to aggregate 1000 runs in 2017. The others are Pujara and Dean Elgar

Quotes

"Of course that's what as a team we are looking at. We have never won a Test match here. Still I have hope that we can win this game but as a team we need to do well on that day. We can do that definitely. We can compete with the Indians. That's what we are looking forward to."
Dinesh Chandimal, when asked if he believes if Sri Lanka can come back

"It has grass obviously. That has been the whole point, through the whole series it has been the pattern. Hopefully the wicket plays good, and we get a good experience before the south Africa tour."
M Vijay reiterates India are as concerned about South Africa as they are about Sri Lanka

  • India aware of issues in slip cordon - Pujara

    With fitness being on agenda, India players have become better athletes, their ground fielding has improved, but nobody from the camp has been able to say why the same fielders seem to resemble non-stick cookware at slips

  • India's record streak of nine consecutive series wins

    Their 1-0 series win over Sri Lanka helped India match Australia's record of nine consecutive series wins from 2005-08, while Dhananjaya de Silva surpassed Viv Richards to score the highest fourth-innings score by a visiting batsman in India

  • Dhananjaya, Roshen deny India 2-0

    Dhananjaya de Silva and the debutant Roshen Silva were Sri Lanka's fifth-day heroes as they fought their way to a drawn third Test

  • Dhananjaya and a new dawn for Sri Lanka

    Sri Lanka dropped him after throwing him in the firing line in South Africa. He has returned with the highest fourth-innings score by a visiting batsman in India. Young talents like that need better nurturing

  • SL's struggles with Delhi air may be genuine - Dhawan

    After having seen his team-mate Shami vomit on the field, the India opener was more understanding of the visitors' discomfort, but he only went as far as giving them a benefit of doubt

Dhananjaya fights

109*

Previous highest score by visiting batsmen when chasing in India, by Viv Richards at Kotla in 1987. Dhananjaya de Silva has gone past that in this chase.

Kohli's series

610

Runs by Kohli in this series, the fourth-most for any batsman in a three-match Test series.

Fails again

17

Runs accumulated by Ajinkya Rahane in this series, in 5 innings. His scores: 4, 0, 2, 1, 10.

Chandimal's best

162*

Previous highest score for Dinesh Chandimal in Test, that came against India in Galle in 2015. He's better it with 164 in this game.

Record ten

0

No. of SL batsmen to score 10 Test centuries in fewer innings than Chandimal who has done it in 80 innings. Thilan Samaraweera, who took 84 innings, was the previous quickest for SL.

A long show

476

Balls faced by Mathews and Chandimal in this partnership - the most by any visiting pair in India since 2010. Kallis and Amla had batted 641 balls in Nagpur in Feb 2010.

Record double

6

No. of double-centuries by Virat Kohli as captain - the most. He went past Brian Lara's five 200s as captain. All other Indian captains combined have only four 200s.

No. 20 for Kohli

4

Number of batsmen to score 20 Test centuries in fewer innings than Kohli who has got there in his 105th innings. Bradman (55), Gavaskar (93), Hayden (95) and S Smith (99) are the only ones ahead.

Kohli's 5000

3

No. of India batsmen to get to 5000 Test runs in fewer inns than Kohli who has taken 105 inns. Gavaskar (95), Sehwag (99) and Tendulkar (103) are the three ahead of Kohli.

Perera's milestone

25

No. of Tests taken by Dilruwan Perera to take 100 wickets - the fastest among 6 Sri Lanka bowlers to the milestone. Muralitharan was the previous fastest in 27 matches.

Victorious venue

11-0

India's win-loss record in last 12 Tests at Delhi, before this. The last time they lost there was in 1987 to West Indies.