Sri Lanka v India, tri-series final, Dambulla August 27, 2010

Batting gives Sri Lanka slight edge

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Match Facts

Saturday, August 28, 2010
Start time 14.30 (0900 GMT)

Big Picture

At long last, the seemingly interminable run of India-Sri Lanka matches, starting from the Asia Cup in 2008, will come to an end on Saturday. However, the bowler-friendly conditions in Dambulla have made it difficult to predict how even these most familiar of opponents will match up.

Sri Lanka, almost at full strength, probably have the edge, as their batting hasn't had the embarrassing collapses India have. India, though, have shown the happy knack of raising their game for the finals of tournaments in Sri Lanka, winning two titles over the past year, despite looking second-best in the league phase.

Virender Sehwag's chalk-and-cheese match-winning innings will make him the player Sri Lanka will fear, but the final also opens up an opportunity for the younger batsmen in the Indian side to cement their places, much like Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif famously did in England during the build-up to the 2003 World Cup.

The final could well hinge on how the team's back-up bowlers perform. Every team's new-ball bowlers have been among the wickets. In the opening game, India had nipped out three early wickets but the loss of Abhimanyu Mithun to a heatstroke helped New Zealand fight back and reach the tournament's highest total. Similarly, on Wednesday, New Zealand, missing Daryl Tuffey and Jacob Oram, let India escape after some early wickets.

One advantage Sri Lanka have is their batting depth. Thisara Perera, who showed off his hitting skills during a nets session on Friday morning, is likely to slot in at No. 8. In contrast, India have a long tail and the player filling the allrounder's spot at No. 7, Ravindra Jadeja, hasn't inspired any confidence with his batting.

Form guide

(most recent outright results first)
Sri Lanka: WLWLW
India: WLWLW

Watch out for...

Praveen Kumar has perfected the art of providing India early breakthroughs in Dambulla. His dismissal of Tillakaratne Dilshan in the first over of the Asia Cup final set India on the road to the title. In the tri-series, he has invariably picked up a wicket in his first couple of overs, exploiting the seam movement on offer, immediately putting the opposition on the backfoot.

Angelo Mathews has established himself as Sri Lanka's No. 1 allrounder over the past year, providing the team balance with his versatile batting, accurate medium-pace and unflappable temperament. He hasn't contributed much with the bat this tournament, a blot he could erase in the final.

Pitch and conditions

Dhoni spent plenty of time inspecting the pitch for the final, getting down on his knees to get a close look and then having a long chat with coach Gary Kirsten and bowling coach Eric Simons. The curator, Anuruddha Polonowita, said the track hasn't been used previously in the tournament but he expects it to be one which provides plenty of help for the bowlers, similar to the surfaces in the league phase.

Team news

Sri Lanka have no injury concerns and could retain the XI that humbled India in their final league matches. Chamara Silva made a polished unbeaten 41 in his only chance to bat, Chamara Kapugedera hasn't got too many chances in this tournament, and Perera's five-for last Sunday should guarantee him a place in the side.

Sri Lanka (likely) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt & wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Chamara Silva, 7 Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Suraj Randiv, 10 Nuwan Kulasekara, 11 Lasith Malinga

India haven't experimented too much in this tournament despite their fluctuating form. Raw youngsters like offspinner R Ashwin and middle-order batsman Saurabh Tiwary weren't tried in the league phase, so the bench beckons them for the final as well. The four-pacers strategy worked well in the crunch match against New Zealand, so India will probably stick to that in the final as well. Dhoni said India would consider dropping Ravindra Jadeja in case they play an extra batsman at No.7.

India (likely) 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Dinesh Karthik, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Ravindra Jadeja/ Rohit Sharma, 8 Praveen Kumar, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 Ashish Nehra, 11 Munaf Patel

Quotes

"I think when you are going well it is nice to keep going in important games. But before the tournament started we knew the schedule. So there are no complaints from our side."
Kumar Sangakkara on his team's five-day break before the final

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo