Unitech Cup 2006 August 17, 2006

Teams likely to go with four-man pace attack

'Finally, a chance to do what they do best - bat, bowl and field, while having a laugh or two' © Getty Images

An hour after the Indians came back from a practice session at the Premadasa - the Sri Lankans had commandeered the SSC - the rain started again, jeopardising chances of play in the first one-day international scheduled for Friday. With the skies having stayed clear in the morning, both teams enjoyed lengthy practice sessions, even as South Africa's players waited for the flights that would take them home.

After all the uncertainty of the past two days, and the confusion of Wednesday evening when a whistle-stop three-match series was arranged, it was back to the mundane business of preparing for matches. After days spent in a security cocoon, the players seemed to relish the chance to do what they do best - bat, bowl and field, while having a laugh or two.

The switching of the matches to the SSC will encourage the Indians, whose batsmen rarely do justice to their reputations on surfaces as sluggish as that at the Premadasa. Their record there - eight wins against just four losses in 15 games - is also drastically different from the indifferent one at the Premadasa. Even against Sri Lanka, they have been dominant, with four wins and two reverses in seven matches.

One of the batsmen will have particularly fond memories of the ground. Virender Sehwag had just one 50 from his first 14 one-day matches, and the decision to promote him to open in the Coca Cola Cup of 2001 appeared not to be paying dividends. Replacing the irreplaceable Sachin Tendulkar, Sehwag had managed scores of 33, 27 and 0 before India came up against New Zealand in a must-win encounter.

Set a stiff target of 265, Sehwag came out and played one of the defining innings of his career, an astonishing assault that culminated in a 69-ball century. After that, there was no looking back. The chances are though that he will bat in the middle order tomorrow, with Rahul Dravid and Tendulkar slated to open.

The pace bowlers on both sides will also appreciate the extra bounce, and we could witness a truly unusual sight, two teams having four-man pace attacks in a game played on the subcontinent. In such cloudy conditions, Sri Lanka are bound to risk both Dilhara Fernando and Lasith Malinga an outing, with Chaminda Vaas and Farveez Maharoof providing the medium-pace option.

With both batting line-ups having shown outstanding form over the last few months, with the exception of India's blip in the Caribbean, it might well boil down to which pace attack makes best use of the conditions.

Earlier in the day, there were also fears that Ten Sports, who have the exclusive telecast rights of the series, might not be able to install their third-umpire cameras for the first match at such short notice. However, the engineers and the rest of the broadcast team worked heroically to ensure that a task that normally takes two days was finished within one. Chris Broad, the match referee, had already informed the ICC that there might be a glitch, but thanks to the efforts of the crew, that was averted.

Hopefully, the conditions on Friday will allow for some play. The cricket fans of Colombo, not to mention those in India, who have waited so patiently for the best part of a week, and seen one team pack their bags, deserve nothing less.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo