Another trial by spin awaits India
Match factsMonday, August 18, 2008
Start time 10am (local time) 0430 (GMT)
Big PictureThe Indians had no answers to the spin wizardry of Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis in the Test series, but they have another opportunity to unravel the mysteries in the five-match ODI series, which gets underway in Dambulla on Monday. Nothing suggests their task in the shorter version will be any easier, though: Mendis scythed through the Indians in the Asia Cup final last month, and the line-up facing him here will be largely the same. Late Sunday night the Indians received a blow with the news that Virender Sehwag had twisted his ankle at practice. Team sources said he was unlikely to play the first ODI and Virat Kohli may take his place.
Sri Lanka at home are formidable opponents, but recently they have shown signs of vulnerability, losing two of their last three home series, to Pakistan and England. Mahela Jayawardene will want to prove those losses were nothing more than a small blip in an otherwise awesome record in Sri Lanka.
Form guide (last 5 ODIs)Sri Lanka WLWWW
Watch out forSanath Jayasuriya: The last time he played India, Jayasuriya cracked a match-winning 125, his sixth ODI hundred against them. Jayasuriya relishes playing the Indians - no one has scored as many runs against them as he has - and even more so at home, where he averages 46.44 at a strike-rate of exactly a run a ball. His record in Dambulla isn't as impressive - an average of 26.23, with just one half-century in 15 innings - but against India he'll fancy his chances of turning that around.
Yuvraj Singh: has announced he is in peak form for this series with an astonishing 121-ball 172 in the practice match against a Sri Lankan XI. The absence of Sachin Tendulkar places an even greater burden on Yuvraj, who will be keen to prove he can handle that responsibility as well as tackle the mighty Sri Lankan spinners.
Team newsSri Lanka have packed their squad with nine batsmen, which means three will probably miss out. Kumar Sangakkara had opened the batting through most of the Asia Cup, and he could do so again, allowing the team to slot in five specialist bowlers, with Chaminda Vaas coming in at No. 7. Dilhara Fernando struggled in the tour game against the Indians and is unlikely to make the cut.
Sri Lanka (likely) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 3 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 4 Chamara Kapugedera, 5 Chamara Silva, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Chaminda Vaas, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Thilan Thushara, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan.
India are likely to play five bowlers, which means Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha will form a two-pronged spin attack. With Zaheer Khan a certainty, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel and RP Singh will fight for two spots. Pathan's batting prowess could give him the edge, while Munaf could get the nod over RP.
India (likely) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virat Kohli, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 Irfan Pathan, 8 Pragyan Ojha, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Munaf Patel.
Pitch & conditionsThe pitch looks firm, with a fair amount of grass which is likely to be shaved off before the game begins. The weather is likely to be clear as well, and the conditions suggest the toss might not be that big a factor.
Stats & Trivia
- Sri Lanka have won 13 out of 18 ODIs at the Rangiri Dambulla Stadium. Before their two defeats to England in October last year, they were on a nine-match winning streak, dating back to February 2004.
- India have won two out of five matches here, but have lost all three games against Sri Lanka.
- Muttiah Muralitharan has a bowling average of 13.34 and an economy rate of 3.28 runs per over at this ground, with 29 wickets from 12 ODIs. Sri Lanka have won each of the last five matches here when Murali has played.
- Teams batting first have won 12 out of 23 games, averaging 23.66 runs per wicket and 4.14 runs per over. Teams chasing have won 11, and average 23.92 runs per wicket and 4.04 runs per over. In the ten day games, teams batting first and chasing have won five times each.
- Rahul Dravid is the only batsman to score an ODI century at this ground - he made 104 against UAE in 2004. Sri Lanka's highest here is an unbeaten 97 by Marvan Atapattu against South Africa the same year. (Click here for the highest scores in Dambulla.)
- Spinners have taken 139 wickets here at an average of 24.05 and an economy rate of 3.95. The fast bowlers have been equally successful, with 178 wickets at 26.96 and an economy rate of 3.93.
Quotes"With Sanath in form it's a great thing. The starts he gets makes a huge different. If he stays for 10-15 overs, it's likely we will get a good start. He's like Sehwag for India. That gives a different dimension to our set up."
Mahela Jayawardene highlights the importance of Sanath Jayasuriya in the Sri Lankan batting line-up
"Sehwag is the sort who takes a bit of risk at times. Whenever he gets us that start we have a fair chance of winning. He's in very good nick, so is Gambhir. Both played well in the Tests so they have some added responsibility on them."
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's captain, suggests that the openers will be key for his team as well
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo