Pressure on Sri Lanka to stay afloat
Tuesday, August 27, 2008
Start time 2.30pm (local time) 0900 (GMT)
The fourth ODI was pushed to Wednesday, the reserve day, after persistent rain ruled out any possibility of play on Tuesday. After a hiding in the first game in Dambulla, India have regrouped well to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Much of the success has been due to the seam duo of Zaheer Khan and Praveen Kumar who, with their contrasting styles, have found chinks in Sri Lanka's imposing top order. India's batting wears a rather thin look in terms of form and numbers but the bowlers have compensated for that by relentlessly chipping away at the wickets and not allowing any top-order partnerships to develop.
Sri Lanka have their backs to the wall and need to win the next two to round off a victorious summer. The scenario is similar to last year's home series against England, which they conceded 3-2 after winning the first game. Since their 5-0 clean sweep against South Africa four years ago, their only bilateral series wins have come against Bangladesh. Surprisingly, their batting hasn't been up to scratch, contrary to the popular perception of their invincibility on home pitches. Mahela Jayawardene's 94 yesterday was the highest score by a Sri Lankan at home in 14 complete ODIs, after Upul Tharanga's 105 against Bangladesh in 2005. Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara have yet to fire in this series, Tillakaratne Dilshan has failed to convert his starts and the persistence with Chamara Silva hasn't paid off.
Sri Lanka have just a day to get their act together and keep the series alive. They haven't ever lost two successive ODI series at home, and Jayawardene will be desperate to ensure it doesn't happen now.
Form guide (last 5 ODIs)
Sri Lanka LLWWL
Watch out for
Kumar Sangakkara: Following his century in the third Test, Sangakkara has had a rather quiet series so far, with scores of 19, 2 and 9, and on two occasions was squared up by Zaheer's incoming delivery. He is too good a player to fail continuously, though, and a big score should be around the corner.
Wickets with the new ball: Seamers have enjoyed the conditions at the Premadasa at least over the last three day-night matches, claiming 42 of the 50 wickets taken by bowlers. Dilhara Fernando rolled England over with figures of 6 for 27 under lights last year and India's seam attack was just as potent on Sunday.
The teams didn't practice on the eve of the match. Chamara Silva will be under pressure to keep his place with the likes of Mahela Udawatte and Malinda Warnapura competing for his spot. Silva has scored just one fifty in his last 11 innings. With the opening pair not firing either, Sri Lanka may decide to bring in an opener to replace Silva, and drop Sangakkara to No. 3.
Sri Lanka (likely) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Mahela Udawatte, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Chamara Kapugedera, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Chaminda Vaas, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Thilan Thushara, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan.
India will probably retain their winning combination and the performances of Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina - both were due some runs - should come as a relief to the captain.
India (likely) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virat Kohli, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 S Badrinath, 7 Rohit Sharma, 8 Praveen Kumar, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Munaf Patel.
Pitch & conditions
A similar pitch to the first game is on the cards, and with conditions likely to suit bowlers in the evening, the captain winning the toss will almost certainly bat first. Scattered thundershowers are predicted on Tuesday, but hopefully, the forecast will be as inaccurate as it was on Sunday.
Stats & Trivia
- Sri Lanka have gone 20 innings without a half-century partnership for the opening wicket against the top teams (excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe). They average 16.90 for the first wicket against these teams during this period.
- Muttiah Muralitharan's figures of none for 48 from nine overs on Sunday was his second-most expensive spell in a home ODI for the last ten years. The only occasion he went for more runs during this period - against Pakistan in 2006 - he had three wickets to show for his efforts.
- Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas both went wicketless on Sunday. The last time this happened in a 50-over ODI was way back on January 13, 2006, in a VB Series match against Australia in Melbourne.
- Dhoni has made ten 50-plus scores in 34 ODI innings as captain. The matchwinning 76 on Sunday was his first ODI half-century in eight innings in Sri Lanka.
- Zaheer has taken 10 wickets in his last five ODIs at an average of 13.30 and an economy rate of 3.01.
"You need to punish him if he bowls a bad ball. If you continue to defend him, he will always be on top."
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is asked for the umpteenth time on how to play Ajantha Mendis
"I am pleased with the way the two spinners bowled. They went for 50 runs but lot of guys do go for that kind of scores these days. These are two exceptional spinners and I am sure they well come back strongly."
Mahela Jayawardene backs his spinners after they had a relatively forgettable day in the office
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a staff writer at Cricinfo