Sri Lanka look to revive batting form
Match factsFriday, August 29, 2008
Start time 2.30pm (0900 GMT)
Big PictureFew would have bet on India winning their maiden one-day series in Sri Lanka with a game in hand, especially after they were thrashed twice in a row, first in the Asia Cup final in Pakistan and then in the opening game of this series, with their bogeyman from the Test series, Ajantha Mendis, being the tormentor on both occasions.
The difference lay in the abilities of the two batting orders to adapt. While the Indian batsmen huffed and puffed to victory in the second ODI before adjusting to post defendable totals in Colombo, their Sri Lankan counterparts repeatedly failed to cope with India's three-pronged pace attack backed up by Harbhajan Singh. The success of India's bowlers, and Sri Lanka's collective batting failure, makes the final a dead rubber.
Therefore, there isn't a lot but proverbial pride to play for on Friday. Sri Lanka have lost two of their last three series at home - against Pakistan and England - and beaten only Bangladesh so they will hope their batsmen fire them to a consolation victory. There is an incentive for some of the Indian batsmen - Virat Kohli, S Badrinath and Rohit Sharma - to produce an innings that will make it harder for them to be overlooked when Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag are available for India's next limited-overs assignment.
This series, though, has been decided and both teams will be looking forward to a break during the gap created by the absence of the Champions Trophy.
Form guide (last 5 ODIs)Sri Lanka LLLWW
Watch out forThe toss: Mahendra Singh Dhoni has won all four tosses in the series. He admitted to misreading the pitch after India lost the first game but made the correct decision in the second in Dambulla. The decision to bat first after the series shifted to the Premadasa has been a no-brainer. The fast bowlers have moved the ball laterally under lights while the spinners have extracted turn and bounce as the match progresses, making chasing a target significantly harder. Murali and Mendis haven't had the opportunity to defend a score at the Premadasa yet and expect Sri Lanka to stretch India if they do.
Raina and Dhoni v the spinners: India's two victories at the Premadasa were set up by substantial contributions from Dhoni and Suresh Raina. Both batsmen scored half-centuries in each match to prop up an otherwise frail batting line-up. They approached Murali and Mendis with controlled aggression and did not hesitate in dispatching the bad delivery. Raina scored 31 off 33 balls against Mendis and 35 off 34 against Murali, while Dhoni took 44 off 51 balls and 43 off 45 balls against Mendis and Murali respectively.
Team newsThe teams didn't practise on the eve of the match. Sri Lanka had brought in Malinda Warnapura to open the innings with Sanath Jayasuriya and pushed Kumar Sangakkara down to No. 3 in order to strengthen a top order that was struggling against the new ball. The move failed: Warnapura made an 18-ball duck and Sangakkara fell for 6 but Sri Lanka could give the strategy another go.
Sri Lanka (likely) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Malinda Warnapura, 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.
There's no definite team news from the Indian camp as yet. They are likely to retain the winning combination unless they want to give a chance to Irfan Pathan, RP Singh, Pragyan Ojha and Parthiv Patel.
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 & conditionsIn the last two matches, Dhoni had a broad smile on his face as he called correctly and decided to bat. Jayawardene said he would have done the same on a pitch that assists the bowlers as it wears. The weather for Friday isn't clear: thunderstorms are forecast and the chance of rain is 90%.
Stats & Trivia
Quotes"Whenever we are at the nets or batting together, he tells me how to plan. He is such a class reader of the game and he always plays with responsibility. We learn a lot from him while batting with him. It is good we got partnerships in two matches."
Raina on the positives of batting with Dhoni
"The toss proved crucial, it put the Indians in an advantageous position but I should say we made too many mistakes along the way. There was lack of consistent partnerships from the batters and that did not help the team at all."
Mahela Jayawardene on Sri Lanka's performance in the fourth ODI
George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo