Sri Lanka in danger of whitewash
Match factsSunday, February 8, 2009
Start time 10:00 local, (04:30 GMT)
The Big PictureIt's been a demoralising series for Sri Lanka, but they need to pick themselves up for Sunday's final game to avoid their first-ever whitewash in a five-match contest. Mahela Jayawardene hasn't been able to do much to arrest the slide. He tinkered with the bowling combination in the previous two games but Sri Lanka still leaked in excess of 300 in both matches. His hands have been tied as far as the batting line-up is concerned - the four senior batsmen and the promising Thilina Kandamby being undroppable, leaving little room for personnel changes.
Winning the toss could be one way he can help - the spinners have had plenty of assistance when they bowl second at the Premadasa but Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis haven't had the chance to bowl under lights.
India are on their longest winning streak in one-day internationals but have to watch out for complacency. One motivation for them is that if Australia beat New Zealand on Sunday, and India lose, they will slip back to No. 3 in the rankings.
ODI form guide (most recent first)Sri Lanka LLLLW
Watch out for ...Sanath Jayasuriya has enjoyed some success against India at the Premadasa Stadium, and the fact that he has only scored 44 from three innings after his century in game one suggests he is due for some runs. If he survives the early overs, the Indian bowlers could be in for a tough time. With the series out of control and pride on the line, don't be put it beyond the 39-year-old to provide some fireworks on Sunday.
Gautam Gambhir shrugged off an indifferent series with a career-best 150 in the last game. Gambhir's strategy of walking down the track before the delivery may have a bit of risk in it, but it clearly speaks of his self-assurance and purpose of throwing the bowler off key. Virender Sehwag's early departure forced Gambhir to steady himself and set a platform, and together with Mahendra Singh Dhoni he flourished. Dhoni always speaks of getting good starts, so it would fall on Gambhir to bat responsibly.
India are probably going to rest Yuvraj Singh and Praveen Kumar and bring in Sachin Tendulkar and L Balaji. Tendulkar received three dubious decisions before being rested for the fourth ODI, and he will be itching to get in an innings of substance before India head off on a grueling tour of New Zealand. Balaji was recalled to the team in place of an injured Munaf Patel and, on the back of a good domestic season, will be keen to add to his 29 ODI appearances, the last of which came in 2005 in Sri Lanka. There is also a possibility that India will hand young allrounder Ravindra Jadeja his maiden Indian cap, and sit out the left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha. Zaheer Khan may come back too.
India: (likely) 1 Sachin Tendulkar, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 L Balaji, 11 Ishant Sharma.
Sri Lanka gave no indication of making any changes to their squad the day before the final match. Chamara Kapugedera failed again, so his spot is under pressure. If he does indeed make way it would be for Jehan Mubarak, unless Sri Lanka bring in Upul Tharanga, who has not got a match all series, and move a patchy Tillakaratne Dilshan back to the middle order.
Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 6 Thilina Kandamby, 7, Angelo Mathews, 8 Farveez Maharoof, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Muttiah Muralitharan, 11 Ajantha Mendis.
Pitch and conditionsThe pitch is expected to be more like the last two, unlike the second game, even though this is a day game. As Ishant Sharma put it, "it would be better to bowl first as conditions will be helpful. The track becomes flat as the match progresses, to even 300 becomes an easy target'.
Stats & Trivia
- Yuvraj and Dhoni have been the most successful batsmen against Murali. Yuvraj has scored 47 from 58 balls and been dismissed once, while Dhoni has done better, scoring 45 off 42 without getting out to him. Murali has proved expensive this series, going for 203 runs in 40 overs at 5.07-an-over.
- Sri Lanka have struggled in the middle overs in the three matches they've lost chasing. They have lost an average of five wickets between overs 16 and 40, and have averaged 29.86 at a rate of 4.48. India's figures tell a different tale. They've lost 11 wickets at an average of 52.54, and have scored at a healthy rate of 5.78.
- Dilshan and Jayasuriya average 39.83 while batting together. However, after an impressive display against Pakistan, they've been below-par in this series (at the bottom), averaging just 19.25.
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