Bowlers aim to make greater impact
Match FactsTuesday, August 3, 2010
Start time 1000 (0430 GMT)
Not for the first time since this seemingly endless series of bilateral contests began have India and Sri Lanka triggered a debate on the future of Tests. A lifeless pitch at the SSC produced the second high-scoring draw between the teams in less than a year, but the P Sara Oval promises to be more encouraging for the battered bowlers. The conditions have traditionally supported more movement as well as turn and yielded outright results in the previous five Tests, four of which have ended before the fifth day.
Sri Lanka had the better of the contest between the depleted bowling line-ups at the SSC, creating more chances and putting India under a bit of pressure after posting a mammoth first-innings score. And Lasith Malinga's return from injury widens that gap significantly. Sri Lanka's slow bowlers had tried to compensate for the lack of assistance from the pitch by varying their lengths consistently, and could prove more attacking on a track known to aid spin .
India, on the other hand, are missing one of their best players against spin, Gautam Gambhir, and are uncertain about the participation of their most experienced bowler, Harbhajan Singh, who did not attend the practice session on the eve of the Test. Harbhajan's ineffectiveness this series has been a major concern for India but, in the event of his absence, they will be deprived of their only proven match-winner with the ball. Already 1-0 down in the series, weakened in the bowling and further plagued by injury concerns, the only consolation for India thus far has been their batting in generous conditions at the SSC.
Form guide(most recent first)
Sri Lanka: DWLLD
Players to watch out for..
Sachin Tendulkar: Yet another landmark for Tendulkar, as he becomes the most-capped cricketer in Tests, overtaking Steve Waugh's 168. He has batted with the most assuredness against spin this series, is riding the confidence of a fifth-double century in Tests and will, as ever, be a prized breakthrough for a more combative attack in the series finale.
Tillakaratne Dilshan: One of Sri Lanka's most transformed players in the recent past, Dilshan's contributions this series have been confined to quickfire cameos. In batting-friendly conditions, he failed to cash in unlike the ones who followed him, only showing glimpses of his aggression before giving his wicket away. In what is expected to be a more "sporting" track, Dilshan has the prowess to neutralise any threat the Indian bowlers can muster with a counter-attack.
The pace attacks: The last time these two teams played at the P Sara, Dammika Prasad picked up five wickets, proving crucial in Sri Lanka's thumping win. Though he is not a certainty this time, the fast bowlers are likely to play a bigger role. Ishant Sharma and Abhimanyu Mithun rely more on movement off the deck, while Malinga has been more potent with his swing. Seamers have featured prominently in the first-innings wickets-charts at this venue, a factor that could perhaps influence a couple of selections.
M Vijay is almost certain to retain his place in the absence of Gambhir, while Suresh Raina, with a debut century against his name, could be expected to edge his contest with Yuvraj Singh for a middle-order slot. If Harbhajan doesn't play, India could opt for a 3-1 pace-spin combination by including Munaf Patel in the squad.
India (possible): 1 M Vijay, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 VVS Laxman, 6 Suresh Raina,, 7 MS Dhoni (capt and wk), 8 Ishant Sharma, 9 Abhimanyu Mithun, 10 and 11 Harbhajan Singh/Pragyan Ojha/Amit Mishra/ Munaf Patel.
Malinga's return means Dilhara Fernando or Prasad have to make way. Chanaka Welegdera did play in the nets, and it won't be a surprise if Sri Lanka pick him alongside Malinga. Fernando, however, has 15 wickets in three Tests here.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Tharanga Paranavitana, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Suraj Randiv/Rangana Herath, 9 Ajantha Mendis, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Chanaka Welegedara/ Dammika Prasad/Dilhara Fernando.
Pitch and conditions
"More life in this pitch for both fast bowlers and spinners," Anurudda Polonowita, Sri Lanka's national curator, said of the track at the P Sara Oval. "That's the natural character of the pitch. This will be a much better pitch for bowlers than the SSC. With batting also, if one fellow puts his head down and bats, he will score." The toss has not been as dominant a factor here as at some of the other venues in the country. Since 2000, the side calling correctly has won four times and lost thrice. Sri Lanka haven't lost a Test here since that same year, winning six out of eight matches, including the last five.
Stats and Trivia
This is among the more seamer-friendly grounds in Sri Lanka. Fast bowlers since 2000 have have averaged 33.26 here, and picked up 126 wickets in eight Tests.
Among players in the present squad, Kumar Sangakkara has been the most prolific, averaging over 75 with two centuries and three fifties.
The P Sara Oval is one of the better venues for Sri Lanka in the batting department. The SSC is by far the best venue for batting, but in matches since 2002, Sri Lankan batsmen average over 43 here.
"The pitch at the P Sara Oval will have a bit more movement. It's usually livelier than the SSC. It will probably have more spin as well, on the fourth and fifth day of the Test. It will get slower towards the latter part, but it will be a result-orientated wicket."
Mahela Jayawardene expects batsmen to have to work harder for runs at the P Sara
"Cricket is not a simple game, but I have tried to keep things simple and concentrate on what lies ahead. I am as excited now about playing as I was at the start of my career."
Sachin Tendulkar on the eve of becoming the most-capped Test cricketer
"We have to see that the result of the Test is in our favour. We will have to be the team that that takes the extra initiative because even if the Test ends in a draw Sri Lanka win the series. We have to careful about how aggressive we can get but at the same time you have to see what's the best you can do in this Test match."
MS Dhoni on India's approach
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo