Can ailing Sri Lanka spring a surprise?
August 20, 2017
Start time 1430 local (0900GMT)
India were monumentally dominant in the Tests, while Sri Lanka are in turmoil and have a new full-time limited-overs captain, but if there is still a wisp of hope that the ODIs will be competitive, it is based on the outcome of the Champions Trophy match between these sides.
Remember that? It seems so long ago now, and so difficult to imagine. But it's true. Sri Lanka did defeat India on June 8, after orchestrating a record tournament chase. The way, unsurprisingly, was led by Kusal Mendis. Chasing, and a big score for Mendis, again represent Sri Lanka's best chance of an upset in Dambulla. While they lost a home series 3-2 against Zimbabwe in July, they will at least take a little encouragement from the fact that none of those losses came when they were batting second.
India meanwhile, have jettisoned Yuvraj Singh for this tournament, and so plentiful are their options, even MS Dhoni's future in the side is not set in stone, according to chairman of selectors MSK Prasad. Since their loss to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy they have also swatted West Indies aside 3-1 in the Caribbean - Virat Kohli making torrents of runs, while left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav was the joint-highest wicket-taker in his maiden ODI series.
In short, India have runs, wickets, form and confidence on their side. Sri Lanka have the distant memory of that Oval victory and familiarity with conditions on theirs. During the Tests, it seemed like India could have played the worst XI in their squad, and still won. On paper, the ODI sides don't seem like much more of an even match. To bring the tour to life, Sri Lanka will have to spring an almighty surprise.
Sri Lanka LLWWL (completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Sri Lanka's batsmen did a poor job of picking Kuldeep Yadav out of the hand during the Pallekele Test, and they have struggled against wristspin all through the year in any case. In Kuldeep, India hope they have the kind of aggressive spin-bowling option that has prospered in ODI cricket over the last two years. On the evidence of the third Test, Kuldeep also has greater control over his deliveries than Lakshan Sandakan - the other left-arm wristspinner on show in this series.
Upul Tharanga's dismissals in the second and third Tests did not make for pretty viewing. His scores during the Test series also did not dispel the idea that he is a fair-weather batsman - one who looks outstanding when the match situation is in his favour, but one who cannot be relied on to dig the team out of a difficult spot. He has confirmed he will bat at No. 4 in Dambulla, and now must restore some confidence to his own batting - in addition to instilling some in his ailing team in what his first series since being officially appointed limited-overs captain.
Sri Lanka's top five is settled, but there is a lot in flux in the lower half of the batting line-up. There will likely be a toss-up between left-arm spinning allrounder Milinda Siriwardana and legspinning allrounder Wanindu Hasaranga. Thisara Perera may make a return to the XI. They will then also have to choose between Dushmantha Chameera and the uncapped Vishwa Fernando.
Angelo Mathews, meanwhile, is likely to return to bowling - though he may contribute only a few overs at first.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Upul Tharanga (capt.), 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Chamara Kapugedara, 7 Wanindu Hasaranga, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Akila Dananjaya, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Dushmantha Chameera
India may consider playing Manish Pandey, given his outstanding recent form for India A, but that spot may be reserved for Kedar Jadhav. Elsewhere, Rohit Sharma comes back into the top order, displacing Ajinkya Rahane, who had scored heavily in the West Indies.
India (possible): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt.), 4 KL Rahul, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Axar Patel/Yuzvendra Chahal, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Pitch and conditions
The Dambulla surface has flattened out a little in the past year, but 300 remains an excellent score at this venue.
The weather is expected to be cloudy, but fine, with temperatures reaching a high of around 31C during the day.
Stats and trivia
- Sri Lanka need to win at least two matches to ensure their automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup does not depend on other results
- India have won 14 of the last 18 ODIs they have played against Sri Lanka
- Despite MSK Prasad's equivocation on Dhoni's future, Dhoni averages 64.33 at a strike-rate of 86 in ODIs in 2017
"This will be an important series as we are ranked eighth [with a chance of failing to automatically qualify for the World Cup]. India have been very consistent in the last three-four years, but we have confidence having beaten them in the Champions Trophy when no one thought we would."
Sri Lanka captain Upul Tharanga
"I don't see this pitch having three spinners. I have played here in the past. It's probably a three-fast-bowlers kind of pitch. Hardik Pandya does the role for us as a third seamer, and he is good enough to give us seven or eight overs."
India captain Virat Kohli on the Dambulla surface
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando