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Feature

The formula for Sri Lanka to beat India at the Asia Cup

It's going to be tough but Dasun Shanaka's men have been outdoing themselves lately. So anything is possible

Can Sri Lanka beat India on Tuesday night? History says it's going to be tough. Since 2018, Sri Lanka have lost seven, and won only three T20Is against India, and even that is if you count the two matches they won in Colombo last year when half of an India second-string squad were decked by Covid-19. But we live in a universe where this Sri Lanka team does strange things. These are three of their best shots at pulling off an upset.
A batting order bookended by two form batters
There are no stars in this Sri Lanka batting order, but they do go deep, and they've got some batters in the groove. Over the last couple of games, Kusal Mendis has hit 96 runs off 56 balls, and over the past three years, has seemingly found his T20 calling - to open the batting. He has hit 545 of his 779 career runs at the top of the order, and strikes at 142 there, compared to an overall strike rate of 125. He's not only Sri Lanka's best batter in the Asia Cup so far, he'd also been the top-scorer, by a distance, in Sri Lanka's recent domestic T20 tournament.
Lower down, past the likes of Pathum Nissanka, Danushka Gunathilaka, and Bhanuka Rajapaksa, who have all contributed to this campaign so far, is Dasun Shanaka. Although he holed out to a full toss in the last match against Afghanistan, he is having an excellent 2022, having made 363 T20I runs at a strike rate of 142. At his best, there is no one in this batting order more destructive.
The spin attack
It's no major surprise by now, but Wanindu Hasaranga is Sri Lanka's best player, and while he hasn't been among the wickets so far at the Asia Cup, he has been economical, going at only 7.45 from his 11 overs. Maheesh Theekshana has arguably been even better, often coming on during the Powerplay, and going at only 7.25 across his 12 overs so far. Captain Shanaka has tended not to use his supplementary spin options (Charith Asalanka and Gunathilaka) in this tournament, because Hasaranga and Theekshana have held up well, even in relatively high-scoring games. Sri Lanka have issues with their inexperienced quicks, but will feel they can bank on the spinners.
Chasing
Since September 2021, Sri Lanka have won only two matches and lost 11 batting first. In the same period, when chasing, they've won seven and lost four. This is a major discrepancy, for which there is no serious reason, aside from to suggest that there appears something about the act of running down a total that steels them. So far in this tournament, they were blown to pieces when batting first, getting all out for 105 against Afghanistan. In the next two matches, they successfully chased down 184 and 176, the second of those setting a ground record at Sharjah.
Particularly with the dew around, expect Shanaka to bowl first if he wins the toss, regardless of what the surface looks like.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf