ICC Champions Trophy 2017: After thrashing Pakistan, Virat Kohli's Team India eye semi-final berth against Sri Lanka
Riding high on confidence after demolishing arch-rivals Pakistan in their ICC Champions Trophy 2017 opener, defending champions India will look to produce another dominant show against Sri Lanka on Thursday and book their spot in the semi-final. On the back of a disciplined performance with both bat and bowl, Virat Kohli and his men thrashed Pakistan by 124 runs and they will start as overwhelming favourites against their sub-continent rivals Sri Lanka, who would be demoralised after a heavy defeat against South Africa.
Contrasting performances aside, the sheer difference in quality also puts India a few notches ahead of Sri Lanka. On paper, the two sides are a total mismatch. While India ticked most of the boxes in their victory against Pakistan, the Sri Lankans, in their opening fixture, looked disoriented in their 96-run defeat against South Africa.
India boast a formidable batting line-up, which is being backed very well by a potent bowling attack. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka are going through a rebuilding phase and lack balance in their squad. To make matters worse, the form and fitness of regular captain Angelo Mathews is a cause for concern, while senior opener Upul Tharanga's two-match suspension has added insult to injury.
It has been two years since both Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara quit ODIs post the 2015 World Cup but Sri Lanka have not been able to single out even a couple of players, who can show steely resolve. The likes of Dinesh Chandimal or Chamara Kapugedara have been around for some time but both have been guilty of not realising their full potential till date.
No wonder Sangakkara, in his column for the ICC, has made it clear that Sri Lanka need to show aggression against India while conceding that it may not be easy for them. Playing in his final first-class season, Sangakkara has been in sublime form for Surrey with four centuries in county cricket.
For India, playing Sri Lanka before facing South Africa (on June 11) is an advantage as they can go into the final group league game with a free mind. Opener Rohit Sharma hitting a 91 on comeback is a reassurance while Shikhar Dhawan's positive approach will keep the 'Men in Blue' in good stead.
Skipper Kohli has over the years been Sri Lanka's nemesis, and the 81 not out against Pakistan is just the tonic he needed before taking on the likes of Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep.
Yuvraj Singh was in vintage form at the Edgbaston and a placid Oval pitch will only help get a few more runs under his belt. Hardik Pandya's power hitting at No.7 and his ability to chip in with quick wickets makes this Indian side more intimidating. The only thing that Kohli would want now is Mahendra Singh Dhoni getting some batting time before the big game against South Africa.
India's bowling unit has been equally sharp and full of venom. Bhuvneshwar Kumar's controlled swing bowling, Umesh Yadav's fiery pace backed by Jasprit Bumrah's overs at the death have troubled the oppositions.
Such has been their quality that bowlers of Mohammed Shami and Ravichandran Ashwin's calibre are warming the benches. It is unlikely that Kohli would tinker with the winning combination although one feels for Ashwin, who is India's strike bowler in the red-ball format.
For Sri Lanka, this is a do-or-die match where a lot will depend on how well skipper Mathews plays and the kind of performance Malinga gives while bowling first up. If the duo fails to fire, one can be sure that Sri Lanka will meet Pakistan's fate against this current India side.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews, Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickewalla, Chamara Kapugedara, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Sekkuge Prasanna, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal, Lakshan Sandakan, Lasith Malinga, Asela Gunaratne, Nuwan Kulasekara.