India Aim For Final Spot But Have To Upstage Rampaging Lankans
Their campaign is back on track after the win over Bangladesh but India will have to address top-order batting woes and inconsistent bowling to upstage a rampaging Sri Lanka in their third match of the cricket tri-series in Mirpur on Sunday.
India have four points with a win from two matches and will aim to book a place in the January 13 final by beating Sri Lanka at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium tomorrow.
Sri Lanka have already qualified for the final after their crushing Bangladesh by nine wickets yesterday. The hosts are yet to open their account from three matches.
A win for India on Sunday will also be a sweet revenge for their five-wicket loss to the same opponents on January 5. But to make it happen, India will have to address bowling worries and top order batting inconsistency.
With dew still playing an important role in deciding the match despite the early start, Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has said a big total is a must if the team is forced to defend.
The Indians could not do so against Sri Lanka in the first match after Kumar Sangakkara won the toss and Dhoni and his men were asked to bat.
In the next game against Bangladesh also, the opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir did not fire and India were in trouble at 51 for three only to be rescued by Dhoni and Suresh Raina.
India need a strong start from Sehwag and Gambhir if they have to beat Sri Lanka tomorrow. Sehwag, in particular, would want to score big on Sunday as he has not hit a hundred in Bangladesh.
But the more problematic area is bowling which Dhoni himself admitted is a concern.
Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan has leaked runs in the two matches so far and the usually consistent Ashish Nehra has also been expensive along with S Sreesanth.
Even the usually reliable spin spearhead Harbhajan Singh has been off-colour though he picked up three wickets in the first match.
Captain Dhoni has not minced words in asking his frontline bowlers to improve themselves.
"Not a single frontline bowler was not upto the mark. Only Yuvraj Singh bowled well. We cannot take Ravindra Jadeja as a frontline bowler but he bowled well," he had said after India's five wicket win over Bangladesh.
But inspite of the problems, it is unlikely that Dhoni will change the playing XI which won against Bangladesh.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka, on a roll after winning three matches here, have been been strengthened by the return of Mahela Jayawardene, who hit a century against Bangladesh just a day after reaching here.
In-form Tillakaratne Dilshan is also likely to make it to the playing XI having almost recovered from the groin strain he suffered in the tournament opener against Bangladesh.
Thilan Samaraweera played a crucial knock against India, Upul Tharanga smashed a century against Bangladesh yesterday and captain Kumar Sangakkara has also been in good touch.
The Sri Lankan top order is in fine form and that will be a huge test for the struggling Indian bowlers.
The Lankans would come hard at Dhoni and his men again as they have been a disappointed lot after losing the series in India last month.
"We were disappointed to lose the ODI series as we played some very good cricket there. Both the teams have played a lot recently and probably both knew each other inside out. I am looking forward to the match on Sunday," Jayawardene said.
India: M S Dhoni (Captain), Virender Sehwag (Vice-Captain), Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Yuvraj Singh, Sudeep Tyagi, Dinesh Karthik, S Sreesanth, Ashok Dinda, Amit Mishra.
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (C), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene, Upul Tharanga, Thilan Samaraweera, Thilina Kandamby, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thissara Perera, Malinga Bandara, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thilan Thushara, Suraj Randiv, Suranga Lakmal, Chanaka Welegedara, Mahela Udwatte, Dinesh Chandimal.
Match starts at 1.30 pm IST. PTI