India take on Sri Lanka to secure a berth in the final
Dambulla: India would look to secure a place in the final when they take on Sri Lanka here on Sunday in what could be a highly-charged match in the cricket tri-series which has been hit by a spate of bizarre controversies and inclement weather.
What was regarded as a low profile tournament has suddenly got a lot more attention by a series of controversies in the last few matches, Suraj Randiv`s deliberate no-ball that deprived Indian opener Virender Sehwag of a century being the most serious one.
But all the unsavoury incidents of the past few days will be put behind when the two teams brace for the crucial game which the hosts have to win to remain in contention.
Persistent rains since the last couple of days forced the Sri Lanka and New Zealand match to be abandoned and the met office forecast of inclement weather for the nexr four days could lead to more washouts.
The Indians have been bolstered by the return of Yuvraj Singh, who according to captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, was laid low by dengue.
The return of Yuvraj, who was declared fit to play on Sunday, would lend solidity to the Indian middle order which looked shaky in their earlier two matches with the likes of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli struggling on the sporting Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium pitch.
It will also ease some of the pressure on Dhoni who had to hold the innings together after quick exit of most of the top order batsmen in India`s earlier matches.
A win on Sunday will ensure a final berth for India as in that scenario Sri Lanka will be left with six points with no match left while India will have secured at least nine points with another game -- against New Zealand -- to be played.
New Zealand are sitting pretty with seven points from three matches.
It will not be a surprise if sparks fly in Sunday`s match which is virtually a semifinal for Sri Lanka after their game against New Zealand yesterday was abandoned due to rain.
Sehwag, who had apparently taunted the Lankans for their "unsporting" no-ball act, is unlikely to shy away from trying to assert his authority against the home side having denied a century in the last match between the two sides on Monday.
It would be interesting to see how Sehwag takes on Randiv, who is expected to return to the Sri Lankan playing XI after missing yesterday`s match against New Zealand due to one-game ban, if the two players face each other.
Sehwag remains the key man in the absence of the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, who was rested for the tournament, as he can single handedly win a game as was the case in India`s last match.
The worry will be the form of Kohli and Rohit who have scored in single digits in the two matches they have played so far in the tournament though dhoni is unlikely to ring in changes by bringing in rookie Saurabh Tiwary in place of one of the struggling duo.
In the bowling front, the inexperienced Indians did an excellent job against the Sri Lankans in their last match and Dhoni is expected to continue with the same attack on Sunday.
Seamers Ashish Nehra and Praveen Kumar have been in fine form in the tournament having taken five wickets each while pace colleague Ishant Sharma scalped two wickets against Sri Lanka after sitting out the opening match.
Spinners Pragyan Ojha and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja also came good in India`s last match after being plundered for runs by Kiwi batsmen in the opening match.
Sri Lanka though need a huge effort to focus on cricket after some on-field controversies, especially a loss on Sunday will knock them out of the tournament.
After the demoralising no-ball controversy against India, captain Kumar Sangakkara was first charged with a level 2 offence of ICC Code of Conduct for colliding with Kiwi all-rounder Nathan McCullum before the Match Referee absolved him of any wrongdoings against the abandoned match against New Zealand yesterday.
The good news for Sri Lanka was that their top order batsmen were in good nick and veteran batsman Mahela Jayawardene was again among the runs yesterday with an unbeaten 59 in their 203 for three in 43.4 overs.
Sangakkara, openers Upul Tharanga and Dilshan have been in fine form while Chamara Silva also chipped in against New Zealand yesterday.
Their bowlers were battered by Sehwag in their match against India on August 16 and they would need a huge lift in their performance to keep their side in contention for a final berth.
The Teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ashish Nehra, Pragyan Ojha, Saurabh Tiwary, Munaf Patel.
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (c), Mahela Jayawardene (vc), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dilhara Fernando, Rangana Herath, Suraj Randiv, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Thisara Perera, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Upul Tharanga.
Match starts 2.30 pm (IST).