Daijiworld Media Network
Port of Spain, Jul 11 : Hello and welcome one and all for the final of the tri-series between India and Sri Lanka from Trinidad. Firstly, the weather is fine for the moment and one hopes that rain does not curtail this match. India and Sri Lanka are playing each other for the 56th time in the last five years and it will be interesting to see which team comes out on top today.
Breaking: MS Dhoni is BACK! He is leading the side.
Pitch Report: Jeff Dujon says, 'There are still some patches of grass on the wicket. There are some induntations on the wicket.'
One more stat: This is Mahela Jayawardene's 400th ODI match. Quite a feat.
The big question on everybody's mind will be: Will MS Dhoni play today? Virat Kohli mentioned in the previous match that Dhoni could play in the final if India make it. For Sri Lanka, their poor batting in the previous match will be a cause of concern and they will hope to rectify that in the final today.
India have won the toss and elected to field
Mathews: 'I wanted to bat first as I wanted to put the runs on the board. This is a big match and both teams have been playing good cricket. Nuwan Kulasekara, Dilhara Lokuhettige are out. Suranga Lakmal is in the side.'
MS Dhoni: 'We will bowl first. It looks like a good wicket and there is some rain around. I am feeling fine after the injury. The openers have done a good job and the bowlers have done a fantastic job. The wickets have assisted the seamers so far. It feels good to be in the final and we are doing the small things right. Vinay Kumar replaces Umesh Yadav.'
Sri Lanka (Playing XI): Mahela Jayawardene, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara(w), Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews(c), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kushal Janith Perera, Rangana Herath, Lasith Malinga, Shaminda Eranga, Suranga Lakmal
India (Playing XI): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni(w/c), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Vinay Kumar
So there they are again. India and Sri Lanka will meet for the 56th time in the last five years when the final of the Tri-Nation series gets underway on Thursday. This would be a repeat of the World Cup final in Mumbai back in 2011 and while the stakes would obviously not that high, it would be a good opportunity for Sri Lanka to take revenge. So often have these teams met that it would do to have some spice around an encounter that could turn away the fiercest supporters.
Team News: The good news first. MS Dhoni is likely to be back for the final. India were forced to bring their A game to the table over the last two matches after being pushed on the backfoot first by the West Indies and then Sri Lanka last week. Things were not looking too bright for India, who had just won the Champions Trophy and when Dhoni was ruled out of the tournament and Virat Kohli made to huff and puff in his first full match as captain, the writing seemed to be on the wall. Fatigue was the buzzword as editors started reasoning India's abject surrender in that outing against Sri Lanka. Come Trinidad and fortunes swing again. Kohli's maiden ton as skipper and Bhuvneshwar Kumar's sensational spell that knocked the stuffing out of the Lankans ensured India had reached another final. No mean achievement that, given the frequent rain interruptions and the absence of their regular captain and the best batsman in the side.
And when Dhoni was seen in the warm-ups in the innings break on Tuesday, Indian supporters would have heaved a collective sigh of relief. The stand-in captain did indicate that Dhoni could be fit for the title clash at the toss on Tuesday.
India have generally had the better of Sri Lanka in their recent meetings but with both teams bound to be jaded (Sri Lanka were on the field for three days on the trot), the final may not exactly be a repeat of the well-contested epic at the Wankhede on April 2, 2011.
Key Players: Virat Kohli looked good during his 31, following up on a breathtaking 102 while Rohit Sharma was solid at the top for the second game on the trot but also missed out on yet another half-century, stranded on 48 not out. All the rain in Port-of-Spain seemed to have done Bhuvneshwar Kumar a lot of good. He was brilliant against the Windies and against Sri Lanka, his swingers blew their top-half away. BK returned figures of 4/8 as India annihilated the Lankans to storm into the final.
Weak links: It would be unfair to bring Suresh Raina up again because he did not get a chance to fight his way back to form. However lack of runs and enough time in the middle is bound to be a cause for concern. Murali Vijay may not be as big a headache, for he will make way if Dhoni returns.
Team News: Sri Lanka have had a mix tournament so far and they would be a confused lot. An opening defeat to the West Indies notwithstanding, they did well to bounce back with convincing victories against India and the hosts. However, their third consecutive day on the park took its toll and the batting crashed in the face of some outstanding bowling from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja. Motivating themselves against a team they have met so often and lost so often to may not be difficult given this is the final of a tri-series. Those defeats in the World Cup final and the Champions Trophy semi-final should rankle and Angelo Mathews should be able to get the best out of his men, even though they are a tired lot.
Sri Lanka have rode on some fine innings by their seniors. Jayawardene and Sangakkara have been good and they need no extra invitation to be on top of the Indian attack. The Indian attack would be wary of Tharanga too, whose 174 left the young bowlers dazed.
Key Players: Sangakkara and Jayawardene obviously. The most experienced men in the side will be a huge factor if Sri Lanka have to put one across India in a major game. Mathews has been in fine form too and if the Big 3 fire with some help from the Lankan seamers in overcast conditions, the Islanders would be a dangerous unit.
Weak links: Again, the middle order! They have hardly had a hit in the middle and have relied heavily on their top three. The batting collapse against India would be worrying the think-tank. Fatigue or not, rain interruption or not, an abject surrender of that sort would have no place in a final.