Daijiworld Media Network
Trinidad, Jul 9: A warm welcome to one and all for the final league game of the tri-series. It is India vs Sri Lanka time again. The equation is simple. For West Indies to go through to the final, they have to hope that Sri Lanka defeats India. For India, a win is just enough while for Sri Lanka, they have to avoid a massive loss.
There was some rain early in the morning but it is drying up. Let us hope that the rain stays away. This is a must win game for India. They do not need to fret over the net run-rate, just a straightforward win is enough. On the other hand, Sri Lanka can qualify to the finals even with a loss, they must make sure that they do not lose by a big margin though.
Sri Lanka have won the toss and elected to field.
Kohli: 'Not too worried about losing the toss. We need to execute our skills properly, we played well in the last match. MSD is getting better, he had a light training session yesterday. If we qualify to the finals, there is a good chance that he might play. We are playing an unchanged side.'
Mathews: 'We will bowl first. We are playing 4 seamers and the pitch looks fresh. There is some mositure on the surface and should help our bowlers. India are a very good side, we need to play well. We have two changes, Lokuhettige and Herath are back in place of Kulasekara and Senanayake.'
India (Playing XI): Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli(c), Dinesh Karthik(w), Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav
Sri Lanka (Playing XI): Upul Tharanga, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara(w), Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews(c), Jeevan Mendis, Shaminda Eranga, Dilhara Lokuhettige, Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath
Pitch Report: There is an even covering of grass. The ball may behave differently when it pitches on it, it is still a good idea to bowl first, reckons Jeff Dujon.
So here's another must-win game for India. An Indian win without a bonus point would see a three-way tie with India, Sri Lanka and West Indies on nine points but that should still be enough to earn the world champions a final slot.
According to statisticians, all India need to do is to win by one run of off the last ball.
In such a scenario, India and Sri Lanka will qualify for the final on the basis of net run rate.
A wash out will obviously see India out of the tournament, leaving the hosts to battle with the Lankans for the Cup.
West Indies would obviously want a Sri Lankan win for their own place in the final. Only a huge defeat at the hands of India (by 210 runs) could see Angelo Mathews' men heading back home ahead of Thursday's final.
Team News: After two defeats, India came back strongly against West Indies on Friday, thanks to a spectacular century by skipper Virat Kohli and a sublime half-century by Shikhar Dhawan. The pacers did the rest, subjecting the hosts to a 102 (D/L) defeat and earning India a bonus point to keep alive their hopes of a final. Despite a hamstring injury forcing MS Dhoni out of the tournament and two losses that hinted at fatigue, Kohli's men bounced back in style. There was intent in everything they did on the field, including that rather ugly spat between Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina.
The former was visibly miffed with those dropped chances but thankfully they did not hurt India. However, after the two men walked off the field, sharing a few jokes, it looked like all was well within the camp. They would need to make sure that all is well against the Sri Lankans today.
After that 161-run rout, India will need to show a lot of character to bounce back against the Emerald Islanders. There cannot be any more excuse of fatigue - India have had three days off, their stand-in captain is back in form and the openers and pacers got back into the groove. Perfect ingredients against a side that would take the field for the third consecutive day. Fatigued? Yes, the Sri Lankans might well be.
Key players: Not that Kohli was woefully out of form, but it took him 16 innings since his last ODI ton to get to three-figures again. And for a man, who is in the habit of following up one century with another, the young Delhi batsman would be licking his fingers. Kohli feasts on the Lankan attack and his form today will be crucial to India's chances of winning with that bonus point. Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have been superb in their brief stint at the top and the two openers would yet again be required to pile on some early runs and build a platform for the middle-order. The pacers showed what they could do with a semblance of assistance from the pitch and Bhuvneshwar Kumar would be a threat with the new ball yet again.
Weak links: From dropped catches to low scores, Suresh Raina hasn't exactly had a dream run off late. But the southpaw has enough experience to make it count when it matters and given the importance of the clash today, he would be itching to have a go and show his class in the middle-order. The onus will also be on Murali Vijay to fire and get some runs in the middle overs. The Chennai batsman was in supreme form in the Test series against Australia earlier this year but has not been able to make the most of his opportunities in the wake of Dhoni's injury. A solid knock from him will hold the team in good stead today.
Team News: Sri Lanka have shown a lot of grit to come back from their defeat against the West Indies in the first game to first trounce India and then overwhelm the Windies in a return encounter truncated by rain. They would take heart from the fact that their senior pros - Jayawardene against India and Sangakkara against West Indies- have been outstanding at crucial junctures while Upul Tharanga showed what he can do with the bat in a path-breaking 174 in Jamaica. Angelo Mathews has fit into his new role of skipper rather well and has done justice to his all-rounder's tag. A swashbuckling 44 against India helped his side finish much better than they would have hoped for while a four-wicket haul in the very next game decimated the Windies chase. So far so good.
But will they be fresh enough when they take the ground again on Tuesday? Play was abandoned on Sunday when rain hit Port of Spain after only 19 overs, forcing the game into the reserve day. And they would be back on the park again today, almost assured of a place in the final against a team that would be charged-up, well rested and eager to impress.
It would be interesting to see if Sri Lanka rest any of their key players. Unless they commit any serious mistakes on the field today, which could lead to an absolute rout and throw their net run rate into utter disarray, the Lankans are assured of a place in the final, which is only two days away.
Therefore, it could make sense for the Sri Lankans to test some of their bench strength tonight.
Key players: Jayawardene and Sangakkara have carried the burden of Sri Lanka's batting for well over a decade and they still continue to be the best batsmen in the side. Both former skippers have been among the runs in the tournament as has Tharanga, whose 174 stunned India. Mathews has been brilliant with bat and ball and that has given the side a nice balance.
Weak links: The middle-order does not inspire much confidence in the event of Sri Lanka losing some early wickets. Will the rest of the line-up deliver if Tharanga, Jayawardene and Sangakkara fall cheaply early on? They remain largely untested and it would be interesting to see how Mathews anchors his more inexperienced batsman against a top-quality fielding side like India.