3:00 AM ETThe Preview by Deivarayan MuthuFacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerPinterestEmailprintBig Picture
Death, taxes… India v Sri Lanka. India are set for their fourth ODI in ten days, but with their ticket to the semi-finals booked and Sri Lanka knocked out, there is a bilateral series feel to the penultimate round-robin game this World Cup. There is nothing on the line and India are purring again after the Edgbaston stutter against England last week. But, as always, count Sri Lanka out at your own peril.
It was Dimuth Karunaratne’s men who had raised the World Cup from its stupor with their believe-it-or-not win over England. It was Angelo Mathews’ crazy ball that added some excitement to a similar dead rubber against West Indies. And you couldn’t have forgotten Champions Trophy 2017, when Sri Lanka hunted down 322 against India.
Saturday’s match could well be Lasith Malinga’s last in World Cups. He has whipped up everything – whirling yorkers, steep bouncers (slow and fast) and cunning dippers – and will leave as the third-highest wicket-taker in World Cups. Can he rouse himself to produce another vintage performance and help Sri Lanka sign off with their heads held high?
As for India, this is another chance for their rickety middle-order to tune up for the crunch game(s). The team management had spun the wheel again against Bangladesh, recalling Dinesh Karthik at the expense of Kedar Jadhav, who has struck at 80.80 and has bowled just six overs in six matches this tournament. Should they give Karthik another go and see if he can finish the innings better than Jadhav or MS Dhoni?
Rishabh Pant has made 30-plus scores in his two outings at No. 4 and now has the vote of confidence from the team management. KL Rahul, too, has had pretty starts upfront, and India would ideally want both of them to kick on to bigger scores to ease the load on captain Virat Kohli and vice-captain Rohit Sharma.
(Last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: WLLWL
play1:29Dilshan: Players like Avishka deserve more opportunities
Tillakaratne Dilshan explains why Sri Lanka must give Fernando more chances following his century against West Indies
In the spotlight
KL Rahul wasn’t in India’s first-choice XI in the lead-up to the World Cup. After an injury scare to the designated No. 4 Vijay Shankar, Rahul moved into that spot and cracked a century against Bangladesh in the warm-ups. And later, after first-choice opener Shikhar Dhawan was sidelined from the tournament, Rahul was bumped to the top alongside Rohit and he responded with 57 against Pakistan. He followed it up with scores of 30, 48, 0, and 77. Where’s that big ‘un? Perhaps, it’s just around the corner, as Rahul himself had put it.
His ravishing strokeplay had Kumar Sangakkara gushing in the commentary box and his maiden ton had Mahela Jayawardene tweeting: “Well played young man.. Brilliant 100!! Something special from Avishka.” Twenty-one-year-old Avishka Fernando has played only three games in this World Cup, but has made more runs (183 in three matches) than the likes of Angelo Mathews, Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva. Can he stand up to the best attack in the tournament as well?
Headingley offered slow turn for Afghanistan’s spin trio on Thursday, and it could tempt India into reuniting the wristspinners. Who will miss the cut in such a scenario: Mohammed Shami or Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Jasprit Bumrah (if they want to rest him)?
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Rishabh Pant, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav/Dinesh Karthik, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Mohammed Shami, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Sri Lanka might consider bringing back Thisara Perera for some bowling back-up in place of Lahiru Thirimanne. Legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay was expensive against West Indies, but he provides a more attacking option than Jeevan Mendis or Malinda Siriwardana.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt), 2 Kusal Perera (wk), 3 Avishka Fernando, 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Lahiru Thirimanne/Thisara Perera, 7 Dhananjaya de Silva, 8 Isuru Udana, 9 Lasith Malinga, 10 Kasun Rajitha, 11 Jeffrey Vandersay
Pitch and conditions
The Headingley track is likely to be flat and slow, with some assistance for the spinners. The forecast is for a bright, sunny day in Leeds.
Sri Lanka would do well to pick Thisara and ask him to target Dhoni’s body with hard lengths and enough cover at midwicket and square leg. Thisara has dismissed Dhoni six times in 12 ODI innings while conceding 144 runs off 142 balls.
Don’t give Hardik Pandya pace and, instead, ask him to manufacture it for himself in the end overs. He has been dismissed four times by slower balls in six innings.Stats and trivia
Dhananjaya has taken five wickets in 37 overs at an economy rate of 4.7 this World Cup. The other Sri Lanka spinners have combined for one wicket in 20.1 overs while conceding 6.9 runs an over.
Bumrah needs one wicket to get to 100 ODI wickets. Should he get there in his this match – his 57th – he will be the second-fastest Indian to the landmark after Shami.
Rohit has already hit four centuries this tournament, matching Sangakkara’s achievement in 2015; no batsman has scored more hundreds in a single edition of the World Cup.