Written by Maverick White for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
India vs Sri Lanka | Thursday 20 June | Cardiff | 11:30
The second semi-final will be an all-subcontinental affair in Wales, as perennial dark horses Sri Lanka come up against India, who must now be fancied the tournament favourites. India have fired since game one and are the only team left unbeaten in this instalment of the competition. Sri Lanka have found their feet at the right time following their early blip against New Zealand and seem to be uniting in that characteristic Sri Lankan big tournament demeanor. It is a clash of contrasts, India are riding on a high of exuberant youth while Sri Lanka still rely heavily on the proven skills of their stalwarts. In the battle of age vs beauty, who will come out on top?
Sri Lanka 14/10
In a tournament affected heavily by the weather, both sides have experienced the unique test of navigating the rain through delays and adjusted totals. India most recently took on the task against Pakistan and came out on top, thoroughly beating their rivals in all areas. India have been on top form, aggressive opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan leading the tournament for most runs scored and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja second on the list of top wicket-takers, possessing an average of 10.77 with the ball. What makes him so difficult is his tight, unerring line and the fact that even he doesn’t know whether the ball will spin or not. Equally difficult is spin twin Ravi Ashwin and both will have big roles to play against the Sri Lankans, good players of the turning ball. Even the likes of Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have impressed with the ball in hand. Add to this a batting lineup containing an in-form Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik, and the Indian side looks menacing. Perhaps the two most important factors in this dynamic Indian side can be summed up in one word; attitude. Their fielding is passionate and among the best in the world and they are led by an emphatic captain who has tasted big stage victory for club and country. It will be very difficult to prevent India taking this tournament.
Despite last gasp heroics from Australia’s tail-enders, Sri Lanka booked their place in the Champions Trophy semi-finals with a well constructed victory. The Sri Lankans have had the better of the Australians in limited overs contests recently and could probably not have wished for another team to face. The shredding of the fabric of the Australian side meant they were nowhere near their best and eventually fell in attempting to chase the nigh impossible. But Sri Lanka can build on their performance. Mahela Jayawardene starred with a glittering 84, continuing the flow of runs from Sri Lanka’s battle hardened veterans. Kumar Sangakkara thrashed England around in chasing a hefty target and Sri Lanka will feel confident having both men back in form. Thirimanne has also began to contribute but the younger of the batsmen still don’t reap consistent rewards. Malinga is the go-to man with the ball and while he is still firing in his toe-crushing yorkers, will continue to scare sides at the death. Nuwan Kulasekara has turned into a handy all-rounder and will bolster the side significantly in years to come. But do they enough to beat India? Possibly, but it will all need to come together at the same time, which is a big ask.
BEST: Top Indian Batsman, Shikhar Dhawan 9/4
The form batsman of the tournament, Dhawan has scored 264 runs in three innings at an average of 132.00. A century against South Africa was followed by an unbeaten one against the West Indies, and he fell two runs shy of 50 against Pakistan. There doesn’t seem much to stop Dhawan’s meteoric rise. Get on.
VERDICT: India 11/20
The way the Indians have played so far in this tournament, it would be silly not to back them. Although South Africa have dominated tournaments only to be knocked out when it counts, India have a much stronger mental relationship with winning pressure games. Their team is in form at the right time and they have the captain to take them over the line. Even in a T20 style fixture, I would still side with the Indians. Look no further.
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