We preview the third ODI between Sri Lanka and India set to take place at the Pallekele International Stadium on Sunday 27 August.
The hosts showed plenty of mettle in the second ODI, but couldn’t finish the job well enough, as Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s finishing skills shepherded the tourists to a two-nil lead.
Now, at the same venue, with more or less the same XI, the Sri Lankans can try again – and oblige Upul Tharanga’s insistence they capitalise on promising opportunities.
Sri Lanka v India | Sunday, 27 August | Pallekele International Cricket Stadium | 11:00
To Win Match
Sri Lanka 7/2 | Tie 35/1 | India 2/9
Like in the series opener, Sri Lanka’s batsmen were again guilty of failing to convert promising starts into innings of genuine substance. All but one of the top seven reached at least 19, but nobody moved beyond the 58 gathered by Milinda Siriwardana. If not Siriwardana, then one of his compatriots must graduate to a century in the third match.
The Pallekele pitch didn’t pose much of a threat, nor should it on the weekend, when the hosts will need a complete performance to prevent series defeat. As excellent as spinner Akila Dananjaya’s six-wicket haul was, support was lacking, particularly from the seamers. Lasith Malinga’s last eight ODIs, indeed, have yielded just five wickets – and none this series.
Dananjaya’s ability to penetrate India’s middle order was impressive, particularly after openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan had ensured an adequate start. He was effectively spent in his opening five overs, though, and the opposition were able to successfully see him off thereafter. Tharanga, then, should punctuate his spells differently this time.
While Sri Lanka’s 800th ODI didn’t end in success, they’ll be mindful of the vast improvement from the 799th. The momentum gathered needs to be converted to victory, though, and one surmises the veterans – Malinga, Tharanga, Angelo Mathews – will need to put in a big collective performance for this to happen.
One good result away from their first bilateral ODI series victory in Sri Lanka since 2012, India will want to wrap this up promptly in Pallekele. The experimentation that Kohli spoke of prior to the start of the series is starting to show, incrementally, and will surely increase if Sunday brings an unassailable three-nil lead.
Thursday’s arrival to the crease of Lokesh Rahul and Kedar Jadhav ahead of Kohli displayed the captain’s willingness to toy with tactics. The changes almost backfired, but Kohli had said he is prepared to lose a match or two in the name of such experiments. This showed in his eagerness to give Jasprit Bumrah the new ball ahead of Hardik Pandya, too. The same can be expected this weekend.
Kohli was all but in awe of Dananjaya and India, no doubt, will spend the 48 hours in the lead-up to the third ODI facing as much off-cum-leg spin as possible. Dananjaya’s unorthodox approach – and prolific use of the googly – really unnerved the visitors, who will probably look to respond with characteristically brazen batting.
Weather interfered with the second ODI and will likely interrupt the third, with an 80 percent chance of rain forecast for Sunday. If triumphant at the toss again, Kohli will do well to bat first for the first time this series – and see how his bowlers fare amid the pressure of the chase.
Verdict: India 2/9
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Dhoni’s unbroken century alliance was a ultimately a rather deflating experience for Sri Lanka, who won’t likely have the gusto to bounce back.