Confident India heads into decider

The ACA-VDCA stadium in the port city of Visakhapatnam is set to host its first international series decider, after India unspooled Sri Lanka with a collective, dominant effort to level the three-match Twenty20 International series in Ranchi.

How much will Dhoni be prepared to experiment in the upcoming decider against Sri Lanka?   -  C. V. Subrahmanyam

The ACA-VDCA stadium in the port city is set to host its first international series decider, and two contrasting narratives in the preceding two Twenty20s is set to make the upcoming fixture an unpredictable one.

India's strong comeback in the second match after being outplayed in the first allowed for a proper representation of the team's potential in the format, and as such, they hold a slight edge over their inexperienced rivals, who had relied on their new seamers to stun India in the inaugural fixture in Pune.

India’s batting blossomed in Ranchi, with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma providing a free-flowing start from which to build on for a sturdy total. Valuable knocks from Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina and Hardik Pandya pushed India to 196. The bowling attack of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashish Nehra, Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah stifled and skittled Sri Lanka, in a combined effort the likes of which will also be desired from the home fans here.

Besides the onus of an encore of an all-round performance, the Indian team also encounters intrigue over the possible rearrangement of the line-up, to fix up the best possible combination for the upcoming Asia Cup Twenty20 and the ICC World Twenty20. Will M. S. Dhoni promote Hardik Pandya and Yuvraj Singh in the batting order? At the post-match press conference in Ranchi, he appreciated Pandya, who plays the big shots straightaway, and said the team will want to give him chances.

The verdict on Yuvraj, as indicated by Dhoni, seemed to be to allow him to be maintain his position in the line-up as one of the key batsmen of the side, albeit with an unwillingness to move him up the order. The top four slots have been fixed and the four players are batting well.

The limited gap of a day between the two Twenty20s has prompted both teams to omit any net sessions or hold any pre-match press conference, after arriving here by a special flight from Ranchi late in the afternoon on Saturday.

Sunday's fixture is likely to be a high-scoring one, evidenced by the batting-friendly nature of the pitch that usually characterises it. This was confirmed by curator Naga Mallaiah. The outfield is a beauty and the green shade has improved.

People here will find a chance to witness the first Twenty20 International here after the one against New Zealand in September, 2012 was washed out without a ball being bowled. The next match, an ODI between India and West Indies, in October, 2014 was also cancelled due to the Hudhud cyclone.

The teams

India: M.S. Dhoni (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harbhajan Singh.

Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (c), Dushmantha Chameera, Noroshan Dickwella, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shaminda Eranga, Dilhara Ferhando, Asela Gunaratne, Chamara Kapugedara, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Kasun Rajitha, Sachithra Senanayake, Dasun Shanaka, Milinda Siriwardana and Jeff Vandersay.

Match starts at 7.30 p.m.

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