India eyes dominance against wounded Lankans

Against India, the island nation has lost 14 of its previous 17 encounters. In its Champions Trophy opener last week, Sri Lanka was thrashed by 96 runs by South Africa. Confidence is likely not sky-high.

Kohli’s men know victory will take them a step closer to the semifinals of the Champions Trophy.   -  AP

 

There were few boxes India left unticked at Edgbaston. The openers got valuable runs, Virat Kohli destroyed any doubts over his form or state of mind, and Yuvraj Singh batted with aplomb. Hardik Pandya, promoted up the order ahead of M.S. Dhoni, demonstrated his ball-striking abilities before sneaking in a few quiet overs. India's selection of bowlers - with Mohammed Shami and R. Ashwin excluded - was justified, although it can be argued that none of them were severely tested.

Video: India-Sri Lanka in numbers

After that dismemberment of Pakistan, Kohli's men have travelled down the M40 for Thursday's meeting with Sri Lanka at the Oval, where victory will take them a step closer to the semifinals of the Champions Trophy.

There is no pressure on us, says Mathews

Kohli said after the Pakistan game that the team had been chosen with the conditions and the opposition in mind. India felt the need for an extra pace bowler on that surface and opted to leave Ashwin out. The absence of left-handers in Pakistan's top six could also have been a factor. At any rate, it did not come as a huge surprise, for Ashwin is not the same unstoppable force in one-day cricket that he is in Test matches. In his last one-day series, against England, he managed three wickets for 188 runs; in the one before, in Australia last January, he was dropped after two matches. While it is likely that India will field the same eleven again, Ashwin's inclusion cannot be ruled out for the opponent's top six could feature at least three left-handers.

Zoysa tips for young Sri Lankan bowlers

There is little reason for India to fear Sri Lanka. This is a side with a patchy record in ODI cricket, and that's putting it charitably. Sri Lanka has lost 15 of its last 23 matches, a period that includes heavy series defeats to Australia, England and South Africa. Against India, the island nation has lost 14 of its previous 17 encounters. In its Champions Trophy opener last week, Sri Lanka was thrashed by 96 runs by South Africa. Confidence is likely not sky-high.

Ashwin understands what the team demands, says Kohli

To make matters worse, Upul Tharanga, who was standing in for Angelo Mathews as captain against South Africa, was suspended for two matches after his side was found guilty of a 'serious over-rate offence' by the ICC. Mathews returns to the team, but his calf injury has not healed enough to allow him to bowl against India; he will play purely as a batsman. Sri Lanka was dealt another blow on Wednesday, when Chamara Kapugedera injured his knee while fielding. An SLC release said he was ruled out of action for two weeks, and that the opener Danushka Gunathilaka, who is on stand-by but traveling with the side, would be drafted into the squad instead.

Only last week, a Sri Lankan batsman was charming the Surrey faithful, falling 16 runs short of a historic sixth straight first-class hundred. It was tempting, Mathews admitted, to ask Kumar Sangakkara to turn out for Sri Lanka again. “Even a couple of days ago, I was asking him, 'Can you come and play for us in this game?'” he laughed. “He's been in absolutely great form. He's been in form ever since he started playing, to be honest. It's unfortunate that we don't have him anymore, but he's always willing to help us. He's always having chats with us on how we should play in these conditions. This is his home ground.”

Sri Lanka will hope all that advice helps on Thursday.

The teams (from):

India: Virat Kohli (Capt.), R. Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, M.S. Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya, Ajinkya Rahane, Mohammed Shami, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh and Umesh Yadav.

Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (Capt.), Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella, Nuwan Pradeep, Asela Gunaratne, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, and Lakshan Sandakan.

Umpires: Richard Kettleborough, Rod Tucker (on-field), Marais Erasmus (third umpire), and Paul Reiffel (reserve umpire).

Match Referee: David Boon.

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