Sri Lanka have won just five out of 27 completed ODIs this year. But if there’s a way to turn around a disappointing year, it can’t get better than ending it with their first-ever series win in India.
Their bowlers skittled India for a little over 100 in Dharamsala. Then, in Mohali, they wilted as Rohit Sharma walloped a sensational third double-ton to take the series into a decider. For Sri Lanka to stand a chance, they’ll need their players to have an impact of the kind Suranga Lakmal had in the first ODI – where he swung his way to four top-order wickets – and Angelo Mathews in the second.
India, meanwhile, have not lost a series at home all year, across formats. That isn’t to say they haven’t been uncomfortable. They did just about enough to come from behind and squeeze out a 2-1 win over New Zealand. After seeing their batsmen crumble under cloudy Dharamsala skies, they’ll be wary of the potential that the Sri Lankan bowlers possess when the pitch has something to offer.
It took whirlwind hundreds from Virat Kohli and Rohit in the decider against New Zealand to clinch their last ODI series, while it was Rohit’s 208* in Mohali that took India’s total beyond Sri Lanka’s reach. Can India find someone to step up beyond these two, again?
India’s middle order crumbled in the Champions Trophy final in England. In the decider against New Zealand in Kanpur and in the first ODI of this series, they withered in tough conditions. Shreyas Iyer showed glimpses of his potential in making 88 in the second ODI. Can he present a case for himself to be considered even when Kohli returns? Can the middle order, which hasn’t had the kind of batting time they would like in the series, come good?
India: WLWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LWLLL
In the spotlight
With Iyer finding his footing in Mohali, the focus shifts to Manish Pandey and Dinesh Karthik. In their last four innings, Pandey and Karthik have scored 82 and 105 runs respectively. Both have got starts on days when every other batsman has been on song, but have failed to make much noise when the top order has crumbled. If both batsmen find themselves in the middle before the 30th over, the onus will be on them to play high-impact innings.
Lakmal’s performance with the ball has often been the key to Sri Lanka’s successes (or failures) this year. While he finished with out-of-the-world figures of 4 for 13 in Dharamsala, Lakmal quickly realised how fickle the game was, conceding 71 over eight wicketless overs in Mohali. Can he now deliver a series-defining spell?
The last time India played at Visakhapatnam, against New Zealand in 2016, Amit Mishra took a five-for. If the pitch on Sunday is anything like how it was last year, India could opt for Kuldeep Yadav’s wristspin over Washington Sundar’s fast offbreaks.
India (possible) : 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Dinesh Karthik, 5 Manish Pandey, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Washington Sundar/Kuldeep Yadav 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal.
Mathews, who hit an unbeaten hundred in Mohali, had some fitness concerns leading up to the game but was declared fit on Saturday evening. The captain Thisara Perera said that Sri Lanka would stick to a 12-man squad and decide their XI on the day. Sadeera Samarawickrama could stand a chance of being brought in for Lahiru Thirimanne.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 6 Asela Gunaratne, 7 Thisara Perera (capt), 8 Sachith Pathirana, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Akila Dananjaya, 11 Nuwan Pradeep.
Pitch and conditions
Visakhapatnam has always produced an even contest between bat and ball. Only once has any team gone past 300, while both pacers and spinners have enjoyed success here. The coastal conditions could remind Sri Lanka more of Colombo than Mohali. Thisara felt the pitch looked dry and expected it to be slow with a lot of turn.
Stats and trivia
MS Dhoni needs 102 more to become the fourth Indian – and the 12th overall – to reach 10,000 ODI runs.
India have won five out of six ODIs they’ve played at the ACA-VDCA Stadium. Their success percentage of 83.33 is second-highest win-percentage among all venues in India.
India have won each of their last six bilateral series deciders.
“India are the best team in the world and I am sure they will be under some sort of pressure.”
Sri Lanka captain Thisara Perera believes it’s the hosts’ game to lose in the final ODI
“Just how we bounced back after Dharamsala, so can Sri Lanka.”
Opener Shikhar Dhawan remains wary of India’s opposition