Gripping contest on cards

India take on Sri Lanka in the first one-dayer in Rajkot today

Gripping contest on cards


India were emphatic while dominating Sri Lanka in the Test series, winning it 2-0 to climb to the top of the ICC Test rankings. But their grip got somewhat slackened in the subsequent two-match Twenty20 series which they managed to square 1-1. Now, India will be eager to start the one-day series with a big win, re-asserting their supremacy to go on and win the series.

The T20 series was a stern reminder for India of the dangers of taking the Lankans lightly, discounting their ability to stick together in times of crisis and their ever-burning desire to come back from defeats. They were expected to get a hiding by the Indians in the T20 series, but, not so surprisingly, the visitors outclassed India in the first T20 in Nagpur.

It required a special effort from Yuvraj Singh to propel India to a series-leveling win at Mohali.

However, an injury to the little finger on his left-hand will most likely force the Punjab southpaw to sit out the first game here on Tuesday, and that will be a huge blow for the Indians, and in all likelihood Virat Kohli will come in for him.
But the return of experienced campaigners, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh, will give Dhoni a lot of relief ahead of the one-day series. After a disastrous effort in the Nagpur T20, Indian batsmen had showed signs of getting back into the groove at Mohali with a forceful effort, and the return of Sachin Tendulkar will bolster the batting line-up.

But their bowling was a big worry in both T20 games. Spinners and pace bowlers alike failed to strike, allowing the Lankans to amass huge totals in both the T20s and the performance of Ashish Nehra was horrific. The Delhi left-arm paceman was like a listless missile, spraying the ball all over and leaking runs.
With Zaheer and Harbhajan back in the line-up after a short rest in the T20 series, Dhoni will be hoping to see his bowlers checking the rampant Lankan top-order batsmen.

In the absence of Zaheer, new ball operation, manned by Ashish Nehra and Ishant Sharma, looked quite inadequate. Though Ishant was quite impressive in the first match, the Delhi pacer slipped to his spendthrift ways at Mohali.
None was more impressive than their skipper Kumar Sangakkara for the Lankans in the two T20s, scoring two fifties. The Indian bowlers were never for once succeeded in troubling the elegant left-hander, and once again the Islanders will be hoping to see some big scores from his willow.

Mahela due for big one
Former skipper Mahela Jayawardene, one of world’s best T20 batsmen according to Sangakkara, failed to fire in both the games, and the Lankans will be eager to see the stylish batsman getting some runs against his name. Sanath Jayasuriya, who will walk out to bat in the middle-order, too is due for a big one, and the Indian bowlers will have to find way to check the explosive left-hander.

Jayasuriya’s presence along with Jayawardene will lend more muscle to Sri Lankan middle-order that otherwise sports a tad inexperienced look. Upul Tharanga, who has been in good form in the home series against Pakistan, will open along with Tillakaratne Dilshan in morrow’s game.

Both the teams will also have to improve a lot in their fielding, and it was not so surprising to see them devoting quite a while to fielding drills.
Apart from those little elements of worry, one thing is certain.
There will be no scarcity of excitement when these two flamboyant sides go head to head.

Teams (from): INDIA: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Pragyan Ojha, Sudeep Tyagi, Virat Kohli.

SRI LANKA: Kumar Sangakkara (Capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dilhara Fernando, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilina Kandamby, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralitharan, Thilan Samaraweera, Upul Tharanga, Chanaka Welegedara
Umpires: Shavir Tarapore,  Marais Erasmus.
Third umpire: Sanjay Hazare
Match Referee: Jeff Crowe
Timing: 9.30 am onwards

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