India hold aces against SL

Sehwags return to the top set to boost Indian batting in the final
Last Updated 12 January 2010, 17:19 IST

That there is nothing much to separate between these two teams provides the summit clash on Wednesday a touch of fascination.

The only point India can take comfort from is their record against Sri Lanka in the last two years. They have played against each other 22 times during this period with India winning 13 and Lanka taking honours in seven. But formbook will count for nothing when these two sides, who were recently involved in some pulsating encounters, go at each other once again here at the Sher-e-Bangla National stadium.

In the batting department, India have a definite edge. With Virender Sehwag set to return for the title clash, in place of Dinesh Kaarthick in all likelihood, the firepower of their batting will multiply. However, even without Sehwag the Indian batting looked in fine touch with Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina scoring on different occasions.

But none has been more impressive than Virat Kohli. There have already been talks about this being ‘Kohli’s tournament’. It is not without a reason as the Delhi youngster has oozed confidence every time he walked on to the field. Now, he looks a totally changed batsman, focused and sure of his role in the team as he hardly resembles the brat lad that he was not so long ago.
The final will be a perfect occasion for him to come good for his country before returning to India after the one-day series.

However, the Lankan batting lacks the combined firepower the Indians boast of. They have been totally dependent on Tillkaratne Dilshan, skipper Kumar Sangakkara and Upul Tharanga and their middle-order has hardly been stretched in this tournament.
The addition of Mahela Jayawardene has added experience and solidity to their batting. The former skipper showed his class against Bangladesh notching up a fine hundred, but could not contribute anything significantly in their last league match against India. Jayawardene will be eager to make amends for that lapse with a good knock in the final against his favourite opponent.

But both the teams will be wary of their bowling. Indians have showed some improvement in the last two matches against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, striking upfront to put pressure on the opponents but they could not finish their job off.

Indian bowlers had reduced Sri Lanka to 81 for six and then pushed Bangladesh to 95 for five in the next match, but both the islanders and the home side recovered to post totals in excess of 200. The Indians, though, scaled down the targets without much ado, they should be mindful of the fact that giving second life to a team like Lanka could prove fatal.
For that, the bowlers to get their act together and the certain return of Zaheer Khan will be a bonus for India. The left-arm paceman, who had bagged the man of the match award against Bangladesh with an excellent spell, was given a rest in the last league against the islanders and he will take the place of Sudeep Tyagi in the line-up on the morrow.

Suraj Randiv has been the only consistent bowler in the Lankan line-up, and the off-spinner has tied down the rival batsmen with a tight line, hardly allowing them any space to play their strokes. Left-arm pacer Chanaka Welegedara and Suranga Lakmal has been impressive in patches, but now they will perforce have to come up with a tidy effort against an explosive line-up.

Dew will also be a big factor as both the captains will be eager to see the coin turning to their call. But hopefully, skill will get the better of luck on the morrow.
DH News Service
Timing: 1.30 pm onwards

(Published 12 January 2010, 17:19 IST)

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