Confident India ready to pounce on deflated SL

Cricket Asia Cup : Dhoni's men eye third straight win

Confident India ready to pounce on deflated SL

India are riding the crest of a wave in Twenty20 cricket. They have appeared a galvanised unit which has successfully mastered the conditions and oppositions.

If anything, it is injuries to their key players that have troubled this confident group. Regardless, they remain the favourites against the inexperienced Sri Lanka, who are still struggling to find their way in the format, in the Asia Cup T20 encounter on Tuesday.

It matters little that Sri Lanka won the last edition of the Asia Cup, then a 50-over format in 2014, beating Pakistan. Since then the side has been left barren in experience following the retirements of quality batsmen in Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Their world class bowler and captain Lasith Malinga, who returned after three months following knee injury, has again picked up a niggle. He had rescued his side with his four-wicket burst against the UAE in the opening match but sat out against the hosts Bangladesh on Sunday with a heavily taped left knee.

Sri Lanka, led by Angelo Mathews, once again put out a flaky batting display to go down to an inspired home team by 23 runs. Despite Mathews’ insistence that they could bat till No 9 with batsmen like Thisara Perera, Dasun Sanaka, Chamura Kapugedera, Sri Lanka are yet to provide a proof of their batting prowess. Mathews, though, admitted the team was undergoing a transitional period. By losing to Bangladesh, they have made their chances of qualifying to final only tougher. They now need to beat India and Pakistan both to achieve it.

India and Sri Lanka are familiar rivals. The island nation, sans Malinga and Mathews, had lost the three-match T20 series in India 1-2 last month. Their only win had come on the seamer-friendly track in Pune. However, if the pitch that was rolled out for Sri Lanka-Bangladesh encounter is anything to go by, then it is likely that the coming contests could have batsmen flexing their muscles. Unlike the green cover that greeted the first four matches, there was a brownish tinge to Sunday’s pitch that had something for batsmen as well as the spinners.

Meanwhile, India too have their share of injury worries. Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been battling back spasms, Shikhar Dhawan had to sit out against Pakistan because of a sprained left ankle and Rohit Sharma joined the list when he was hit on his toe by Mohammad Aamir’s sizzling yorker.

In the training on Monday, Rohit skipped the nets while Shikhar underwent a fitness test with a taped left ankle. Later, he also practiced with the tennis ball keeping in the mind the bounce of the surface.  Dhoni, who had skipped the nets before the Pakistan match, too, spent some time with the bat.

Dhawan was replaced in the opening slot by Ajinkya  Rahane but now with both openers injured, it is yet to be seen if the services of back-up Parthiv Patel would be utilised. Rest of the batsmen have been in good nick. Both Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh came good against Pakistan at a crucial period.

India’s bowling, too, has looked in place. Hardik Pandya has contributed with the ball as well and lent the attack stability. If the surface turns out to be slow, R Ashwin would be eager to better his record at the venue. A win on Tuesday will more or less seal their final berth and India look primed for that.

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