India (above) narrowly lost their previous game against West Indies by one wicket © AFP
Kingston (Jamaica): Jul 2, 2013
India and Sri Lanka go in search of their first points of the Tri-Nation Series when they meet on Tuesday at Sabina Park as the preliminary phase of the competition reaches the halfway point.
With the West Indies completing contrasting victories over the other two teams and already on their way to Trinidad and Tobago, where the last three group matches and the final will be played from Friday, this duel of sub-continental neighbours almost has the feel of an eliminator.
While defeat for either side will not rule them out completely from making the final on July 11 at Queen’s Park Oval, it will leave them having to win their two remaining matches in Port of Spain, a venue where the weather is notoriously fickle at this time of the year.
India should be the more confident of the combatants in the Jamaican capital, although they are likely to be without the services of inspirational leader Mahendra Singh Dhoni, unless he makes a remarkable recovery from what was reportedly diagnosed initially as a right hamstring strain sustained while batting against the West Indies on Sunday.
His calm control of proceedings on the field were missed as much as his wicketkeeping, yet stand-in captain Virat Kohli ensured that the undisputed kings of One-Day International cricket made the home side battle all the way towards a modest target of 230, winning by just one wicket.
“We aren’t too disappointed,” Kohli stated after that match.
“Just one wicket made the difference in the end so it could have gone either way. We fought really hard.”
While the weather at the start of the hurricane season in the Caribbean has so far been kind to the competition in Jamaica, both captains will be keen to win the toss.
That way they can give their bowlers first use of a pitch that has made run-scoring difficult in the first half of the day, only to flatten out in the afternoon, based on the evidence of the first two matches, in which the visiting captains called incorrectly and then struggled to build any sort of momentum at the crease.
Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews gave his side’s innings some respectability with an unbeaten top-score of 55 in the losing effort on Friday.
But it is not expected to be enough against an Indian team that is set to make an enforced change — Murali Vijay is the obvious option to replace Dhoni with Dinesh Karthik as wicketkeeper — that breaks a run of six consecutive matches with an unchanged eleven dating back to the start of the Champioms Trophy tournament in England.