World Cup 2019: Against spirited Sri Lanka, India search for best combination ahead of knockouts
Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri might keep India unchanged for Saturday's game. (AFP Image)

HEADINGLEY: With a place in the semi-final guaranteed, it is possible that India‘s contest against Sri Lanka be considered an inconsequential one. But that’s as far from real as one can get. This may be India’s final league match of the World Cup 2019 but with a new joining in the squad and the possibility of them leapfrogging Australia for the No. 1 spot lurking, Sunday’s clash is equally crucial.

Provided South Africa, defeat Australia and India end their league stage with a win, India go top of the points table. This means India play New Zealand in Manchester, and not England at Edgbaston. Given the recent rut New Zealand find themselves in, Old Trafford would be a preference any day. Hence, expect India to go full-throttle against Sri Lanka. In the past, India and Sri Lanka have played each other more than any other two teams and even though there is a lot less at stake here and there is a feeling of yet another bilateral game to it than a World Cup match, neither side will take it lightly.

That doesn’t mean beating SL would be a walk in the park. The last time India played them in England was in the Champions Trophy 2017, where Sri Lanka chased down 322. From that game in Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews are in this squad. Also, it was in Headingley that Sri Lanka stunned England and with a confident win against West Indies, they are pretty capable of surprising another top side and go out with a win.

For India, this is their final chance to tune up their batting. In the previous game, Kedar Jadhav, who has bowled just six overs and hasn’t bowled in the last four games, was swapped for Dinesh Karthik, and Rishabh Pant, with scores of 32 and 48 in the two games, seems to have provided a semblance of balance to the No. 4 spot.

Sri Lanka have had their moments this World Cup. The win against England was followed by Avishka Fernando’s inspiring century against West Indies, Angelo Mathews’ moment of glory with the ball and Lasith Malinga‘s top-crushing yorker reminding everyone of his days of yore. In what is going to be his final World Cup game, what better way to give Malinga a perfect World Cup send-off than a win against one of the semi-finalists?

What: India vs Sri Lanka, Match 45, ICC World Cup

When: Saturday, July 6, 2019

Where: Headingley, Leeds

Time: 330 PM IST

Weather: The sun had been playing hide and seek on Friday and even though it might remain partly overcast on Saturday, rain isn’t likely to threaten the game

Team News

India

The biggest question ahead of this match is – Will Mayank Agarwal play? Based on India’s nets session, he won’t. Agarwal’s role was restricted to just doing some fielding drills and it wasn’t until all the batsmen were done that he faced a few balls from Yorkshire’s bowlers. The rest of the top order batsmen were drilled in the nets – Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant and MS Dhoni. Ravindra Jadeja did some bowling and knocking, Jasprit Bumrah sent down some yorkers. The deck on which the game is going to be played is the same on which Afghanistan played West Indies. Hence, it is used and expected to play slower. In spite of that, India’s XI is likely to remain the same.

Probable XI: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Rishabh Pant, 5 Dinesh Karthik, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Ravindra Jadeja/Mohammed Shami, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

Sri Lanka

Legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay was expensive against West Indies and Sri Lanka might be tempted to add an extra spinner with slow left-armer Milinda Siriwardana, especially considering Dhoni’s struggle against spin. In the World Cup, Dhoni has scored 47 off 81 balls against spinners and the exposure of bowling to a two-time World Cup winning should be a confidence booster for Siriwardana

Probable XI: 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt), 2 Kusal Perera (wk), 3 Avishka Fernando, 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Lahiru Thirimanne/Thisara Perera, 7 Dhananjaya de Silva, 8 Isuru Udana, 9 Lasith Malinga, 10 Kasun Rajitha, 11 Jeffrey Vandersay

Stats and Trivia

– Bumrah has 19 wickets in 9 games against Sri Lanka at a strike rate of 17.63

– Bumrah also needs one wicket to get to 100 ODI wickets and become the second-fastest Indian to the landmark after Shami

Quotes

“I think if you take the other countries, they played lots of cricket, like IPL and the domestic structure in India, that’s really, really good. And in Sri Lanka, we have only one domestic season.” – Dimuth Karunaratne thinks lack of proper domestic structure in holding Sri Lanka cricket back

“I think India is a team there have been good chasers for a long time we’re very confident of chasing.” – Karthik has full faith in India batting second and chasing down totals