Virat Kohli (batting in picture)  lead from the front in the game against Bangladesh © AFP
Virat Kohli (batting in picture) led from the front in the game against Bangladesh in Asia Cup 2014 © AFP

 

By Abhijit Banare

 

Feb 27, 2014

 

India versus Sri Lanka matches are sometimes regarded as merely adding up to the number of One-Day Internationals (ODIs) played around the world. After a brief hiatus, the two teams are going to take on each other, as they will play their 144th encounter in the Asia Cup 2014. With close to six months since they last played, there will be at least some novelty in Friday’s clash. Both teams are coming on the back of a victory, Sri Lanka escaping with a narrow win over Pakistan and India thrashing Bangladesh. In those two games, two players shone brightly. Lasith Malinga, known for bowling toe-crushing yorkers was back in his elements. India’s run-making machine and blue-eyed boy, Virat Kohli, continued to notch up tall scores at will by playing with a royal flourish against Bangladesh.

 

Feather-beds in the subcontinent means that batsmen will rule the roost in the match. And the batting line-up of both teams look well-oiled to fight it out in what can turn out to be another run feast. At the same time, the bowlers are in for a big challenge. Considering India’s ineffectiveness with the ball even against Bangladesh, there is a long way to go for them. It was a typical bowling performance from India, as with the pacers going for runs, and the spin twins containing the batsmen more than picking up wickets. Ravichandran Ashwin’s new action just spiced things up in the middle-overs.

 

As far as the Sri Lanka’s bowling is concerned though, their slower bowlers did the trick in defending 296 against Pakistan. However, a contrasting performance against India can’t be ruled out. Suranga Lakmal was the weak-link in the bowling department, as he was leaking runs in every spell. Skipper Angelo Mathews will be tempted to use Dhammika Prasad in place of Lakmal. Though, Malinga sealed the deal for Sri Lanka with a five-for and that too in a flash he took all those wickets. Yet, the bowler himself acknowledged that he was far from being at his best. He kept away from using the fuller deliveries for most part of his spell.

 

In the batting department, Sri Lanka have Lahiru Thirimanne who has been striking the ball well. Kusal Perera’s lack of temperament though, has ensured that the good starts have been hard to come-by. However, nothing can overshadow Kumar Sangakkara‘s purple patch. He is batting with supreme confidence and amassing those runs with elegance and panache. The problem surfaces in the middle-order, where another warhorse Mahela Jayawardene is struggling to time the ball well and has had a dry run with the bat. Their middle-order collapses are a worry, while posting a big total or in terms of chasing 300-plus scores.

 

As far as the Indians are concerned, the poor performance of bowlers just doesn’t seem to matter. There seems to be ‘all is well’ feeling what with batsmen notching up tall scores on the flat decks of the subcontinent. In their last game, the openers gave a solid start, and Kohli just did the rest to complete a win against Bangladesh. Though the middle-order is untested, they are still capable of holding together an innings of substance. Ajinkya Rahane is one of the batsmen to watch out for, especially after with steady perfection, he essayed a fine knock against Bangladesh.

 

Fatullah has seen high-scoring matches in recent times, but a 300-plus score hasn’t yet been achieved. Expect these two teams to do the honours. Be it a feather-bed or a turner, Mathews will think more than twice before choosing to bat first, if he wins the toss.

 

Squads:

 

India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ambati Rayudu, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron, Stuart Binny, Amit Mishra, Ishwar Pandey.

 

Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (c), Dinesh Chandimal, Chaturanga de Silva, Mahela Jayawardene, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Kusal Perera (wk), Thisara Perera, Dhammika Prasad, Ashan Priyanjan, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Sachithra Senanayake, Lahiru Thirimanne.

 

Time: 8:00 GMT I 13:30 IST

 

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)