R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo
Thursday, 31 August; 14:30 IST and local
India TV channel: Sony Ten 3 and Ten 3 HD (Hindi), Sony Six and Six HD (English)
The main picture
The winner of this five-ODI series has been decided, yes, but Sri Lanka and India have everything to play for in the fourth and fifth one-dayers. Both these teams came into this series with different goals and none of them has been accomplished yet: the hosts remain needing two victories to potentially seal automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup and Team India haven’t reaped much from their small experiment with the batting order in the second and third ODIs, while four other players (Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Shardul Thakur, and Kuldeep Yadav) await their chance to showcase what they are capable of contributing.
The hosts’ batting has been a big letdown throughout India’s visit so far, with even the mainstays failing to bat time and produce scores that will benefit the team. The playing styles of Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, and Danushka Gunathilaka, who has now been sidelined with a shoulder injury, are perfect for the 50-over format and naturally, the expectations of these four were high. But none of them has played a substantial knock yet to guide the batting line-up through and the lack of good individual scores hasn’t helped the team post sizeable totals batting first. Lahiru Thirimanne and Milinda Siriwardana, batting in the middle order, have come to their team’s rescue, though these two batsmen have had too much to do after the substantial damage at the top of the innings. As a result of the poor batting displays, Sri Lanka have gone in on the back-foot at the halfway points in each of the three ODIs.
In the bowling department, Akila Dananjaya has been the only one who has challenged the Indian batsmen and been a genuine wicket-taker. The lack of potency from the other bowlers has denied Sri Lanka from defending 230 and 217, despite creating themselves chances to do so.
The Indian team management will be particularly happy with MS Dhoni making runs, playing two vital knocks at Nos. 5 and 6, and in the process, silencing his critics. The former Indian captain had come into this limited-overs series as one of the weak links in the batting line-up. The openers have also gotten a couple of scores under their belts, while the faulty Indian middle order needs sorting out yet. And you can expect at least one change being made from the third ODI.
Of the Indian bowlers, Jasprit Bumrah has had a fantastic series in which his figures so far read 11/92, while Axar Patel’s fast left-arm spin has been productive (5/99) for him and the team. The Indian bowling, though, hasn’t been tested yet and the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya have lacked discipline. India’s fielding display in the third ODI left a lot to be desired and it’s an area where the Men in Blue need to tighten up on. Poor fielders will not make the World Cup squad and the likes of Kedar Jadhav and Lokesh Rahul, apart from scoring runs, must get tight with their ground fielding in particular.
The Sri Lankan selection committee members along with the chairman Sanath Jayasuriya have resigned as a result of the national team’s disastrous displays against India, with the former captain and hard-hitting opener saying that the crowd trouble in the third ODI prompted him to step down. It’s another reminder of the current state of Sri Lankan cricket. India, on the other hand, need their fringe players and those who have failed so far to showcase their utility and make amends. The Indian team management faces a tough task of picking the playing XI for the fourth and fifth ODIs.
Sri Lanka vs India head to head in ODI matches
In addition to securing their eighth consecutive bilateral ODI series win over Sri Lanka, India extended their head-to-head record against the Islanders to 86-55 in 159 One-Day Internationals so far. One of those matches has ended in a tie, while the other 17 have produced no results.
At the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, India and Sri Lanka have played 34 ODIs till date, with the hosts winning 15 to India’s 13. Six other matches have either been cancelled or produced no results.
Team news and playing XI
The Lankan Lions continue to be dogged by injuries, even though injuries aren’t the reason for their failure to get on board yet against India. Chamara Kapugedera, their stand-in captain for the suspended Upul Tharanga, has been ruled out of the fourth ODI due to a stiff back. Lasith Malinga will lead Sri Lanka in Kapugedera’s absence. Dinesh Chandimal suffered a hairline fracture in his right thumb in last Sunday’s match and has been ruled out of this series. Danushka Gunathilaka will assess on Wednesday morning if he can play, having suffered a shoulder injury in the second ODI.
Dhananjaya de Silva and Dilshan Munaweera have been named as replacements for Chandimal and Kapugedera.
Sri Lanka are unlikely to tinker with their bowling attack, but the batting line-up obviously will have changes. Their likely playing XI is as follows:
1 Lasith Malinga (C), 2 Niroshan Dickwella (WK), 3 Danushka Gunathilaka/Wanindu Hasaranga/Dhananjaya de Silva, 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Milinda Siriwardana, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Dushmantha Chameera, 10 Akila Dananjaya, and 11 Vishwa Fernando
India, as aforementioned, have tough selection calls to make. Will they rest Shikhar Dhawan, who has been in good form and fully involved until this point of India’s tour, and bring in Ajinkya Rahane, the third opener in the squad? Who among Lokesh Rahul and Kedar Jadhav will make space for Manish Pandey in the middle order? Will Shardul Thakur and Kuldeep Yadav feature in the playing XI as well? Well, we’ll know the answers only on Thursday afternoon, but the likely team is as follows:
1 Virat Kohli (C), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan/Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Lokesh Rahul/Manish Pandey, 5 MS Dhoni (WK), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Shardul Thakur, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, and 11 Kuldeep Yadav
Sri Lanka have so far proved incapable of killing off matches and making the most of favourable match situations because of their over-dependence on Dananjaya. But if they want to be in control of their own destiny, as far as World Cup qualification is concerned, they need to win these last two ODIs against India. And the primary key to their success is the top order firing and as such, the entire batting line-up coming good.
Going by what Virat Kohli said in the post-match interview regarding the misfiring middle order, India seem relaxed about the situation and are prepared to be patient with building a team for the next World Cup. But the immediate concern for them is fitting the players who haven’t played yet, in the playing XI on Thursday and Sunday.