In form, well-balanced India firm favourites in series decider

Match details

Dr Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium, Visakhapatnam
December 17, Sunday; 13:30 IST
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The main picture

The only times Sri Lanka have threatened on this tour is when their bowlers have had the conditions in their favour and then taken advantage of the conditions. Suranga Lakmal, in particular, has put them in winning positions with his delivery of wickets and done so pretty much singlehandedly. And when Lakmal hasn’t delivered with the ball—for instance, in the second Test (29-2-111-0) and in the second ODI (8-0-71-0) of the series—the visitors have not only struggled but lost those matches by huge margins.

Their batting obviously lacks the firepower and so, unless the bowlers come up with a big performance and subsequently make the task easier for the batsmen, the Lankan Lions might struggle to roar in the series-deciding third ODI in Vizag.

That isn’t to say India are invincible and will win this series on Sunday (December 17). Yes, they are favourites because of the balance they possess and man-to-man are the better side. But if Sri Lanka can bridge the gap with their bowlers removing Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma cheaply and getting into the Indian middle order quickly—which is no rocket science and was how the Dharamsala ODI was won—they will give themselves a fair chance of pulling off an upset.

Essentially, the battle to look forward to and the one that has proved decisive in the first and second ODIs is Sri Lanka’s bowling against India’s batting.

Team India return to the venue where they have won five of the seven ODIs they have played; they have lost one match and the other was cancelled without a ball being bowled. This will be Sri Lanka’s second ODI at the Dr Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium, where they have lost the only ODI played so far (in 2007) and also lost a Twenty20 International last year.

This is a relatively high-scoring venue where the pitch is good for batting more often than not (India’s 356/9 against Pakistan in 2005 is the highest score by a team, while the other matches have produced scores in the region of 280 to 300; the spinners have tended to extract a lot more from the pitch than the seamers). In four day-night matches at this venue, three have been won by the team chasing. The weather forecast says that Sunday will be pleasant and see sunshine, with a high temperature of 29 degree Celsius and a low of 19 degree Celsius. Remember that this match will start at 13:30 IST.

Recent form

IND: WLWWL (last five ODIs, from left to right)

3rd ODI: India vs Sri Lanka playing 11

India sprang a surprise in Mohali by replacing Kuldeep Yadav, who hadn’t even bowled in the Dharamsala ODI, with Washington Sundar, who didn’t have a bad debut with the ball (1/65 in 10 overs). That change in personnel wasn’t necessary and after the emphatic 141-run win in the second ODI, the playing XI for the third ODI doesn’t have to be changed either. A no-brainer.

Like India playing XI for the 3rd ODI: Probable India playing 11 for the second ODI: 1 Rohit Sharma (c), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Dinesh Karthik, 5 Manish Pandey, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Washington Sundar, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, and 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Sri Lanka’s line-up from the Mohali ODI has a few worrisome spots: Danushka Gunathilaka has scores of 1 and 16 in the first two ODIs of this series; Lahiru Thirimanne has had a couple of failures as well (0 and 21), and the visitors’ batting line-up has a long tail despite Thisara Perera and Sachith Pathirana playing as all-rounders. Of course, Perera, being the captain, will play and look to contribute more with the bat. But Pathirana’s spot will be up for debate. Gunathilaka’s place might also be under scrutiny, with Sadeera Samarawickrama waiting in the wings. And Nuwan Pradeep, who conceded 106 runs in his 10 overs without picking a wicket in Mohali, might get the chop, too.

Possible Sri Lanka playing 11 for the third ODI: 1 Thisara Perera (c), 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 4 Lahiru Thirimanne, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 7 Asela Gunaratne, 8 Akila Dananjaya, 9 Chaturanga de Silva, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, and 11 Suranga Lakmal

Match prediction

India are the team in form (not because they won the second ODI but overall, over the course of this calendar year) and also have the nous and experience of winning these must-win matches. So, they will start Sunday’s third ODI as firm favourites to win it and the series. But Sri Lanka have the advantage of playing without the weight of expectations. Obviously, their batting line-up has to come good, but the bowling attack has to collectively fare well too if the visitors are to stand any chance.

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