After two successful outings in the ongoing Asia Cup, MS Dhoni-led India will lock horns with a struggling Sri Lankan brigade in the T20 tournament at Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Mirpur on 1 March.Also read: BJP, Congress spar over Ind vs Pak World T20 in Dharamsala
The Indian team is currently placed at the top of the table with four crucial points and an impressive net run-rate of 1.90. On the other hand, the defending champions have found themselves struggling at the third spot after their drubbing against Bangladesh in their last match.
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India, currently unbeaten in the tournament, are clearly favourites against the Lankans who appear to be out of sorts in almost every department of the game. The islanders will have to play out of their skin if they intend to upset the strong Indian side and keep their Asia Cup campaign alive.
Sri Lanka can surely take positives from the first game they played against India in Pune last month where they bowled India out for a meagre 105 on a track which offered pace and bounce, almost similar to the track in Mirpur.
As the Lankan lions gear up to challenge the strong Indian side, here's how they stack up going into today's crucial match:
A new-look Lankan brigade might have begun their Asia Cup campaign as defending champions, but the team hasn't looked competitive at all. Whether it's the top or middle-order, the batting unit has failed the team on all counts. There hasn't been crucial partnerships between the batsmen which has exerted more pressure on the team in their recent games.
The team suffered a scare in their opening game against UAE where the minnows bowled out the defending champions for just 129 runs. Barring Dinesh Chandimal's 50, only three Lankan batsmen could manage to score in double figures. Though the team managed to fend off competition from UAE, their batting woes were once again exposed during the loss against Bangladesh.
Chandimal has a knack of eating up a lot of deliveries, while Tillakaratne Dilshan appears to have gone past his prime. The middle-order of Shehan Jayasuriya, Angelo Mathews and Milinda Siriwardana failed to perform under pressure. And, the team has also struggled in the final overs to get some quick runs from their all-rounder, Thisara Perera.
After a mediocre performance with the bat in their first game, the Lankans were only able to win by a margin of 14 runs against a team like UAE. If it wasn't for the bowling heroics of Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara, the outcome of the game would have surely been different.
The team survived a scare against UAE, but the absence of Malinga in the second game against Bangladesh proved critical for their team. Kulasekara conceded 44 runs in his four overs, while senior spin bowler Rangana Herath went wicket-less in his spell.
The likes of Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera have failed to make use of the bowling-friendly conditions in Mirpur. The only silver lining in the Sri Lankan bowling attack seems to be Dushmantha Chameera whose impressive bowling in the death overs has saved his side some blushes. The Lankan bowling unit will have to pull up their socks, especially against a strong batting lineup of India.
Malinga's absence hurting Lankans
Two wickets in his first over and two more in his second spell was how Lasith Malinga marked his comeback into competitive cricket after more than three months. His figures of 4 for 26 had saved the Lankans against a spirited UAE team.
However, Malinga's contribution was only restricted to the first game as the bowler practically limped off the field due to his long-standing knee injury. Highlighting the extent of his injury, Malinga didn't shy away from hinting at retirement from T20Is.
A bowler of his calibre and experience is undoubtedly crucial for any team in limited-overs cricket. And for a team like Sri Lanka, who is currently playing with some new faces in their side, Malinga's expertise would have been pivotal for their Asia Cup campaign.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ashish Nehra, Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh, Pawan Negi, Parthiv Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Sri Lanka: Lasith Malinga (captain), TM Dilshan, Dinesh Chandimal, Shehan Jayasuriya, Angelo Mathews, Chamara Kapugedara, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dasun Chanaka, Dushmantha Chameera, Milinda Siriwardana, Rangana Herath, Niroshan Dickwella, Thisara Perera, Jeffrey Vandersay, Sachithra Senanayeke.