India will look to secure place in semi-finals

Sri Lanka face a formidable challenge as India, after a dominant win over Pakistan, look to close in on a semis spot at the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.

India take on Sri Lanka in their second game on and victory will seal the semi- final spot before they face South Africa in the last league tie. India, after the emphatic win over Pakistan, are favourites.

Sri Lanka’s batting was out-of-depth against South Africa, and they also lost their stand-in captain and most-seasoned batsman, Upul Tharanga, due to an atrocious over-rate — Lasith Malinga at one point taking seven minutes to finish an over. Then, on Wednesday morning, Chamara Kapugedera, the second senior-most batsman in the side, injured his knee and was ruled out. And perhaps the only reason Mathews, who missed the opening game with a calf injury, is playing is because he has no other choice. So, to say that the Sri Lankans start Thursday’s match as outright underdogs would be an understatement. For up against them will be an Indian team that seems to have all bases covered and some more.

With the likes of Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, and Nuwan Pradeep in the side, the three-pronged Sri Lankan pace attack can pose quite a few problems for the Indian batsmen, who are used to less seaming conditions.

However, India themselves have a mean bowling line-up, one which in modern day cricket, is considered to be one of the best in the world. Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, and Hardik Pandya present a rather difficult predicament for any batting line-up — even more so in seaming conditions. To add to that, they have another top-quality pace bowler on their bench, in the form of Mohammed Shami.

When India take on Sri Lanka in the ICC Champions Trophy, it will be their first meeting in more than 30 months. India vs Sri Lanka has been a regular fixture in the international calendar for several years, but surprisingly the two teams haven’t met in a one-day international since November 2014. Yes, it has really been that long.

India are playing some fabulous cricket at the moment and are threatening to unseat South Africa from the perch of the ICC rankings. India are ranked third in the ODI rankings — four points adrift of the table-toppers, while Sri Lanka are seventh. Sri Lanka’s performance has been below average in recent times; they have talented players for sure, but the talent isn’t translating into performances on the field and producing the desired results.

India have dominated Sri Lanka, winning more than 65 per cent of the matches between the two teams. Since 2009, India have a 28–13 win-loss record against Sri Lanka. That’s how poor Sri Lanka have been in recent times.

In ODIs, Kohli has scored more runs against Sri Lanka than against any other team.

Sri Lanka will surely be wary of another big score from Virat Kohli. They will be aware that the last three times he batted against them in an ODI, he made scores of 139*, 66 and 53.

The one player who will possibly dread India vs Sri Lanka fixture is Lasith Malinga. The Sri Lankan pacer has pretty ordinary numbers against India — and one could attribute that to the familiarity of Indian players from playing against him repeatedly in the Indian Premier League. The one number that best illustrates Malinga’s poor performance in ODIs against India is his strike-rate. While he picks up a wicket every 31 balls against the remaining eight Test playing teams, against India his strike-rate is more than seven overs.

The Sri Lankan pacer bleeds runs against India too. He concedes runs at nearly a run a ball against India, while against the other teams his economy rate is 5.18. Sri Lanka will hope Malinga can deliver a match-winning spell in this contest.

Sri Lanka are also not competing as well as they can because of the frequent injuries to captain Angelo Mathews and forced changes at the helm. Mathews is a fantastic player, but his fragile body hasn’t been able to cope with the demands of international cricket, and he has missed more than a third of the 49 ODI matches Sri Lanka have played in the last 28 months.

Sri Lanka have had four different captains in the last 28 months, and the lack of continuity in leadership isn’t certainly helping the team’s cause.

India will most likely stick with the same squad and strategy which defeated Pakistan by 124 runs. If India can win this game then their path to the knockout stages is almost certain and hence it is imperative that they maintain their winning momentum. A loss for the island nation will most likely see them get knocked out.

The defending champions have all bases covered and hence it will be difficult to nudge them over.

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