The action now shifts to the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo for the 4th ODI between Sri Lanka and India. It may look like a dead rubber in the context of the series result as India have already clinched the series, yet a lot is at stake for both sides.
Where the visitors look to test the bench strength, the hosts would eye a direct qualification for the 2019 ODI World Cup with a win in either of the 2 remaining matches. There is still plenty to look forward to and by no means, this game would be short of action.
India have been clinical in everything they have done so far. The last match was another example of their supremacy on the tour. Where Jasprit Bumrah’s five wicket haul restricted the opponents to a paltry 217, Rohit Sharma’s superlative hundred combined with Dhoni’s calming half-century helped the side cruise to the 3rd win on the trot.
So far, the story has been similar in all the games, Sri Lanka batting first, only to reach paltry scores and then, India chasing down rather comfortably. Only Akila Dananjaya posed a little threat in the 2nd game otherwise it’s been one-way traffic all along. India have the intention of ringing in the changes in the remaining 2 ODIs yet they look far stronger than the hosts.
The only batsman who looked aggressive in the first 2 ODIs – Niroshan Dickwella suffered a low score in the 3rd match. Dinesh Chandimal, who scored a slow 36, fractured his thumb and was ruled out for the series. Dilshan Munaweera is expected to make his debut and might play as an opener.
Kusal Mendis has been getting starts but hasn’t converted any of those into something substantial. Lahiru Thirimanne scored 80 runs but consumed 105 balls for that. Chamara Kapugedera has been dropped from the side and as per reports, the decision to bat first is the reason for his exclusion. A lot was expected from the experienced Angelo Mathews but he has failed to deliver so far.
The axing of the stand-in skipper Kapugedera would mean that the veteran pacer Lasith Malinga would be having the responsibility to lead the side. It will be interesting to see, amidst all the chaos, how he guides the side. He hasn’t troubled the Indian batsmen with his pace yet but whether captaincy lifts his game or not, remains to be seen.
The other pacers Vishwa Fernando and Dushmanta Chameera have been highly ineffective. Akila Dananjaya, after his six wicket haul in the 2nd ODI, was read well by the Indian batsmen in the game that followed. For his unique skills, he will still be under the scanner.
Shikhar Dhawan had a rare failure in the last game and chances are, he might be rested for the next game to give Ajinkya Rahane an opportunity at the opener’s slot. Rohit Sharma, who scored an excellent match-winning hundred in the last game, would hope to continue riding on the great form.
Virat Kohli suffered back to back failures in the last 2 games and he would be itching to make amends. The experiment of KL Rahul didn’t work and Manish Pandey could replace him at No.4. MS Dhoni has played 2 consecutive calm and composed knocks which come as a delightful news for Indian cricket.
Kedar Jadhav also has 2 failures to his credit with the bat but for his finishing abilities and some useful part-time off-break bowling, he is expected to retain his place in the side. Hardik Pandya too has missed out with the bat but has chipped in with a couple of useful spells.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been wicketless on the tour so far and Shardul Thakur might replace him. Jasprit Bumrah has been instrumental in halting the opposition to low scores and he’ll be vital in Colombo too. Kuldeep Yadav, who has been sitting out so far, might come in for Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel might hold on to his spot given his ability to bat.
Players to watch out for
The veteran has had a torrid time in the series so far and has suffered a string of low scores. Where there were expectations that he will be the batting mainstay, he has scores of 36*, 20 and 11 in 3 matches so far. His failures haven’t helped Sri Lanka’s cause and he needs to stand up big time for the hosts as the direct qualification for the 2019 ODI World Cup is at stake.
Although the Indian skipper is always the player to watch out for regardless of the format or the opposition, yet he will be under the scanner, even more, this time around as he has got out for 4 and 3 in the last 2 games. It’s pretty rare for him to miss out in such a manner in ODI cricket and surely, he is due for a big score.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dilshan Munaweera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Akila Dananjaya, Lasith Malinga (c), Dushmantha Chameera, Milinda Siriwardana, Vishwa Fernando
India: Virat Kohli(c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma (vc), Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah