Subplots galore as India, Sri Lanka meet for final T20I in Pune

Navdeep Saini exults after going through Danushka Gunathilaka’s defence © BCCI

Big Picture

The only match of the T20I series has taught us a few things. The first is that India have their seam-bowling backups for the T20 World Cup fairly sorted. With Jasprit Bumrah not getting any wicket till his penultimate over in Indore, it was Navdeep Saini at the top and Shardul Thakur at the death, who kept Sri Lanka quiet with breakthroughs that stopped their opponents from changing gears at crucial points of the game. There was also the birth of the idea that Virat Kohli, perhaps, could take the No. 4 spot at the tournament in October, after India promoted Shreyas Iyer to No. 3.

At the other end of the spectrum, however, are Sri Lanka’s batting woes, even on friendly surfaces. Barring Kusal Perera, their other batsmen have not come through consistently enough for the national team. They struggled against the 140kph deliveries, they couldn’t get on top of the spin bowlers, and the frustration was visible on captain Lasith Malinga’s face when the cameras panned to the Sri Lanka dugout after Dhananjaya de Silva‘s dismissal. The harsh reality for Sri Lanka is that they are not automatic qualifiers into the T20 World Cup, and in order to not trip up at the qualifying rounds itself, they need to urgently develop a clearer batting plan.

The gulf between the sides may appear to be wide, but there are plenty of subplots for which the Pune T20I is an exciting prospect. Who will win round 2 of the Shikhar Dhawan-KL Rahul audition to be Rohit Sharma’s partner in October? Will Manish Pandey, Yuzvendra Chahal and Sanju Samson continue to warm the bench? Will India bat first if they win the toss? And if none of that excites you, remember, this series is still undecided. India have lost a game in each of their last three home T20I series, and that should keep Sri Lanka motivated for the the final T20I.

Kusal Perera whips a short ball through the leg side © BCCI

Form guide

India WWLWW (completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LLLLW

In the spotlight

Angelo Mathews could play his first T20I since August 2018. He was spotted as one of the first ones to bat in the nets during practice on the eve of the match. He bowled as well. With Isuru Udana injured, Mathews is a strong contender to return to the side. In his last four white-ball internationals, his scores read 113, 48, 52* and 87. When he does bowl, he offers control with the new ball, allowing Malinga to bowl more at the death. His captain still calls him the team’s “best finisher“.

Shikhar Dhawan says he’s a carefree man. But it doesn’t always show in his batting. His strike-rate hovered around 110 in Indore while the rest of his team-mates played far more attractive cricket. The pressure to stay India’s first-choice T20I opener is building on the left-hander with Rahul’s steady rise as an aggressive batsman in the Powerplay. He has another opportunity to reinstate his worth.

Team news

Danushka Gunathilaka suffered a blow to his hand in the nets and did not continue practice while Udana is ruled out. That means Niroshan Dickwella and Mathews could be the two replacements.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Niroshan Dickwella, 2 Avishka Fernando, 3 Kusal Perera (wk), 4 Bhanuka Rajapaksa, 5 Oshada Fernando, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Dasun Shanaka, 8 Dhananjaya de Silva, 9 Wanindu Hasaranga, 10 Lasith Malinga (capt), 11 Lahiru Kumara

India may hand Chahal a game instead of Kuldeep Yadav. It continues to look difficult for Pandey or Samson to get a game with India having no injury concerns in their first XI.

India (possible): 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Shivam Dube, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav/ Yuzvendra Chahal, Shardul Thakur, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Pitch and conditions

Expect an even contest between bat and ball. Conditions are expected to be cool with clear skies, although dew may play a factor in the second innings.

Stats and trivia

  • India were bowled out for 101 in the last T20I held at Pune. Incidentally, their opponents were Sri Lanka then.
  • Mathews averages 78.00 in India with the bat in T20Is.
  • Since the start of this home season in September 2019, Virat Kohli averages 147 in T20Is.
  • Sri Lanka are looking to avoid a fifth straight T20I loss.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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