Sunday, December 20, 2009

India hope to regain lead in Cuttack

Stand-in India skipper Virender Sehwag will have to pull out all the stops to regain their lead when they lock horns with Sri Lankan in the third ODI.

As if poor fielding and bowling were not bad enough, the home side received a rude jolt when their inspirational skipper and last match centurion MS Dhoni was handed a two-match ban for the team's slow-over rate in the second ODI in Nagpur.

To add to India's woes, Yuvraj, who missed the first two games due to a finger injury and flu, still remains doubtful even though he has been retained in the 15-member squad.

In Dhoni's absence, Tamil Nadu keeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik has been drafted into the side to do the duties behind the stumps, while S Sreesanth, who is recovering from swine flu, has been replaced with Ishant Sharma.

Not that Sri Lanka didn't have their share of injuries.

All-rounder Angelo Mathews, who braved pain to guide the side to a series-equalling three-wicket win in Nagpur, strained the right quadricep muscle in Nagpur and has returned home.

Earlier the visitors had lost champion spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and paceman Dilhara Fernando to finger injuries.

With the series locked at 1-1, the result of tomorrow's day and night affair will be crucial in the context of the outcome of the series.

Under Sehwag, who has lead India in five ODIs, the hosts will first have to plug the loopholes in their bowling and fielding departments apart from capitalising on its main strength -- batting -- if they are to seize the initiative in the five-match series.

India's fortune often depends on the start they get and hence a lot would depend on how Sehwag himself fares, along side veteran Sachin Tendulkar.

India lost both Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir early in Nagpur and despite Dhoni's century, could not post a total that was beyond their opponents.

"We did not get a good start. We got some partnerships going but also lost wickets regularly," Dhoni had rued after the match.

Fielding, both catching and ground fielding, has been another area of concern for the team and Dhoni did not try to defend his butter-finger teammates either.

"We are also not the best fielding side in the world. We need to score 20 more runs to make up for the fielding lapses," Dhoni said.

The Sri Lankans, meanwhile, will be a confident lot after the Nagpur win.

The visitors will take heart from the fact that in the two matches played so far, their batting has been outstanding and will hope that it would come good tomorrow as well.

Opener Tillakratne Dilshan, in particular, has been the show-stopper for the Lankans with two back-to-back centuries.

He not only set the platorm for the visitors' three-wicket win in Nagpur with a scintillating 113-ball 123 but very nearly pulled off a stunner in the high-scoring opener in Rajkot, which the Lankans lost by three runs.

Chasing a mammoth 415 for victory, Dilshan struck a scintillating 160 off 124 balls to take Sri Lanka inches close to a sensational win.

Apart from Dilshan, skipper Kumar Sangakkara and opener Upul Tharanga also looked in good touch.

However, just like India, the Lankans too have a problem or two in their inexperienced bowling and fielding departments.

he visitors' bowling front has been badly affected by injuries and their problems were further compounded when Mathews joined Muralitharan and Fernando on the sidelines.

Traditionally, Barabati has been a lucky venue for India who have won eight, lost four matches here while one was abandoned due to rain.

But they have a poor record against Sri Lanka in Cuttack, having lost to the islanders in the only ODI played between the two nations way back in December 28, 1990.

Teams (from) India: Virender Sehwag (c), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma, Sudeep Tyagi and Virat Kohli.

Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (c), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilina Kandamby, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Samaraweera, Upul Tharanga, Chanaka Welegedara, Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, Suraj Randiv and Thissara Perera.

Hours of play: 2.30 pm to 6 pm; 6.45 pm till close.

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