Champions Trophy, India vs Sri Lanka: Five key battles to look out for

Vineet Ramakrishnan | Updated: June 20, 2013, 10:10 AM IST
Champions Trophy, India vs Sri Lanka: Five key battles to look out for

The ICC Champions Trophy has pitted two familiar foes against each other in India and Sri Lanka in the second semi-final. Deja vu, you could say, as the giants from the subcontinent will meet for the first time in an ODI tournament since the monumental 2011 World Cup final. So far, India have steamrolled their way in to the semi-finals with an unbeaten record whereas Sri Lanka produced their best when it mattered the most.

India's new look opening pair has looked impressive, ably supported by their bowlers, while Sri Lanka have so far looked up to their reliable and experienced players to come up with the goods.

Cricketnext takes a look at five key battles that could determine the outcome of the match.

Shikhar Dhawan v Lasith Malinga: The 27-year-old Dhawan has so far stuck gold with his form and is the highest run-getter in the tournament with 264 runs in three matches at an average of 132. He cut and pulled his way to centuries in Cardiff and London and then looked equally good against Pakistan against whom he made 48. In the semis, up against him will be a certain Lasith Malinga. The Sri Lankan' slinging action has often created problems in run-scoring and his near perfect variations are very hard to pick.

Dhawan's cross-batted exploits would be tested against Malinga's full length deliveries - the slower ones and fast yorkers. Even though Malinga has looked a bit wayward in the tournament, he has managed to pick up seven wickets at an average of 21.71. India's strength so far has been their opening stand and Malinga could very well deliver an early wicket or two to put pressure on the middle order.

Ravindra Jadeja v Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara: With nine wickets in three matches at an average of 10.77, Jadeja sits at third on the list of leading wicket-takers, but the left-armer spinner's real worth lies in his miserly economy of 3.59. Along with R Ashwin, Jadeja has proved to be a tough customer to get way. Drafted into the team as a batting allrounder, Jadeja has recently blossomed into an attacking bowler in the middle overs. Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, the two best players of spin for Sri Lanka, have found form in the tournament; Jayawardene made a crucial 84 against Australia and Sangakkara compiled one of the best ODI knocks of the year (134) in a tough chase against England.

If Sri Lanka hope to get some runs in the middle overs these two would be the batsmen to do it against the spin duo of Jadeja and Ashwin. It would be a battle of wits, technique and patience and one who triumphs could very well take their team to the final.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar v Tillakaratne Dilshan: In favourable England conditions, Bhuvneshwar has provided a very good start to the Indians up until now. He has not only stuck to a great line and length while giving nothing away to the batsmen, but also has been able to pick up early wickets. Dilshan, on the other hand, has struggled to get going but on his day he is capable to dismantling any bowling attack. In order to get the swing going, Bhuvneshwar will pitch the ball up and Dilshan is not one to shy away from hitting opportunities. That would present the Uttar Pradesh seamer a chance of scalping Dilshan early, but he could also be in danger of leaking runs. Dilshan is due a big innings too.

Umesh Yadav/Ishant Sharma v Sri Lanka's middle order: Bhuvneshwar's fine form with the new ball has in a way relegated the experienced Ishant to being the first change bowler and if one had to point out a weak link in the Indian line-up, it could be the form and morale of the Delhi quick. The young guns of Sri Lanka, the middle-order pair of Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal, have shown promise yet failed to create a buzz. Thirimanne fought his way to a valiant 57 against Australia but was clearly hampered by the short stuff dished out by Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson.

Umesh can ran ruffle a few feathers if he bangs it in short, but he would need to find a good rhythm to avoid being erratic. Mathews, lower down the order, is always a dangerous proposition and with Bhuvneshwar expected to bowl out before the death overs and the Jadeja-Ashwin pair finishing their spells in the middle period, the onus will be on Umesh and Ishant to keep a check on the Lankan scoring rate. India have a history of conceding runs in the final overs, so watch out for Sri Lanka's finish.

Rangana Herath/Nuwan Kulasekara v Rohit Sharma/Virat Kohli/Dinesh Karthik: To be the number one ODI bowler for over a year is no mean feat, yet Kulasekara's name does not sound any alarm bells. A very under-rated bowler, Kulasekara has the knack of picking up wickets and his skidding nature in overcast conditions make him a reliable bowler. The 35-year-old Herath too posses the qualities of a good left-arm spinner and do not let that rotund figure fool you. Herath is a wily old fox and negotiating his 10 overs without much damage will be very hard to do.

Rohit has looked in good touch in all three matches but has failed to build on his starts. He will be eager to get a big score to his name in the semis. Kohli and Karthik were in sparkling form in the warm-up games ahead of the tournament and in the limited opportunities they got in the three games they have done decently well. If there is a need to call upon the Indian middle order, which has not been the case so far, Karthik and Kohli look set to take the innings forward, but the key would be to play Kulasekara and Herath in the middle overs.

First Published: June 20, 2013, 10:10 AM IST

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