Cuttack: The bench strength is expected to be tested but India are unlikely to lower the intensity when they take on Sri Lanka in a three-match Twenty20 series starting here on Wednesday, aiming to extend their dominance in the shortest format as well. The Test series in pocket, India, without inspirational skipper Virat Kohli, hardly broke a sweat to clinch the one-day series 2-1 and Rohit Sharma and Co. will look to polish off the T20I series on a perfect note.
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Sri Lanka have been no match to India barring their one- off spectacular bowling effort in Dharmasala in the opening ODI. After India bounced back in Mohali, Sri Lanka had their best chance in Visakhapatnam but they collapsed from 136/1 to be bundled out for 215. A resilient India quickly got into the act after an inspirational stumping by MS Dhoni. This was followed by the spin twin of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal running through the Lankan batting to claim three wickets each.
However, Twenty20 is a different ball game and India would look for a smooth transition to the shortest format, having endured a batting disaster in the first one-dayer. India do not have happy memories of the solitary T20I at the Barabati Stadium despite the fact that they lead Sri Lanka 7-4 on head-to-head count and are yet to lose against them in the last four outings. India had folded for 92 against South Africa in the lone T20I played here in 2015 as crowd trouble brought infamy to the venue and the hosts would look to give a better account of their batting on Wednesday.
India’s batting will heavily rely on skipper Sharma, who will have KL Rahul for company at the top. Having lost his first match as captain, Sharma’s record double hundred led a 141-run rout in Mohali and he will look to continue that form in the shortest format. A good start will be crucial for India to minimise the workload on the middle and lower order, which will be steered by Dhoni whose ability was doubted in the series against New Zealand.
Saurashtra left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat, who last played in a T20I against Zimbabwe in June last year, has been recalled and India have three first-timers in Washington Sundar, Basil Thampi and Deepak Hooda. Baroda all-rounder Hooda had scored the fourth fastest Twenty20 century (108) by an Indian during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in February. It remains to be seen, however, if he’s handed his debut cap with India already having two finishers in Dhoni and Hardik Pandya.
In the pace department, death bowling specialist Jasprit Bumrah will shoulder the responsibility after Bhuvneshwar Kumar was rested. Kerala pacer Thampi has shown his ability to bowl yorkers
with consistency during his Gujarat Lions stint in the IPL. While India will have a bit of concern in the pace department, Yadav and Chahal are expected to deliver. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have lost five T20Is on the trot, starting from the match against Bangladesh in April.
For the visitors, Upul Tharanga was in imperious form during his 95 in the third ODI and he would be the key for Sri Lanka. Former skipper Angelo Mathews, who scored a century in the second ODI, would be the vital cog in Sri Lankan wheel. The islanders would also hope that Niroshan Dickwella strikes form to give some stability to the middle order. Their otherwise ordinary bowling looked exceptional in Dharmasala where they bundled out India for 112 but since then, they have managed to take six wickets in two matches as they have to buck up in all the departments of the game.
“We had a good chance to beat India in India, but we couldn’t execute with our middle order. We have to think about the T20Is, everything is past, we have to think about the present," Sri Lanka captain Perera has said in Visakhapatnam.
India: Rohit Sharma (C), K L Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Siraj, Basil Thampi and Jaydev Unadkat.
Sri Lanka: Thisara Perera(C), Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Janith Perera, Danushka Gunathilaka, Niroshan Dickwella, Asela Gunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dasun Shanaka, Chaturanga de Silva, Sachith Pathirana, Dananjaya De Silva, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando and Dusmantha Chameera.
Match starts: 1900 IST.