3rd ODI: India eye series victory, Sri Lanka look for revival
Pallekele: India will fancy their chances of wrapping up the five-match series when they lock horns with a beleaguered Sri Lanka in the third One-day International here on Sunday.
The visitors have a 2-0 lead in the series and can wrap up the contest with another win here before leaving for the last leg of the tour in Colombo.
India recovered from a precarious 131 for seven to record only their second win at the Pallekele International Cricket ground.
The Men in Blue haven't played much ODI cricket here, and Thursday's match was only their second at this venue, having played previously in 2012. It does reflect on their hundred percent record here then, and the short two-day gap between the second and third ODIs will help them take the winning momentum forward.
The big question is if skipper Virat Kohli will continue with his bold approach when it comes to team strategy, if not team selection.
Ahead of the second ODI, he had outlined the need to give ample opportunity to the youngsters in the side, particularly the bowlers. As such, it is only to be expected that Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal will continue to be front-line spinners then.
However, the complication in the 231-run chase in the second ODI occurred due to a shuffle in the batting order.
After a great start, Kohli sent in KL Rahul and Kedar Jadhav ahead at number 3 and 4 respectively. The mini-experiment failed spectacularly, mostly because they couldn't read Akila Dananjay's googlies properly. Jadhav's impulsive shot making during a three-ball stay also didn't go unnoticed. Again then, it is a wonder if Kohli will experiment again tomorrow. The Indian skipper might just revert to the original batting order and close out the series before ringing any changes in the last two ODIs in Colombo. In doing so though, he will be departing from his claims of 'making unpredictable changes despite facing defeat'.
All said and done, India's collapse on Thursday has brought this additional (but welcome) interesting twist to the equation here. There is also the toss factor. Kohli won his fifth consecutive toss on this tour, and predictably chose to chase again. With Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan putting on a century stand, in a way, it was the catalyst for the shuffle in batting-order, as the Indian skipper probably didn't want a second game without action in the middle for Rahul and others. Could this force Kohli to rethink his bat-first theory, if he manages to win the toss yet again?
As concerns changes to the playing combination, Hardik Pandya is in focus. In the lead-up to the second ODI, the all-rounder wore a light strap on his left knee, though the team management assured his full fitness. Later in the game, he pulled up with issues on the same left leg.
While it appeared to be a calf problem for him, due to which he left the field on three occasions, again the team management outlined it as a cramp issue and not a major worry. Pandya's availability for the third ODI then remains a question mark at best. Even if cramped yet fully fit, will he be risked given the extended limited-overs' schedule India have until December? If not, then Kuldeep Yadav or Shardul Thakur could come into the reckoning as the fifth bowler, unluckily again for Manish Pandey as India will need someone to bowl Pandya's 10 overs. While India could yet field an unchanged combination, there are bound to be further changes for the Sri Lankan playing XI. Upul Tharanga has been handed a two-match suspension for slow over-rate for the second time since the Champions Trophy in June, and he will sit out the next two ODIs.