Flags have been planted, intents have been declared, early momentum has been divided up, and now, with one win apiece for each competitor, a little tension has built. It has been a more high-scoring first round than many expected, given the Khettarama pitch’s reputation for spin-aligned treachery. As the square wears through the course of the tournament, perhaps the scoring will slow. But for now, bowlers from all three sides are nursing bruised economy rates.
The diagnosis for both the Sri Lanka and India attacks is roughly the same: a shortage of international experience. Where the likes of Lasith Malinga (in his pomp) or Jasprit Bumrah are capable of reacting swiftly to a batting onslaught, and moving to an effective Plan B or C, these bowlers have tended to wilt under duress. A boundary early in an over has often drawn mistakes soon after. Powerplays and death overs have proved unusually productive for adventurous batsmen. Only legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal has been both economical and penetrative. He has gone at seven an over, when rates of around 10 have been the norm so far among the frontline bowlers.
Such was the beating Sri Lanka’s bowlers received at the hands of Bangladesh that it is their attack that arrives a little more bruised into Monday’s encounter. Dushmantha Chameera, Nuwan Pradeep and Akila Dananjaya were all attacked at the top of the innings and at the death. Thisara Perera had initially fared better, but his own figures were not much prettier than the frontliners’ by the end. India’s bowlers, meanwhile, have at least one strong performance behind them in the tournament, but that was against a Bangladesh side that was batting some distance below their best (by their own admission). Sri Lanka’s top order, which has been impressive in four successive T20s, may again test India’s resolve.
Sri LankaLWWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
It was against India that Akila Dananjaya had reignited his career. His 6 for 54 in an ODI in Pallekele almost won the match for Sri Lanka, in what was otherwise a dispiriting two months. Though he has not been quite as menacing since, he has had the knack of routinely keeping tidy figures – rarely could he be said to have had a bad day. In the first two matches of this tournament, though, he has gone wicketless, and has conceded 73 runs off seven overs. With the tracks at Khettarama taking less turn that usual, this match will be a test of his fortitude.
In ODIs, Rohit Sharma has been excellent in Sri Lanka, but in T20s, his record on the island is a little thin. In eight innings at Khettarama, he has breached 30 only once – and that was against a modest England outfit in the 2012 World T20. Against Sri Lanka, however – and though the hosts will come with a closely-deliberated plan against him – Rohit is rarely down for long.
With captain Dinesh Chandimal suspended for two games due to a serious over-rate offence, Thisara Perera will lead the side. Dhananjaya de Silva is likely to slot into Chandimal’s position. There is also a chance of Suranga Lakmal replacing either Dushmantha Chameera or Nuwan Pradeep.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Kusal Mendis, 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Kusal Perera (wk), 4 Dananjaya de Silva, 5 Upul Tharanga, 6 Dasun Shanaka, 7 Thisara Perera (capt), 8 Jeevan Mendis, 9 Akila Dananjaya, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Nuwan Pradeep
India are likely to retain the XI that won them the game against Bangladesh.
India (possible): 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma (capt), 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Rishabh Pant, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Vijay Shankar, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Jaydev Unadkat
Pitch and conditions
There is a chance that evening showers could interrupt play. A pitch favourable for batting is expected.
Stats and trivia
Chasing sides have won all three games so far. The two highest successful pursuits at this venue are now Bangladesh’s chase of 215 on Saturday, and Sri Lanka’s chase of 175 against India, in the tournament opener.
Both sides have a batsman who has made half-centuries in each game so far. Shikhar Dhawan has hit 90 off 49 balls and 55 off 43; Kusal Perera has made 66 off 37 and 74 off 48.
“Guys who have come in to the team have got the experience in the IPL. They are not nervous and look settled. We didn’t really execute well in the first game, but we got better in the second game. It is going to get better from here.”
India seam bowler Jaydev Unadkat believes IPL experience is valuable, even if the India bowlers have not played many internationals