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India vs Sri Lanka Preview, ICC World Cup 2019: India aim to iron out flaws before semis

Jul 06, 2019

India will look to wrap up their league engagements in the World Cup on a high when they take on Sri Lanka at Headingley on Saturday. 

A win in this game is important for India as it will give them a chance to finish on top of the league table and face New Zealand in the first semifinal on July 9. This will happen in the event of Australia losing to South Africa on Saturday in a day-nighter.

Sri Lanka have had a modest tournament so far but are looking to salvage pride with a victory over one of tournament's most fancied teams. Their performance over the last month suggests they will struggle to hurt India deeply.

But they will take heart from the fact that their glory moment in the event came at this ground only when they stunned England in a low scoring thriller. Captain Dimuth Karunaratne hoped that his spinners would get some turn as the match will be played on the same pitch which hosted the West Indies-Afghanistan game on Thursday.

Will India - who sacrificed one spinner to include a pacer in the last game against Bangladesh - too be tempted to include a second spinner? Seems unlikely. The team had optional practice at the ground on match eve but as many as 10 players from the squad turned up, including skipper Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Jasprit Bumrah. Kohli had a long session at the nets and so did Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul. Ravindra Jadeja bowled for a brief period but did not bat at all, which puts a question mark over the possibility of him replacing Dinesh Karthik in the playing XI on Saturday.

Against Bangladesh in Birmingham, India went in with three wicketkeeper-batsmen, in fact three and a half if we include KL Rahul, who often keeps wickets in T20s. Ideally, the team would want at least four pure batsmen who are capable of winning a match of their own bat. Rishabh Pant shaped up well against Bangladesh at No. 4, a position which has been like a revolving door in recent times. Pant is carrying a major responsibility on his young shoulders. If he can deliver, it will solve a puzzle for the team.

Clouds were swirling over Headingley on Friday but there was no rain threat. The overall forecast for Saturday also is fine and based on what the weathermen are saying, there is no threat to the match. But early morning showers are predicted, which may leave the ground a bit damp. The day is supposed to be cloudy and that also militates against the team dropping a seamer in favour of a spinner.

Other than the likes of Rohit Sharma, and Virat Kohli, Sri Lanka will be wary of Indian bowling spearhead Jasprit Bumrah who has been their tormentor in chief in the past two years or so with 19 wickets in nine games at 17.63 per wicket.

Shami's death bowling a worry

 Mohammed Shami's death bowling is a worry through for the Indian camp. He gave away 44 in his last three overs against England and went for 68 in nine overs against Bangladesh, with 17 coming off his seventh as Saifuddin and Sabbir went ballistic. But Shami, who has the best strike rate (15) in the World Cup, showed signs of getting his slog-overs act together with some accurate yorkers in his ninth over against Bangladesh, much to the relief of Virat Kohli.

 No two teams have played more ODIs among themselves than India and Sri Lanka. Saturday's World Cup league game will be the 159th for the two teams, making it a battle between familiar foes.

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