Shanaka’s Sri Lanka look to snap India’s streak of bilateral series wins at home
India’s top order needs to step up on what could be a flat pitch in Rajkot
Who should bowl for India at the death? Should Dasun Shanaka bowl more?
Big picture: SL eye first T20I series win in India
The last time India lost a bilateral T20I series at home was in 2019 when Australia beat them 2-0. Since then they have been on an 11-series unbeaten streak. But that could change on Saturday.
After running India close in the first T20I, Sri Lanka beat them by 16 runs in the second to make it 1-1. A win for Sri Lanka in Rajkot will not only snap India’s streak but also give the visitors their first T20I series win in India in six attempts.
Sri Lanka’s batters may not put fear in the opposition’s mind, but they understand the grammar of the format. Throughout their innings in the second T20I, Sri Lanka had at least one batter in the middle – Kusal Mendis in the first half and Dasun Shanaka in the second – taking the attack to the bowlers. In Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana, they have two have the wiliest spinners going around. If their fast bowlers click, as they did in Pune, they can compete with any side.
India, on the other hand, had two top-order collapses in as many games. Deepak Hooda and Axar Patel rescued them in the first T20I, and Suryakumar Yadav and Axar tried to keep them in the game in the second. Apart from that, their bowling unit as a whole hasn’t clicked either. After the first T20I, Hardik Pandya spoke about putting his players in tough situations. In the form of a must-win game, he has got exactly that.
India LWTWL (last five completed T20Is, most recent first) Sri Lanka WLLWL
In the spotlight: Arshdeep Singh and Dasun Shanaka
Despite making his T20I debut only six months ago, Arshdeep Singh was supposed to be the leader of the pace attack in this new-look Indian squad. He missed the first T20I with illness, and then bowled five no-balls in two overs, which cost India 37, in the second. Overstepping has been an old issue with Arshdeep, and it is high time he fixed it.
Dasun Shanaka loves playing against India. In the opening game, his 47 off 27 balls kept Sri Lanka in the contest. On Thursday, he smashed the fastest T20I half-century by a Sri Lanka batter before picking up two wickets in the final over of the game to seal the win. His last five T20I knocks against India are 56* (22), 45 (27), 33* (18), 74* (38) and 47* (19). With ball, he has taken more than half of his T20I wickets (14 out of 23) against them. If he continues in the same vein, it will not be easy for India to keep their unbeaten streak intact.
Team news: Will India, SL make changes?
After the second T20I, Rahul Dravid said that India were not looking to make too many changes unless there was an injury. So expect them to go with an unchanged XI.
Sri Lanka might be facing a selection conundrum. Do they retain the winning combination, or try to improve it further by replacing an out-of-form Bhanuka Rajapaksa with Sadeera Samarawickrama? In the recently concluded LPL, Samarawickrama was the second-highest run-getter with 294 runs at an average of 58.80 and a strike rate of 131.25.
The Rajkot pitch is often compared to the adjacent national highway, so be ready for another run-fest. The teams will be looking to bowl first after winning the toss as this venue favours the chasing team. It’s expected to be a cool evening with clear skies; the temperature should be around 17°C.
Stats and trivia
Yuzvendra Chahal (88) needs three wickets to overtake Bhuvneshwar Kumar (90) as the highest wicket-taker for India in T20Is.
Hardik has captained India in seven T20Is so far. Thursday was the first time he finished on the losing side.
Sri Lanka have never played an international match at the SCA Stadium, Rajkot.
In his last ten T20Is, Rajapaksa has 137 runs at an average of 15.22 and a strike rate of 115.12.
“They [Sri Lanka] have got a pretty experienced T20I side in this series. From the World Cup, they haven’t made too many changes to their playing XI. They’ve got some class players. They’ve got a couple of very good spinners, they have got power-hitters at the backend of the game. I think Dasun Shanaka is playing really well. They might have had some tough periods but certainly they are not a side you would take lightly at any stage.” India head coach Rahul Dravid on his opponents
“It’s not about the mystery, it’s always about the right line and length. If I don’t hit the right line and length, they [batters] will go after me. So while bowling, I always try to focus on that. That’s why I have been continuously doing well in this format. Maheesh Theekshana reveals the method behind his mystery spin
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