HYDERABAD: Two wins from as many matches and the momentum resides with India, who will look to seal the five-match series against Sri Lanka at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here on Sunday.
India have set the tempo with impressive wins at Cuttack and Ahmedabad even as Sri Lanka are yet to get into their wonted groove in the stopgap series arranged after West Indies’ sudden pull out. Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews had confided that they lacked match practice.
Nevertheless, the Lankans have the ability to bounce back. The Virat Kohli-led India will be wary of their opponents’ potential. The home team would want to sustain the winning streak.
It has been so far so good for India, especially in the bigger frame of preparing for tougher battles ahead. This series, so far, has boosted the confidence of some players. The best example is opener Shikhar Dhawan, whose consistency had been under fair scrutiny. But a century and half-century has revived his form, though he is aware the conditions will be different in Australia. He has combined well with Ajinkya Rahane, who is steadily cementing his place at the top. He has gone about his job meticulously.
Another positive was Ambati Rayudu, whose promotion as number three was welcomed by many. He took the challenge and established his place in the eleven with a well-crafted century in Ahmedabad. It is a sort of homecoming for Rayudu and the fans will hope for a repeat.
Now it is Kohli’s turn to score a hundred and reinforce that he has fully regained his touch. He has looked in knick. As Mahendra Singh Dhoni might return for the last two fixtures, Kohli would want to win the series here itself.
A lot will depend on the bowlers. The fast bowlers, led by Ishant Sharma (four wickets in the first match), were spot on at Cuttack but went for runs in Ahmedabad. With Kohli talking of experimenting, players like Stuart Binny or Dhawal Kulkarni might get a chance. Whether India will opt for a third spinner or introduce Binny, who is a medium pacer and handy batsman, has to be seen.
Axar Patel’s place looks secure, as he was the most impressive of India’s three-prong spin attack in Ahmedabad. Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was decent and has fond memories of Hyderabad, where a couple of years ago he had run through Australia.
As for the visitors, they somehow need to come back into the series. They did shown signs of revival in Ahmedabad, especially the batsmen. The classy Kumar Sangakkara was fluent, as was skipper Angelo Mathews. The two form the nucleus of their batting along with aggressive opener Tillakaratne Dilshan and the reliable Mahela Jayawardene.
But the young bowling unit is a concern. Hence, the experienced Nuwan Kulasekara come back. A familiar entity for Indians, he is a wily customer with the new ball and at the death. His presence renders stability to the bowling unit even though the spinners have been ordinary. They will also take heart from that India has a poor record here (1-3).