The loss of Nuwan Kulasekara and several batting concerns leave the hosts needing a much improved show to level the series.
Perhaps not unexpectedly, India brushed off a two-month break to hand Sri Lanka a convincing defeat in the first ODI. Following that 21-run loss and injury to their second most successful bowler following Saturday’s match, the hosts have to major concerns going into the second match in Hambantota on Tuesday.
With Nuwan Kulasekara ruled out of the series with a groin injury, Sri Lanka may go in with left-arm medium-pacer Isuru Udana or Kulasekara's replacement, Nuwan Pradeep. The hosts also have another option of going in with two spinners, and that means Jeevan Mendis or Sachitra Senanayake may get the nod. Playing two spinners – Rangana Herath should hold his place – wouldn’t be a bad idea considering India used R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha in the series opener, but Udana offers variety in a bowling attack comprising two like-for-like pacers in Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera. So Udana seems to be the favourite as of now.
That Lasith Malinga went wicketless while conceding 83 runs – 32 off his last two overs – is another reason to give Sri Lanka concerns. In his previous match against the Indians, in Hobart in February, Malinga conceded 96 runs in 32 balls. His bowling average of 56.00 against this opposition in 2012 and the manner in which the batsmen have bossed him significantly negates any threat Malinga poses.
The other concern for Sri Lanka is a lack of fluency in their batting and apart from Kumar Sangakkara, nobody looked like dominating the Indians in the first match. That will work chasing a small total but it will be hard to win the series unless some of the other batsmen stand up.
Upul Tharanga’s run of poor form at the top of the order continued with a score of 28 on Saturday, which took his average as an opener in 2012 to 19.75. Tharanga’s last score of 45 or higher was on January 22, and since then he has scores of 4, 5, 0, 18, 4, 2 and 28. However, in six innings batting in the middle order this year Tharanga averages 43.83 with three half-centuries. So there is a case for batting him down the order and moving up the captain Mahela Jayawardene, who was too far down at No. 5 on Saturday, to the opening role alongside Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Jayawardene has opened 12 times in 2012, averaging 38.63 with four fifties. In the middle order, he has made one fifty and averages 22. Considering Jayawardene and Dilshan average 50.11 as opening pair over the last two years, there’s reason to reunite the pair.
India do not have as many reasons for worry. Virender Sehwag’s 97-ball 96 was a welcome return to form; Virat Kohli’s fourth century in five innings was an extension of his awesome form; Suresh Raina’s and MS Dhoni’s breezy innings packed power into the death overs; Irfan Pathan was economical and penetrative; and the spinners picked up wickets. Gautam Gambhir’s failure won’t worry anyone and Zaheer Khan’s economy rate of 6.30 wasn’t alarming considering he hadn’t played international cricket since February.
What will rankle though is another single-digit score from Rohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav leaking 76 runs from his ten overs. On Saturday, Rohit made his sixth score of between 0 and 21 in 2012 and another failure could mean a look-in for either Ajinkya Rahane or Manoj Tiwary. Yadav has conceded his runs at 6.46 this year and has gone for less than five just once; twice he has gone for 6.50 or more and thrice over seven. Another expensive outing and he could be swapped with Ashok Dinda.
Both teams were sloppy in the field during first match in Hambantota, where the Sri Lankans spilled three catches and Virender Sehwag dropped a sitter. India and Sri Lanka will both need to address this going into the second match.
Sri Lanka: 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Upul Tharanga, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Lahiru Thirimanne/Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Lasith Malinga, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Isuru Udana
India: 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Irfan Pathan, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Pragyan Ojha