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Battle lines drawn ahead of big final

Mathews warns India that Jayawardene could be the man to watch out for while Kohli says he is part of a bunch that is “hungry to win”

Battle lines drawn ahead of big final - Cricket News
Mahela Jayawardena is the key player from Sri Lanka's point of view.
Sri Lanka and India have taken different routes to the Celkon Mobile Tri-Series final, to be held at Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad on Thursday (July 11). Sri Lanka won a game apiece in both legs of the tournament, whereas India, pushed to the brink of elimination after the Jamaica leg of the series, came out fighting to win both league games convincingly in Trinidad and topped the table, knocking West Indies out of contention in the process.
The two finalists will be facing each other in a One-Day International for the 44th time in the last five years. They have met in some high-profile events as well in recent times: the ICC World Cup final in 2011 and the semifinal of the ICC Champions Trophy last month being the memorable ones. Sri Lanka came up short in both those matches and will looking to put one across India in a tournament final for a change.
Prior to the tri-series final, Virat Kohli, captaining the Indian team in Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s injury-induced absence, said “it was a very good feeling” to come from a “backs to the wall” situation and top the points table, and he was “pretty happy with the way (India) fought back to reach the final”. He felt that India had the “right kind of momentum going in to the final” with a big win over the opponents they are going to face.
India won the Champions Trophy and wriggled out of a tight spot in this tournament thanks to good performances from the young players who make up the team now. “It really excites me to be part of this group and growing together as a team. Every one is young and our careers building up together,” said Kohli. “I told the team before the last game we played against Sri Lanka that ‘we are flying home on the 12th (of July) no matter whether we play in the final or not; it’s better we play in the finals than watching two other teams in the final’. I’m part of a team that wants to win and that is hungry to win. It’s a good feeling.”
Sri Lanka thumped India in Jamaica by 161 runs in their first face-off in the tournament, but collapsed to 96 all out in the last league game in Port of Spain. And Sri Lanka is missing the services of Nuwan Kulasekara, one bowler who could have exploited the seaming conditions better than most others. Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka captain, said about missing Kulasekara that he “would have been unplayable” in the final.
Having had its penultimate group game against West Indies spill into the reserve day on July 8 and then playing India on July 9, Mathews felt that it had been “physically and mentally demanding”. But he wasn’t “too worried” about the loss to India as Sri Lanka was already through to the final. “Past is past. We need to flush it out of our system as soon as possible,” he argued.
India’s success with the bat has been because of the success of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Kohli. However, Mathews was wary of the rest of the middle order, as he felt they could all win a game on their own. As for the missing Dhoni, Kohli had mentionedon Wednesday that he might play the final, but there were no updates on Dhoni’s health and a decision regarding his participation will be made later.
Interestingly, Mahela Jayawardene will be appearing in his 400th ODI – the third after Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya to do so – and will be looking to mark the occasion with another one of his specials. “A living legend”, Mathews called Jayawardene, adding that he was the “batsman to watch out for” in the final. Jayawardene has appeared most comfortable on the pitches in the Caribbean so far and India would do well to heed Mathews’s warning.
The pitch in Port of Spain, spiced up by the seasonal rains, has been a tough one to negotiate for the batsmen so far. Kohli said that it is the sort of wicket where a batsman has to play in phases and the toss does not really have a bearing. “Initially the pitch does quite a bit, when the ball is new, hard and the seam is quite upright. On this kind of wicket, it doesn’t really matter whether you win the toss or not. You have to apply yourselves well,” he observed.
Both captains were of the opinion that the teams have very little to separate them and the “team that plays better cricket on the day” will walk away with the trophy. India would be looking to do that to show that the Champions Trophy triumph wasn’t a flash in the pan, while Sri Lanka would be itching to break the recent grip India has had over it.
India (likely): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (capt), Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik (wk), M Vijay, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma.
Sri Lanka (likely): Mahela Jayawardene, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews (capt), Jeevan Mendis, Dilhara Lokuhettige, Shaminda Eranga, Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath.

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