Champions Trophy: Rain or shine, it's a gloomy forecast for Sri Lanka
India, the World Cup holders, have been the team of the Champions Trophy. Relaxed, assertive, controlled they have won all three matches at a canter.
In the one when they batted first they made the tournament's top score; they won the other two by eight wickets. Their brand new opening partnership has been formidable, with the 26-year-old Shikhar Dhawan (two hundreds so far) making it possible to wonder where he has been all these years.
The seamers have looked threatening, and Ravi Jadeja has been magnificent as a late middle-order batsman, left-arm spinner and athletic fielder. The team's fielding in general has been a revelation.
All that considered, it is difficult to see Sri Lanka preventing their progress to the final when the two teams meet in the last four at Cardiff today.
They last met in ICC competition in the final of the 2011 World Cup. Sri Lanka played beautifully that night in Mumbai and a majestic century from Mahela Jayawardene put them in the game and then some. But there was no stopping the Indian juggernaut then. An entire population demanded victory.
The odds are not quite that greatly stacked against Sri Lanka today but they will have to play out of their skins to win. It is possible: either one of their big guns, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara, is capable of playing a significant innings. Lasith Malinga is a big match-turning bowler.
India seem to have surprised themselves as their estimable captain, M S Dhoni, indicated. "We never have expectations of doing well over here," he said. "We just came here to play some good cricket, and that's what we have been doing. We are working hard, and that's what is really now at hand."
It may have helped that India have not been followed everywhere by a troupe of reporters and a phalanx of cameras scrutinising their every move. Several media outlets at home decided not to dispatch correspondents because of the cumbersome ICC regulations for non-rights holders. Dhoni himself was pleasantly surprised by the lack of attention.
The teams met in the most infamous of all Champions Trophy matches, the final of 2002 when there was no champion because it rained on two successive nights. One complete innings was possible on both but the ICC insisted on starting a new match on the second.
Heavy rain is forecast for Cardiff today but there will be a winner on this occasion. If there were to be no play the group winners would go through.
India, then, in either case.
India S Dhawan, R Sharma, K D Karthik, V Kohli, S K Raina, M S Dhoni (capt; wk), R A Jadeja, R Ashwin, B Kumar, I Sharma, U T Yadav.
Sri Lanka H D R L Thirimanne, T M Dilshan, K C Sangakkara (wk), D P M de Silva Jayawardene, L D Chandimal, A D Mathews (capt), M D K J Perera, K M D N Kulasekara, S L Malinga, H M R K B Herath, R M S Eranga.
Umpires R Kettleborough (Eng) and A Dar (Pak)
Television Sky Sports 1, 10am-7pm n Odds: India 4-7; Sri Lanka 11-8
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