The only match of the T20I series so far has taught us a few things. The first is that India have their seam-bowling back-ups for the T20 World Cup fairly sorted. With Jasprit Bumrah not picking up a wicket until his penultimate over in Indore, it was Navdeep Saini at the top and Shardul Thakur at the death who provided the breakthroughs that stopped Sri Lanka from changing gears at crucial points. There was also the birth of the idea that Virat Kohli, perhaps, could take the No. 4 spot at the tournament in October, after India promoted Shreyas Iyer to No. 3.
At the other end of the spectrum are Sri Lanka’s batting woes, even on friendly surfaces. Barring Kusal Perera, their batsmen have not come through consistently enough. They struggled against 140kph deliveries, they couldn’t get on top of the spin bowlers, and the frustration was visible on captain Lasith Malinga’s face when the cameras panned to the Sri Lanka dugout after Dhananjaya de Silva’s dismissal. The harsh reality for Sri Lanka is that they are not automatic qualifiers for the T20 World Cup, and in order to not trip up at the qualifying rounds, they need to develop a clearer batting plan.
The gulf between the sides may appear wide, but there are plenty of subplots to look ahead to in Pune. Who will win round two of the Shikhar Dhawan-KL Rahul audition to be Rohit Sharma’s partner in October? Will Manish Pandey, Yuzvendra Chahal and Sanju Samson continue to warm the bench? Will India bat first if they win the toss? And if none of that excites you, remember, this series is still undecided. India have lost a game in each of their last three home T20I series, and that should keep Sri Lanka motivated for the the final T20I.
India WWLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LLLLW
In the spotlight
Angelo Mathews could play his first T20I since August 2018. He was one of the first to bat in the nets during practice on the eve of the match. He bowled as well. With Isuru Udana injured, Mathews is a strong contender to return to the side. In his last four white-ball internationals, he scored 113, 48, 52* and 87. When he does bowl, he offers control with the new ball, allowing Malinga to bowl more at the death. His captain still calls him the team’s “best finisher”.
Shikhar Dhawan says he’s a carefree man. But it doesn’t always show in his batting. His strike rate hovered around 110 in Indore while the rest of his team-mates played far more attractive cricket. The pressure to remain one of India’s first-choice T20I openers is building on the left-hander given Rahul’s steady rise as an aggressive batsman in the Powerplay. He has another opportunity to reinstate his worth.
Oshada Fernando suffered a blow to his hand in the nets but does not seem to be in doubt for tomorrow’s game. Udana, meanwhile, has been ruled out, and will most likely be replaced by Mathews.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Avishka Fernando, 3 Kusal Perera (wk), 4 Bhanuka Rajapaksa, 5 Oshada Fernando, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Dasun Shanaka, 8 Dhananjaya de Silva, 9 Wanindu Hasaranga, 10 Lasith Malinga (capt), 11 Lahiru Kumara
India may hand Chahal a game instead of Kuldeep Yadav. It continues to look difficult for Pandey or Samson to get a game with India having no injury concerns in their first XI.
India (possible): 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Shivam Dube, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav/ Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Shardul Thakur, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Pitch and conditions
Expect an even contest between bat and ball. Conditions are expected to be cool with clear skies, although dew may play a factor in the second innings.
Stats and trivia
India were bowled out for 101 in the last T20I held at Pune. Incidentally, their opponents then were Sri Lanka.
Mathews averages 78.00 in India with the bat in T20Is.
Since the start of this home season in September 2019, Virat Kohli averages 147 in T20Is.
Sri Lanka are looking to avoid a fifth straight T20I loss.