An exciting tussle between explosive batting and clever spin bowling is on the cards as India and Sri Lanka meet in the final of the Champions Trophy cricket tournament here on Sunday, chasing the second biggest title of the game ahead of next year's World Cup in South Africa.
Both the teams are high on confidence after ousting favourites South Africa and Australia in the semifinals and look equally balanced too.
Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly believes his side's superior batting skills will take the team through while his counterpart Sanath Jayasuriya says his bowling department is stronger and will do the star turn for them.
The likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh at their destructive best against the guiles of Muttiah Muralitharan and company is a potentially mouth- watering proposition and expectations of a tough and absorbing match, something which this tournament has not witnessed much so far, are soaring in this island nation.
India, who had lost to New Zealand in the title clash of the previous edition of this tournament in Nairobi in 2000, are making sure they don't falter at the last hurdle this time.
They have recalled their leading fast bowler Javagal Srinath to replace an injured Ashish Nehra. Srinath, who was playing county cricket in England, is joining the squad this afternoon and is almost certain to play tomorrow though Ganguly did not reveal his final eleven.
"Srinath is in contention" is all that Ganguly had to say today. But a good look at the wicket has apparently convinced him that the track at the Premadasa Stadium for tomorrow's game is not going to be as spinner-friendly as it was for the hosts' semi-final against Australia yesterday.
"It should be a good batting wicket. Unlike yesterday, it won't be a turning track," Ganguly said.
In fact, Sri Lanka are also likely to reinforce their pace attack and include an extra fast bowler in the side considering that Indians are much better equipped to handle spin than the Australians.
Sri Lanka had used five spinners in the semi-final, playing both Kumar Dharmasena and Upul Chandana while leaving out Dilhara Fernando. But the strategy could be entirely different tomorrow.
Jayasuriya said a turning track for tomorrow's game could cut both sides since India too had world class spinners in Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.
"They are also a good bowling side. They have spinners too," he said.
But he was convinced that since the strength of both the teams lay in batting, the bowlers might well make the difference in the final. "And I think we are a better bowling side," he asserted.
Asked about his gameplan, Jayasuriya said, "Its pretty simple. We will play the basics well."
India's strategy would certainly revolve around their batting and a lot would depend on how Sehwag fares tomorrow. The Delhi youngster is in smashing form and if he gets going tomorrow then he might well again prove to be the difference between the two sides.
Ganguly indicated that there would be no major changes in the team's composition and Tendulkar, who had yesterday revealed that he would still prefer to open, would continue to bat at number four.
India have slight worries about their bowling department as Kumble and Harbhajan Singh have not been able to work their magic till now. But left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan has been exceptional and he can only improve in the company of Srinath.
Sri Lanka's problem lies in their middle order. Mahela Jayawardene and Russel Arnold have not had much to do in this tournament so far and they might feel a bit edgy.
But the top-order comprising Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, and Kumara Sangakkara is going great guns.
Sri Lanka's batting mainstay Aravinda de Silva was very blunt in backing his team.
"India is good, but I think Sri Lanka is better," he said. "However, both are favourites."
A lot will also depend on the toss as both sides would like to bat first and put up a formidable total in the day- night encounter. The Indians though have been doing remarkably well while chasing too, and thus would appear unconcerned about who wins the toss.
The organisers are glad that the two teams which attract the largest crowds are in contention for the 30,000-dollar prize money that goes with the trophy. All the tickets have been sold out, and hundred of fans who had gathered outside the Cricket Board's office today hoping to get tickets, had to return disappointed.
India: Sourav Ganguly (captain), Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Mongia, V V S Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Ajit Agarkar, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, J P Yadav.
Sri Lanka: S Jayasuriya (captain), Marvan Atapattu, Kumara Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva, Mahela Jayawardene, Russel Arnold, Chaminda Vaas, M Muralitharan, Upul Chandana, Kumara Dharmasena, Pulasti Gunaratne, Dilhara Fernando, Hasantha Fernando, Dilshan Tillakaratne.
Umpires: Steve Bucknor (West Indies) and David Shepherd (England).
Third Umpire: Daryl Harper (Australia).
Match-referee: Clive Lloyd (WIs)