While experts of the cricketing kind were busy forecasting a Sri Lankan revival or India's supposed mastery of mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis, everyone took their eye off the weather and the rain sneaked in, uninvited and unnoticed, laying to waste play on Tuesday. While it never poured like it really can on this tropical island, a steady drizzle began shortly after 1pm and enough precipitation came down to prompt a washout.
What this meant was that the two teams would return to the R Premadasa Stadium on Wednesday to replay the game on the reserve day. A sizeable crowd that had gathered was disappointed as even a twenty-over per side match, the minimum allowed, was impossible. With water having puddled on the covers, it would have taken at least two hours for the ground staff to get the field of play ready, and when this was not possible they had little choice but to call the game off. The Indian team, sensing that play would not be possible, had left the ground around at about 3.30pm for the comfort of their hotel. It turned out to be a wise decision as umpires Billy Doctrove and Gamini Silva officially called play off at 5.57pm.
It was a disappointment for the fans gathered at the ground but realistically speaking, the Indians have been lucky to get through so much of the tour without having a single day completely rained off. They won't have forgotten 2006, the year South Africa and India pitched up for the Unitech Cup. After a bomb blast raised the security risk to what the South Africans called "unacceptable" levels, and left the island, India stayed on to play a three-match bilateral series.
But the Indian board's intentions of putting some cricket on display for the Sri Lankans, dismayed by South Africa's departure, were stymied by incessant rain. In the first game, 16 minutes of play were possible, in which 22 balls were bowled. But with India on 11 for no loss, with Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar unseparated, the umpires offered the light and even as the batsmen walked off the field a seemingly never-ending rain set in. There was no further play in the tournament despite the provision of rain days.
Chris Broad, who was the match referee on that occasion as well, will be hoping that this series is not terminated with the scoreline reading 2-1. If that does happen, India will have won their first-ever bilateral ODI series in Sri Lanka, albeit not in the manner they would have liked.
As things stood before the rains came down, India had intended to play the same eleven that won the third ODI with such an impressive performance on Sunday. Sri Lanka, on their part, were all set to hand Malinda Warnapura his second ODI, bringing him into the side to open the batting and allow Kumar Sangakkara to return to his favoured No. 4 position. But all those calculations have gone for a toss, with the rains having their first major say in the series.
If play does begin on time on Wednesday, the reserve day, then Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Mahela Jayawardene will have to make a fresh start, and depending on the conditions, re-think team compositions.
Unfortunately, though, the forecast for the next four days is bleak, with "heavy showers" being predicted for each the scheduled remainder of India's stay in Sri Lanka. This is one occasion when everyone will have their fingers crossed, hoping that the experts have got it completely wrong in their forecast.