From a situation where nerves on both sides were frazzled, the tension has been sucked out as India and Sri Lanka face-off for one last time in this 45-day tour.
But still, there’s something each team can aim to get from this last exercise — Sri Lanka, pride wounded, will want to at least end on a high note, India have many men in the reserves who deserve to get a game.
India have beaten the hosts twice in three days at the R Premadasa Stadium, a virtual fortress where Sri Lanka have a 46-16 win-loss record.
Sri Lanka have lost three games on the trot, and Mahela Jayawardene would not want things to go further downhill. After all, they did win the Test series, the big prize, but in the subcontinent, the memory of fans does not stretch too long.
Sri Lanka’s nemesis in this series has been Zaheer Khan, and although he does not have a bag of wickets to show, or even enough MoM awards, the left-arm seamer has been the difference between the two sides in many ways. In that light Sri Lanka could be up for some relief as common sense would dictate that India give Zaheer a breather and RP Singh his first international game of the series.
Pragyan Ojha is another who will be hoping to play, and given that the tracks in Sri Lanka traditionally favoured spinners, he will be disappointed at the number of outings afforded to him. The other person who might get a look in is Parthiv Patel, not so much to give him a go, but because Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been a touch under the weather, suffering from fever and the beginnings of an infection. Dhoni will still like to play, but might just hand over the big gloves to Parthiv.
Two others who will approach the game with all seriousness are left-handers Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir. The Delhi opener came into this ODI series having tackled Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis better than anyone else, but has not set the stage alight. Yuvraj too has looked in ominously good touch, but never made it count. There’s just about time left for one signature innings before the team returns home.
India: MS Dhoni (c), G Gambhir, V Kohli, Yuvraj, S Raina, R Sharma, P Patel, Harbhajan, I Pathan, P Ojha, RP Singh, M Patel, P Kumar, Z Khan, S Badrinath.
SL: M Jayawardene (c), S Jayasuriya, M Warnapura, K Sangakkara, C Kapugedera, J Mubarak, C Vaas, N Kulasekara, T Thushara, A Mendis, M Muralitharan, D Fernando, M Udawatte, C Silva, T Dilshan.