The final is here and thankfully the two best sides will slug it out for Asian supremacy, giving even bored cricket enthusiasts hope that the match will be thrilling and competitive, something that can’t be said of the rest of this tournament. The last contest between these two sides, which was a virtual semifinal for India, was the most closely fought match of the tournament, and given the form of both teams, the final clash should only get bloodier.
On current form, there isn’t much to choose between the two teams. India might have won the last game, but then Lanka did not field their best eleven, opting to rest Chaminda Vaas and Ajantha Mendis, the mystery spinner. The return of this duo will add venomous fangs to the Lankan attack, which has looked, by far, the best in the tournament.
The wily Vaas is far too experienced a bowler to be cowed down by the harsh conditions. Dilhara Fernando has the pace, variation and a clever slower ball to hold him in good stead.
Mendis has shown that he too isn’t too dependent on the conditions to strut his stuff, and of course, there is Muttiah Muralitharan, but does one even need to talk about him?
So, quite clearly, the rampaging India batsmen will face their sternest test in the final and it’s again largely their performance that will hold the key to Indian success. They will need to continue with their fine showing, especially the openers.
A strong and brisk opening partnership will be imperative to India’s chances, considering the fact that Lanka’s bowlers will not be easy to score off in the middle overs. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina handled Murali well in the last contest, but that was made possible by the flying start Sehwag and Gambhir had gotten India off to.
The Sri Lankan spin threat notwithstanding, India’s batting is in such good nick that the captain won’t be too worried. Besides, in what has come as a big positive ahead of the final, India will go into the match feeling a bit more secure about their bowling, following the bowlers’ improved showing in the last game.
India played four seamers in the last game, and the move paid off with the attack looking threatening for the first time in the tournament. R.P. Singh and Ishant Sharma do have the pace and can generate bounce, as they did in the last game. The one worry is that Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar could prove cannon fodder for the Lankan batsmen, especially if they don’t operate with the new ball, given their gentle pace.