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SL looks to Mendis in final against India

Unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis' bowling has baffled batsmen with his variations to become the tournament's leading wicket-taker with maximum dismissals.
AP | By HT Correspondent, Karachi
UPDATED ON JUL 05, 2008 02:12 PM IST

Unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis might hold the key Sri Lanka as its attempts to defend its Asia Cup title against India on Sunday.

The 23-year-old Mendis bowling in the company of prolific offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan has baffled batsmen with his variations to become the tournament's leading wicket-taker with 11 dismissals from four matches.

"He's done what he is capable of doing," Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene said. "We are not going to put lot of pressure on him. We are just going to give him freedom to go out there and enjoy his first final for his country."

Sri Lanka has kept India guessing on the abilities of Mendis by resting the strike bowler, along the experienced Chaminda Vaas, from their final Super Fours match on Thursday. India beat Sri Lanka by six wickets in that encounter to book its place in the final. The result also edged out host Pakistan from final contention. "If you want to win the tournament you need to beat the best, that's the attitude," Jayawardene said. "We had no preference whether we play Pakistan or India in the final." The top six Indian batsmen Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and Yuvraj Singh all are in top form as India posted totals in excess of 300 runs in four of its five matches.

Dhoni is looking to his opening pair of Sehwag and Gambhir to provide another solid platform.

"Their starts have taken off pressure from the middle-order," India captain Dhoni said. "Sri Lanka is a tough side and we expect a tough competition in the final."

Jayawardene was confident his team can haul down a big Indian total.

"What we've seen is some really good cricket," he said. "(Teams) putting good decent scores and people chasing it down. "Bowlers haven't had the best of times, but some of the bowlers bound to put their hands up and deliver some day so that's what we hope for."

Jayawardene is expecting the National Stadium wicket to offer some assistance to his spinners, and test the skills of the Indian top order, in the final.

"We have now played six or seven matches on the square, and the wickets are bound to get deteriorate," he said. "The spinners are getting enough spin on the ball."

Sri Lanka has struggled since losing the World Cup final to Australia last year. Prior to the Asia Cup it had won just eight out of 22 one-day internationals in the last 15 months. "We set ourselves a goal to get into the finals (of the Asia Cup)," Jayawardene said.

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