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India looking to wind up on rousing note

Having outplayed the visitors right through the series, India will be eager to continue to stamp their domination over Sri Lanka in last ODI.

india Updated: Nov 12, 2005 10:23 IST

Having outplayed the visitors right through the series, India will be eager to continue to stamp their domination over Sri Lanka and finish the seven-match rubber on a rousing note in the final one-dayeron Saturday.

Everything has gone well for the home team, including the experimentation of resting some key players and asking rookies to stand up and be counted, while almost nothing has clicked for the islanders who would be equally anxious to prevent another drubbing from India before returning home.

India are going into the last clash with a commanding 5-1 lead in the series that has seen the two teams traverse across the length of the country from Mohali in the north to Pune in the south-west.

Another victoryon Saturdaywill be the ideal boost for the hosts before the best-of-five series against South Africa commencing in a few days.

The high point of the series for India has been the way the youngsters in the team have come up with superb displays when needed. A prime example of this newfound confidence in the newcomers was the way Lucknow-based left arm pacer Rudra Pratap Singh performed at Rajkot in the previous tie on a pitch that was largely expected to help the batsman.

R P Singh's four-wicket haul, which earned him the man of the match, must have done wonders for his morale. So too have been the key roles performed earlier in the series by other youngsters like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Venugopala Rao, who has given way to senior Mohammed Kaif on the latter's return from injury.

But the important task is to carry on the good work for the long season ahead and another win for Indiaon Saturdaywould be the ideal tonic for them prior to their confrontation against a high-in-confidence South Africa who are arriving on the back of a big win at home over New Zealand.

The IPCL ground is among the favourites of Sachin Tendulkar who has gone off the boil a bit in the latter part of the series after returning to international cricket with a bang at Pune where he scored an impressive 93.

The 32-year-old champion batsman has struck two glorious hundreds for winning causes at this venue, a knock of 115 against New Zealand in 1994-95 and a stroke-filled 122 off 135 balls against South Africa in 1999-2000. Another big one from the maestro might just become the icing on the cake of triumph for India in the series.

It would be a big occasion for 21-year-old left arm speedster Irfan Pathan too as it would be his maiden ODI appearance at his hometown after having played for India on 43 previous occasions.

Skipper Rahul Dravid, who skipped the previous game to get some rest, has led the Indian charge brilliantly from the front with the bat as well as with his aggressive captaincy. He would want to finish off what he started commendably, when India wrapped up the series with a 4-0 lead at Pune, with another thumping success here.

The Indian pace bowlers have also done well considering the conditions in which they have been asked to perform, while offie Harbhajan Singh has rediscovered his penetrative skills under the tutelage of Chappell whom he had slammed in a public outburst in the aftermath of the Chappell-Ganguly spat.

The Lankans would be hoping fervently that their most successful batsman Sanath Jayasuriya gets into the groove, if chosen for the match. Jayasuriya's performance in the series has been nothing less than disappointing after suffering a freak shoulder injury at a swimming pool back home during the squad's conditioning camp for the tour.

After being the scourge of the Indian bowlers in previous encounters between the two teams, the left handed marauder from Matara has tallied a paltry 85 runs from six innings in the current rubber with 27 as his highest. His failure with the bat, and inability to bowl his effective slow left arm stuff on spin-friendly surfaces because of his shoulder injury, has cost Sri Lanka dear.

The failure of Jayasuriya and to an extent captain Marvan Atapattu has placed an enormous burden on Kumar Sangakkara who seems to have been weighed down by the extra load after starting the series on a positive note.

The Lankan pace bowlers, including the vastly experienced and proven match-winner Chaminda Vaas, have not been able to bowl the right length to the Indian batsmen and have been mercilessly caned. This too has been a major reason for the poor run by the islanders in the series.

The tourists would be hoping that their pace bowlers get their act together at least in the last clash which would do a world of good to their confidence when they return to bowl to the attacking Indian batsmen in the three-Test series in December.

The ground traditionally helps the batsmen as was shown when West Indian openers Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds waded into the Indian attack with gusto in the 2002 series to help the Caribbeans run up a huge total of 291 for 5 which the home team almost achieved.

Pitch curator Vasudev Patel has promised a batsman's paradise after some early help to the new ball bowlers because of the presence of some early morning moisture at this time of the year.

It is quite likely that the team that wins the toss may opt to field first as was the case in Rajkot when stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag opted to chase the target on winning the spin of the coin.

India: Rahul Dravid (captain), Virender Sehwag (vice- captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mohd Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Murali Kartik, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Jai Prakash Yadav, Gautam Gambhir and S Sreesanth.

Sri Lanka: Marvan Atapattu (captain), Mahela Jayawardene (vice-captain), Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Russel Arnold, Farveez Maharoof, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan, Nuwan Zoysa, Dilhara Fernando, Dilhara Lokuhettige, Upul Tharanga and Thilan Samaraweera.

Umpires: Mark Benson (Eng) and K Hariharan (Ind).

3rd umpire: A V Jayaprakash (Ind)

Reserve umpire: T K Handu (Ind).

First Published: Nov 11, 2005 14:10 IST