MS Dhoni has always found playing against Sri Lanka work to his advantage, scoring more than 2000 runs at an average of 61.35. © BCCI

MS Dhoni has always found playing against Sri Lanka work to his advantage, scoring more than 2000 runs at an average of 61.35. © BCCI

Group B: India v Sri Lanka
Date: June 8, Thursday
Venue: The Oval, London

HEAD-TO-HEAD
149 matches; India 83; Sri Lanka 54; Tie 1; No result 11

THE FORM
The familiar foes are meeting for the first time in One-Day Internationals since November 2014, when India walloped Sri Lanka 5-0 in a home series. In the two-and-a-half-year period, the teams have gone in contrasting directions and find themselves in different ends of the ODI spectrum.

India are among the top sides, with a settled unit under a passionate and successful new captain. Sri Lanka are the opposite: struggling to win in every part of the world, constantly changing captains, and on a steady decline since the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

The immediate form is different too; India began their Champions Trophy defence with a thumping victory over Pakistan, while Sri Lanka lost to South Africa managing only brief periods of promise.

India are a win away from nearly sealing their semifinal spot. A loss will end Sri Lanka’s campaign.

But, if there’s one ray of hope for Sri Lanka, it is in Angelo Mathews’s return. The allrounder passed his fitness test and batted in the nets on the eve of the game, and is set to take over the leadership role once again.

Mathews will play only as a batsman as he isn’t fit enough to bowl yet.

However, the possible boost to the batting unit will be compensated for by the forced absence of Upul Tharanga, the in-form opener, who was suspended for two games after a ‘serious’ over-rate breach against South Africa when he led the team in Mathews’s absence. Chamara Kapugedera, too, injured himself while training on match eve and his participation in the tournament was subject to results of an MRI scan later in the day. Update: He was subsequently ruled out, with Danushka Gunathilaka, the left-hand opening batsman and part-time off-spinner, brought in as a replacement.

THE CONDITIONS
It rained through the day in London on Tuesday, forcing India to cancel their training session. The weather, however, cleared on the eve of the game, and the forecast for Thursday isn’t too threatening either.

THE MATCH-UP
Lasith Malinga v Virat Kohli
Remember Hobart, 2012? Kohli was one of the few batsmen who wasn’t too troubled by Malinga even in the bowler’s prime. The slinger is no longer the bowler he was, having lost pace over the years after unending injury woes. It has rendered his slower balls – a deadly weapon in his prime – slightly ineffective as batsmen are able to adjust to the difference in pace.

But despite all that, Malinga has experience, which doesn’t wane. If there’s one bowler in the Sri Lankan attack to count on to stop Kohli and his men, it’s the slinger.

The return of Angelo Mathews after injury will boost Sri Lanka's confidence, especially after their stand-in captain, Upul Tharanga was suspended for two matches. © AFP

The return of Angelo Mathews after injury will boost Sri Lanka’s confidence, especially after their stand-in captain, Upul Tharanga was suspended for two matches. © AFP

THE WILDCARDS
Sri Lanka: Kusal Perera
The immediate outcome of Tharanga’s suspension is a return to the top of the order for Kusal Perera. The left-handed dasher has been forced to go down the order in recent times with the emergence of Niroshan Dickwella, but it’s no secret that he likes to bat when the ball is newest. All his three centuries in ODIs have come from the opening position. He has that opportunity now, and if he can make use of it, there could be some entertainment.

India: Hardik Pandya
How much impact can a batsman make in six balls? If you’re Hardik Pandya, quite a lot. The top four Indian batsmen scored half-centuries against Pakistan, but Pandya played the perfect, and crucial, cameo slamming 20 off 6. It included three consecutive sixes in the final over to destroy Pakistan’s morale before the break. Pandya can bowl and field well too – and has turned into an asset in the shorter formats for India.

WATCH OUT FOR
MS Dhoni: Dhoni averages 50.96 in ODIs. If that is impressive, his numbers against Sri Lanka are staggering. More than 2000 of his 9275 runs in the format have come against Sri Lanka, at an average of 61.35. He didn’t have much to do in India’s first match, but if his chance comes, Sri Lanka know what he’s capable of.

Teams (from)
India: Virat Kohli (capt), R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Hardik Pandya, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Yuvraj Singh.

Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Danushka Gunathilaka, Asela Gunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Kulasekara, Nuwan Pradeep, Thisara Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Seekkuge Prasanna.