BY WASIM PARKAR – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
In a repeat of the World Cup final, on Thursday India will take on Sri Lanka in the second semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013, in what promises to be a quality encounter between two subcontinent rivals. I look ahead to some of the key factors in the match.
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma
Dhawan has easily been the best batsman on display during the tournament, but Rohit Sharma has also quietly and efficiently delivered 135 runs at an average of 45. While you always believe Sharma could easily score more, at least opening the batting against the new ball has eliminated his penchant for rash shots and throwing his wicket away.
The partnership average between Dhawan and Sharma in the tournament so far is 95.33. If the two could muster anything close to that, it’s highly likely that India will win either chasing or setting a target.
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Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene
It’s no surprise to see that Sri Lanka have hit a rich vein of form on the back of their two batting stalwarts performing well with the bat. Sangakkara hit a classy and controlled century in a daunting chase against England, while Jayawardene contributed a crucial unbeaten 84 on a tough pitch against Australia.
As good as India’s spinners have been, Sangakkara and Jayawardene should be extremely comfortable playing against spin. If the two can settle in the middle overs, Sri Lanka will establish a solid foundation on which to build a big score.
Can Lasith Malinga perform against India?
Lasith Malinga has taken 224 ODI wickets for Sri Lanka at a remarkable average of 26.12, with seven four-wicket hauls, and five five-wicket hauls. However, his average against India is a paltry 40.88 and he is yet to register either a four or five-wicket haul against them.
In recent outings, Indian batsmen have feasted on Sri Lanka’s spearhead, consistently scoring above six an over, sometimes even seven. The wristwork of the Indian batsmen negates Malinga’s brutal yorkers, and is a big reason why India have had the upper hand in recent matches.
Can India’s fast bowlers make a difference?
India’s spinners have done a remarkable job in this tournament. Leading from the front is Ravindra Jadeja, and while Ravichandran Ashwin hasn’t had the wickets, he has kept things tight on one end. However, if there is one batting line-up that will not be threatened by spin, it is Sri Lanka.
It might just be the match in which Mahendra Singh Dhoni will look to his fast bowlers to do the damage. Bhubneshwar Kumar can be relied upon with the new ball. However, it will also be crucial for Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma to not lose their radar in the crucial slog overs of the innings.
Cardiff’s rain and Cardiff’s boundaries
After the first two matches at the venue were played in glorious sunshine, a rough patch of weather has hit Cardiff, with every match being affected by rain. It wouldn’t surprise me to see rain playing a part again, especially with the forecast not looking too promising.
Add in to the mix the shortest boundaries of the tournament, and we could see a heady cocktail of fast fours and big sixes. There are probably no two teams better at utilizing the shorter boundaries than India and Sri Lanka, with all their players vastly experienced in T20 cricket. The result could hinge on which sides firepower prevails, and which bowling attack can rein in the big hits.