India 'A' appear favourites to clinch title

Published: Monday, December 29, 2003, 23:09 [IST]
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Kolkata: Buoyed by three consecutive wins under their belt, a formidable India 'A' appear favourites on batting strength as they clash with Sri Lanka 'A' in the final of the Kenstar Asian A teams' cricket tournament in Kolkata on Tuesday.

After going down to the Lankans in the tournament lung-opener, the Indians have improved with every match to prevail over arch-rivals Pakistan twice and the islanders once to emerge table toppers at the league stage.

The hosts have a star-studded and experienced batting line-up boasting the likes of Yuvraj Singh, skipper Hemang Badani, the in-form Gautam Gambhir, Sanjay Bangar and Dinesh Mongia, which has served the side well so far and would surely be a cause of worry for the Lankan team management ahead of the Eden Gardens outing.

Gambhir leads the run scorers' chart cracking one hundred and two fifties, while the others have also delivered the goods at times of need.

However, the Indians are likely to miss Mohammad Kaif, who sustained a left thumb injury and had to sit out of Sunday's match against Pakistan, and that opens up the possibility for either Rohan Gavaskar or S Sriram to fill in.

Gavaskar returned for a first ball duck on Sunday, and the team management may decide to opt for the Tamil Nadu left hander Sriram instead.

In the bowling department, both Amit Bhandari and Munaf Patel have performed well. While Bhandari fashioned an Indian win with figures of 4/47 against Pakistan on Christmas Day, Patel, after an indifferent showing in the first two matches, has bowled well, particularly in the middle overs.

With the wicket likely to be on the slower side, the Indians may decide to go for a double spin attack including both Sarandeep Singh and Sairaj Bahutule.

The Indians would also be psychologically relaxed with the tension of choosing the Indian teams for the tri-series in Australia over. For Yuvraj, Bangar and Badani, who have made the cut, the final affords a valuable match-practice ahead of the gruelling assignment Down Under.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, started the tournament with a bang, winning the first two matches, successfully chasing the opponents' scores of 300 on perfect batting wickets.

However, they then faltered in the next two matches, where their willowers failed to negotiate the slower wickets.

The Lankan batting fortunes have revolved mainly around experienced skipper Russel Arnold, who struck unbeaten match winning knocks of 96 and 100 in the first two matches. However, the pressure of carrying the entire burden on his load seemed to have affected his showing in the subsequent two games, where he managed to score only nine runs on each occasion.

Arnold and the other experienced bat Naveed Nawaz, the skipper of the Lankan Under-19 team, have to perform well if the Lankans are to make an impression on Tuesday.

India beat Pak in a thrilling encounter

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