India face rampant Lanka for Cup survival

Published: Friday, March 23, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Port of Spain (T&T):India face the Herculean task of having to beat a high flying Sri Lanka in their final World Cup Group B game on Friday if they are to avoid the ignominy of a first round exit.

India failed to do justice to their stature in the opening game when they suffered a shock five-wicket defeat against Bangladesh, leaving millions of their fans back home in a state of despair.

They thrashed debutants Bermuda by a record 257 runs in their second game of the four-team group, but that was not enough to put them in a comfortable frame of mind ahead of their final match Friday.

"I don't want to say there is no pressure. There is. It's a very important game and the whole country is looking for India to win," India all-rounder Yuvraj Singh told reporters here.

"We know it's an important task before the team. We have to step forward from here and get in to Super Eight. Everybody knows it. We are all focused. The boys are working hard."

Sri Lanka are the team in form, having won both of their matches against Bangladesh and Bermuda by big margins. Bangladesh still have a chance to qualify for the next round as they take on Bermuda in their last game.

The top two sides will advance to the next round.

A defeat against Sri Lanka will be hard to swallow for fans in cricket-crazy country, expecting their team to win the World Cup. The loss against Bangladesh has already sparked unrest in some parts of the country.

But India have the past to draw inspiration from as they began their campaign on an unimpressive note in the 2003 edition in South Africa before storming into the final against eventual winners Australia.

They have managed to solve one of their major batting problems ahead of the vital match after hard-hitting opener Virender Sehwag's return to the big-scoring ways.

Sehwag, who had just one half-century in 14 one-dayers before the Bermuda match, slammed an 87-ball 114. It was his first hundred in nearly two years.

India may have won eight of their last 10 one-dayers against Sri Lanka at home, but will have to raise their performance in the crucial game considering their rivals' current form.

"It's a big game for all of us and we are looking forward to it. The game will ensure who's going to carry two points into the next round," said Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene.

"We are not concentrating on this round alone, but have to think about the next round as well. It's always good to carry two points."

The two teams have clashed 94 times in one-day internationals, with India winning 49 matches and losing 36. The remaining nine games ended in no-results.

Sri Lanka gave disciplined performances in both the matches as their batsmen and bowlers never allowed their opponents to settle down.

Their batting bloomed, with Sanath Jayasuriya scoring an explosive century against Bangladesh. Kumar Sangakkara and Chamara Silva have made two successive half-centuries, while Jayawardene scored 85 and 46 in two matches.

Sri Lankan new ball bowlers Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga could prove a handful for Indian batsmen, who struggled against Bangladesh's pacemen on a Queen's Park Oval pitch that has aided early seam movement. Besides the ever reliable offie Muralitharan, left-arm spinner Jayasuriya, Dilshan and seamer Maharoof add depth and variety to the Lankan attack.

With so much at stake for both the teams, Friday's showdown will be considered the biggest of the tournament so far, overshadowing Saturday's group game between Australia and top-ranked South Africa after both teams ensured qualification with two easy wins apiece.


India: Rahul Dravid (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Karthick, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and Munaf Patel. Coach: Greg Chappell.

Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Marvan Atapattu, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Russel Arnold, Chamara Silva, Chaminda Vaas, Farveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Nuwan Kulasekara, Muttiah Muralitharan and Malinga Bandara. Coach: Tom Moody.

ThatsCricket (with inputs from Agencies)

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