Virat Kohli and company will try to polish their skills on the crease one last time before the semifinals kick off next week, with their final group stage fixture at Headingley, Leeds, on Saturday, July 6.
They are clashing with Dimuth Karunaratne’s Sri Lanka, already knocked out of the tournament, making it a dead rubber encounter.
The two Asian teams meet at 3 PM IST to round off the league stage—in the last but one match—before the four table-toppers clash in the semis.
On Tuesday, July 2, India defeated Bangladesh by 28 runs to qualify for the semifinals at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.
Middle order crisis
The real test on Saturday, however, is for India’s faltering middle order, with all eyes on former captain and Indian wicket-keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has been criticised for a lack of intent over the last few clashes.
He is expected to break the shackles in the death overs, to address the middle order crisis going into the knock-outs. Despite being in a safe spot right now, playing with an out-of-order middle order form is probably not a safe bet. In their last match against Bangladesh, India’s openers added 180 in 29 overs, but the team ended with only 314 for 9.
Against England, too, the middle order couldn’t finish strong after Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma departed. Sharma, who is having a great outing, has been the standout player. He is the leading run-scorer of the tournament with 544 runs, which include four centuries. Kohli, on the other hand, has also been among runs but is yet to notch up his first century.
The conditions at Headingley are optimal if the batting order can get their business in order; it’s bright and sunny at Leeds, and the pitch is conducive to scoring 300+ runs.
Changes to the bowling line-up are also probable, with Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Ravindra Jadeja filling the four slots to give Jasprit Bumrah some respite.
Experts have hoped that the team management tries out some other combinations in the risk-free match against Sri Lanka, including giving Jadeja some game time ahead of the last four clashes.
Sri Lankan pride and Malinga
For Sri Lanka, this match is all about pride and bidding a farewell to Lasith Malinga.
A maiden ODI century from Avishka Fernando enabled them to defeat West Indies in their latest encounter on Monday. But even after beating England by 20 runs, the Lankan Lions’ batting failed against South Africa in the subsequent match, where they went on to lose by nine wickets.
Meanwhile, Malinga will be playing his last World Cup match; in the three matches, Sri Lanka won against Afghanistan, England, and West Indies, with Malinga taking three, four, and three wickets respectively.
Sri Lanka’s frontline spin option Dhananjaya de Silva has been pretty economical with the ball, going at a sub-5 economy rate in the matches that he has played. If Sri Lanka goes back home with four wins, that alone would surpass a lot of expectations.
Will India rise to the top of the table?
Currently No.2 on the table, the face-off with Sri Lanka (ODI 44 of 48) will offer India a chance to rise to the top, provided Australia loses to South Africa in the following match, although that looks unlikely.
Finishing top will mean New Zealand will be the Men in Blue’s opponents at Old Trafford, unless Pakistan produce a miracle against Bangladesh.
The second placed team will play England at Edgbaston.
India: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik/Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah.
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Kusal Perera (wk), Avishka Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Isuru Udana, Jeffrey Vandersay, Kasun Rajitha, and Lasith Malinga.
Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius.