Cardiff: Unbeaten so far, a confident India would be up against a massive challenge when they take on sub-continental rivals Sri Lanka, a team on the ascendancy after a slow start, in the semifinal match of the ICC Champions Trophy on Thursday. Fresh new track for semis (JPN/Agencies)
India will be the fancied team on paper but the Lankans are also on a high after defeating both England and Australia en route to the semifinal, which would be a repeat of the 2011 World Cup final in Mumbai.
While India were the first team to make the last four from the tournament's Group of Death with an all-win record, Sri Lanka grabbed the last semifinal berth on Tuesday after warding off a late challenge from Australia.
Lankans eye revenge
For the Lankans, the clash against India will be a grudge game of sorts. In the final of the 2011 World Cup at the Wankhede, India outclassed the co-hosts by six wickets, easily chasing down a 275-run target, with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni laying the coup de grace with a towering six off Nuwan Kulasekara.
For India, only Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina are the remnants of the victorious World Cup squad and the arrival of a set of precocious youths like Ravindra Jadeja and Shikhar Dhawan has had a telling impact on the overall team performance, especially fielding.
India defeated Sri Lanka in warm-up match
The Indians have been on song ever since landing in the UK for the Champions Trophy. The Lankans were the first to face the heat, losing a warm-up game in Birmingham on June 1.
India flexed their batting muscle, easily chasing down a 334-run target with five wickets in hand and six balls to spare.
India have a dominating batting line-up
India's batting domination has been eloquently clear in this competition. They have scored over 300 runs thrice in five matches, twice batting first.
Sri Lanka, by contrast, have got better with every game. After losing a low-scoring thriller against New Zealand at Cardiff by a wicket, Lanka bounced back with a commanding seven-wicket victory against England at The Oval.
The Lankans did have some anxious moments against the Aussies but the 20-run win would have given the islanders a big shot in the arm ahead of the semis.
India's batting revolves around a clutch of young men like Shikhar Dhawan, Kohli and Karthik, who have taken the world by storm with their euphoric stroke-making and natural belligerence.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, continue to profit from salty old pros, who still swear by the old charm of silken touch and classy stroke-making.
A fresh new track has been laid by the Glamorgan ground staff at Sophia Gardens for the semifinal. Chief curator Keith Exton says 280 should be a par score but 300 will be very safe.
With overcast conditions expected on Thursday, the seamers should get early advantage but batsmen who have been patient and respected the conditions have stood to gain in this Champions Trophy.
India and Sri Lanka clashed in the Champions Trophy final in 2002 in Colombo, not once but twice. On successive days, rain played spoilsport and for the first time in the history of a major ICC tournament, the title had to be shared.
Hot and happening India are equally desperate and will match the Lankans, eyeball to eyeball for sure. The battle lines at Cardiff are drawn.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (C), Dinesh Chandimal, Dilhara Lokuhettige, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardene, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Jeevan Mendis, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara, Sachithra Senanayake and Lahiru Thirimanne.
Match starts at 3 pm (IST).
Cardiff: Unbeaten so far, a confident India would be up against a massive challenge when they take on sub-continental rivals Sri Lanka, a team on the ascendancy after a slow start, in the semifinal match of the ICC Champions Trophy on Thursday.
Fresh new track for semis