After the positive start against Bangladesh, Indian fans would have been hopeful that the trend would continue against Sri Lanka as well. However, the Lankans had shown in the first game that they were made of stern stuff besting Pakistan in a tight encounter and it would not have been an easy encounter. On the 4th match of the 2014 Asia Cup too it showed that it would be a force to be reckoned with by dashing a billion hopes and clinching yet another close contest against India. India, on the other hand, received a rude awakening after the first game and would now need to approach its remaining contests against Pakistan and Afghanistan with much more intensity if it wants to progress to the finals.
Strategy: Sri Lanka won the toss and proceeded to field first. The main area of strength for India is its batting and it clearly prefers batting second. So, by batting second Sri Lanka upset any predetermined plan the Indian team may have had.
Team composition: Sri Lanka also made a key change to its team that proved to be decisive in the end by picking Mendis instead of Lakmal. The stadium was hosting its fourth game and it was expected that all of the wickets would be a little worn out. So, perhaps it made more sense to go in with a spinner instead of a seamer who had gone for plenty in the previous match.
India, too, benched Varun Aaron and brought in allrounder Binny for this game. In Indian domestic cricket, Binny is regarded highly as a hard hitting late middle order batsman and a canny medium pacer in the middle overs and Kohli would have been expecting such a performance from him as well. However, in his limited international appearances Binny has not done much of note and yesterday was no different as well. Perhaps playing Amit Mishra or Ishwar Pandey would have been a better decision.
Batting: Batting first, India got to a total of 264, which in view of the conditions and the strength of Indian bowling, was a sub-par total. Perhaps 300 or more would be a decent enough total. Dhawan was the mainstay with a composed 94. However, he did not receive much assistance with the exception of Kohli who made a quick 48. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, was guided by Sangakkara who cracked a masterful 103 from just 84 balls and Kusal Perera who made a good half century.
Bowling: Sri Lanka performed much better on this front than India. The spinners were the wreckers-in-chief with Mendis picking up 4 and Senanayake getting 3. The latter was also the best bowler on view for Sri Lanka in terms of economy. Youngster Chaturanga de Silva too bowled economically as did Lasith Malinga. Their disciplined performance meant that Indians were unable to set up a huge total that could have won them the game. For India, once again Shami and Jadeja were the main wicket-takers with 3 scalps apiece. However, while Jadeja went for only 30 in his allotted 10 overs, Shami conceded 81, which proved to be vital in the final analysis. Ashwin had a decent match as well with 2 for 42 from 10 overs.
Areas to look out for: Sri Lanka will undoubtedly be happy with the fact that it is operating like a well-oiled machine and has won two games against the leading opponents of this tournament. It will look to continue with this momentum.
India, on the other hand, will have plenty to worry about. The batting is clearly unable to establish itself when it is given the first use of the pitch. Secondly, bowling has been a major issue of worry for the past one year or so and this game was no different. Consistency is lacking and until and unless this area is addressed properly India shall continue to flounder. For this purpose India needs to bring in a reputed bowling coach who has been successful in international cricket so that he is able to guide the young team properly and help them find a way to become weapons instead of necessary liabilities.