Teams fret more over rain than familiar opponents | PunterPolls Prediction
Even as Clint McKay and Xavier Doherty were doing their darnedest to drive Australia to a sensational victory over Sri Lanka at The Oval, there were plenty of non-Australians cheering them on, just so that the cricket world will be spared yet another India-Sri Lanka ODI. In the last five years, the two sides have met a mind numbing 44 times in ODIs, and will face off again in a tri-series in the Caribbean starting next week. The teams are so familiar with each other and their strategies that MS Dhoni said: "You can also cut the extra 15 minutes of time in a team meeting and keep it simple."
At least unlike a majority of those previous encounters, Thursday's clash is a high-stakes, high-profile game. Even that could be ruined, though, as the weather forecast is dire. Sri Lanka, whose cricket season at home is regularly blighted by rain, are the only team to have been fortunate to get three full group matches, but that run looks set to come to an end with plenty of showers expected in Cardiff.
What's worse for Sri Lanka is that, in case of a washout, India will go through on account of being winners of Group B. The Champions Trophy is marketed as a "short, sharp" tournament, but not having a reserve day for the knockout matches is stretching that concept a bit too far. The only other times these teams have met in the Champions Trophy was also in a big game, the final in 2002, which waswashed out despite the reserve day.
A week ago, midway through the league stage, Sri Lanka seemed headed for the exit as Ravi Bopara's burst in the final over lifted England to 293. Sri Lanka, however, hunted down that total before reeling off an impressive victory over Australia to progress to the semi-finals, a stage they regularly reach in global tournaments. Despite that, they have precious little silverware to show so far, something the likes of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara will be desperate to change.
To achieve that, they have to get past the form team of the tournament. There had been a bit of trepidation over how a revamped India would cope with the loss of vastly experienced players like Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan. Their absence hasn't been felt yet, as India's new opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have been prolific, and Ravindra Jadeja's miraculous season continues. A team traditionally filled with slow-coaches has now been transformed to one the normally cautious Dhoni calls "the best fielding side in the world". In the crunch matches, though, will the inexperience show?
Our experts are supporting India for the game as this team is in splendid form and more balanced between the two.
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RESULT ICC Champions Trophy 2013 - 2nd Semi-Final: India v Sri Lanka, 20 June
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