Thiruvananthapuram: India meet Sri Lanka in the third and final One-Day International (ODI) at the Greenfield International Stadium, Karyavattom, on Sunday. The Men in Blue have already wrapped up the series by winning the first two one-dayers at Guwahati and Kolkata. However, this being the World Cup year there is no such thing as an inconsequential tie.
India last won the ODI World Cup on home soil under M S Dhoni in 2011. Naturally, the expectations are high that Rohit Sharma & Co. will end India's wait for a global title. The Champions Trophy triumph of 2013 was the last ICC title for the Men in Blue.
The preparations have started in earnest and Team India have bounced back after suffering a 2-1 series defeat at the hands of Bangladesh last month in an away series.
The Indians simply batted the Lankans out of the series opener by amassing 373/7 at Guwahati, while spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel triggered a collapse in the second match at the Eden Gardens. K L Rahul guided the Indians home despite a few wobbles in their modest chase of 216.
The new opening pair of Rohit and Shubman Gill as well as No. 3 Virat Kohli made big runs at Guwahati, while Rahul and Hardik Pandya were involved in a vital stand at Kolkata.
The new-ball pair of Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj have been impressive, while Umran Malik has troubled the Lankans with his express pace and chipped in with vital strikes.
Chinaman bowler Kuldeep got a chance in the second game since leggie Yuzvendra Chahal missed the match with a sore shoulder. It remains to be seen whether the Indian team management rests Axar and plays both Kuldeep and Chahal. Axar and Rahul have opted out of the forthcoming white-ball series against the Kiwis. Hence both are likely to take the field on Sunday.
Ishan Kishan, who smashed the fastest ODI double ton against Bangladesh in his last ODI outing, could make the playing XI in place of Gill. Shami is likely to be rested with left-arm pacer Arshdeep Sigh taking his place.
Patchy show by visitors so far
The Lankans on the other hand will be keen to pull one back and avoid the clean sweep. The islanders have shone in patches. The Lankan bowlers and batters need to fire in unison. The top-order batters have to make their starts count to put pressure on the Indians.
What does pitch foretell
It will be interesting to see how the pitch plays. The Indians shot out the West Indies for 104 and then chased it down for the loss of a wicket with more than 35 overs to spare in the lone previous ODI at the venue in 2018.
South Africa could manage only 106/8 in the last international match to be played at Greenfield — a T20I — last September.
The spectators will be hoping for a run feast and both sides have enough batters to provide them a treat.