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Colombo, Sri Lanka - Four­teen overs. That's about as long as Sri Lanka stayed in the con­test in Galle. As soon as Shikhar Dhawan's catch went down and Asela Gu­naratne left the field, shoul­ders seemed to drop, bowlers' lines seemed to stray, and In­dia ram­paged more or less un­hin­dered for four days.

How Sri Lanka can get it­self into this se­ries with­out try­ing some­thing even slightly rad­i­cal, it is dif­fi­cult to see. It is strength­ened by the re­turn of its cap­tain Di­nesh Chandi­mal, but the bal­ance of the side has been com­pro­mised by Gu­naratne's ab­sence. A chance then, fi­nally, to play five front­line bowlers?

The SSC pitch may be a sur­face that re­quires an ex­tra bowler, in any case. Matches there are no longer the bad old borefests of years ago, but at least two-and-a-half days gen­er­ally still go to the bats­men.

In Galle, In­dia had hit its 840 runs at a rate of 4.5 per over, for the loss of only 13 wick­ets. Sri Lanka can't af­ford to ap­proach this match with the same bowl­ing strat­egy.

In­dia has a se­lec­tion call to make at the top of its or­der now that Lokesh Rahul is fit again, but is un­likely to favour Ab­hi­nav Mukund de­spite his good se­cond-in­nings knock in Galle.

There, though, lie the ex­tent of its 'prob­lems'. Hav­ing out-bat­ted, out-bowled and out-strate­gised Sri Lanka (that it out-fielded the hosts goes with­out say­ing lately), In­dia ap­pears al­most as short of weak­nesses as Sri Lanka was of ideas.

Sadly for the hosts, it's also prob­a­bly too early in the tour for com­pla­cency to have be­gun wrap­ping its ten­ta­cles around In­dia's game.

With each of the ri­val top five hav­ing scored at least one fifty in the Galle Test, and with all the bowlers hav­ing claimed wick­ets, Sri Lanka need to climb a very tall, very steep, very in-form moun­tain.

The buzz

Sri Lanka: It may play three spin­ners in this match, with Chandi­mal is­su­ing strong hints that Malinda Push­paku­mara may make his de­but. If it plays with only four front­line bowlers, Chandi­mal has hinted that Dhanan­jaya de Silva is more likely to en­ter the side ahead of Lahiru Thi­r­i­manne, who was se­lected in the squad 13 months af­ter last play­ing for Sri Lanka. Danushka Gu­nathi­laka is set to make way for Chandi­mal. In­dia: If the vis­i­tors be­lieve the pitch will take a lot of turn, left-arm wrist-spin­ner Kuldeep Ya­dav be­comes a strong con­tender for the XI. If he plays, Hardik Pandya is like­li­est to be dis­placed.

In the spot­light

Lokesh Rahul: When he last came to Sri Lanka, he was a cen­tury or noth­ing bats­man, hit­ting 7, 5, 108, 2, 2 and 2 across his six in­nings here in 2015. Now, his bat­ting seems to have the op­po­site per­son­al­ity. In his seven most re­cent in­nings, Rahul has made six half-cen­turies, the best of which was the 90 on a spit­ting Ben­galuru track against Aus­tralia. In a coun­try that has been no­to­ri­ously un­kind to open­ers, In­dia has enough faith in Rahul to re­store him to the XI, de­spite hav­ing other good op­tions.

Di­nesh Chandi­mal: Com­ing back from ill­ness, though not quite re­cov­ered com­pletely yet, - he has re­ceived spe­cial ICC per­mis­sion to use an in­haler dur­ing the game. His has been a fraught cap­taincy so far. He was ap­pointed only two days be­fore the Zim­babwe Test last month, and is now faced with hav­ing to raise morale af­ter what was a dif­fi­cult Test in Galle. In or­der to prop­erly claim his po­si­tion as the cap­tain of this side, he also needs runs.


Sri Lanka (likely): Upul Tha­ranga, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Di­nesh Chandi­mal (capt), An­gelo Mathews, Niroshan Dick­wella (wk), Dhanan­jaya de Silva, Dil­ruwan Per­era, Ran­gana Herath, Malinda Push­paku­mara, Nuwan Pradeep.

In­dia (likely): Lokesh Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Chetesh­war Pu­jara, Vi­rat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Ra­hane, R Ash­win, Wrid­dhi­man Saha (wk), Ravin­dra Jadeja, Kuldeep Ya­dav, Umesh Ya­dav, Mo­hammed Shami.

Match be­gins at 8.30am.

Lokesh Rahul

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