India shut the door on Sri Lanka in the first ODI. In the second match, Sri Lanka failed to close out the game. And just like that, in a matter of three days, the fate of the series was sealed.
However, in the era of the World Cup Super League, there are no dead rubbers. Teams no longer play just for the pride. So in the third ODI on Friday, Sri Lanka will be aiming for ten crucial points to get back into the race for the direct qualification for the global event in 2023.
After nine losses in their last ten completed ODIs, the whole Sri Lankan team has come under scrutiny. While the defeat in the second ODI left the players and coaches "emotional", a penalty of one point for slow over-rate has pushed them further back. With just 10.91% points (12 points from 11 games), they are placed lowest among all teams.
There is more bad news. Wanindu Hasaranga, Sri Lanka's best bowler on Tuesday, is also set to miss this match with a muscle tear in his leg (doctors are hoping he'll be okay for the T20Is).
India, on the other hand, once again exhibited their depth. In the absence of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, Prithvi Shaw and Ishan Kishan stood up. Krunal Pandya is doing an excellent job in Ravindra Jadeja's role. And the way Deepak Chahar steered the chase in the second game was exemplary.
Unlike Sri Lanka, India don't have to worry about World Cup qualification. As the hosts of the event, they qualify automatically. That gives them the luxury of trying out what could probably be called a third-choice XI.
Sri Lanka LLLLW (Last five completed ODIs, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Hardik Pandya didn't bowl a single ball during the truncated IPL 2020. He sent down five overs in the first ODI here but on Tuesday, he was seen holding his back in his third over. Later in the innings, he bowled one more over. The final ODI may shed more light on his bowling fitness.
Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka said on the eve of the match that fast bowler Kasun Rajitha is out with an injury. Sri Lanka can replace him with Lahiru Kumara. They can also bring in Akila Dananjaya for Lakshan Sandakan. In two games so far, Sandakan has combined figures of 2 for 124 from 18.4 overs at an economy of 6.64. With Hasaranga out, they may bring in offspinning allrounder Ramesh Mendis into the lower middle order.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Avishka Fernando, 2 Minod Bhanuka (wk), 3 Bhanuka Rajapaksa, 4 Dhananjaya de Silva, 5 Charith Asalanka, 6 Dasun Shanaka (capt), 7 Ramesh Mendis, 8 Chamika Karunaratne, 9 Dushmantha Chameera, 10 Akila Dananjaya, 11 Lahiru Kumara
Bhuvneshwar Kumar didn't look 100% in the last match and India could consider resting him on Friday. Navdeep Saini can come in his place. Having recovered from his knee ligament injury, Sanju Samson can replace Kishan if India want to give chances to more players.
India (probable): 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Shikhar Dhawan (capt), 3 Ishan Kishan/Sanju Samson (wk), 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Suryakumar Yadav, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Deepak Chahar, 9 Navdeep Saini, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Pitch and conditions
Batters in this series have enjoyed playing their shots on the R Premadasa pitches but at the same time, there has been help for spinners too. A similar pitch is expected for the third ODI as well but the weather could play a spoilsport. It's forecast to be cloudy with intermittent showers on the match day.
Stats and trivia
The last time Sri Lanka won a bilateral ODI series against India was in 1997.
Since January 2020, India's fast bowlers have picked up just five powerplay wickets in 14 ODIs, at an average of 159 and an economy of 5.88.
Yuzvendra Chahal has 97 wickets in 56 ODIs. Three more wickets on Friday and he will join Jasprit Bumrah as the joint-second fastest Indian to the 100-wicket landmark. Mohammed Shami (56 ODIs) holds the record for India.
"As a team, and I as captain, we need to build confidence. And alongside that, the players need to believe in their ability to execute their skills in the game. I saw a lot of this in the last game, and so I'm confident we can build on that, and turn that into positive results. It's true we haven't won consistently for a while, but we haven't forgotten how to win."
Dasun Shanaka is confident Sri Lanka can turn things around
"[MS Dhoni] has had a very big impact on me. Not just during my time at the CSK but even when I was growing up. We have all seen how he takes the match close. Every time I speak to him, he tells me it's in your hands to take the game till the end and if you can do that, then it's just a matter of a few overs.
Deepak Chahar on how Dhoni's advice helped him during the second ODI