Series in pocket, India hope to sign off in style

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Series in the bag and a demoralised Sri Lanka at their disposal, India will be hoping to sign off on a winning note in the fifth and final ODI on Sunday.

Updated: December 26, 2009 15:02 IST
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New Delhi:

Series in the bag and a demoralised Sri Lanka at their disposal, India will be hoping to sign off on a winning note in the fifth and final ODI here on Sunday.

With the fate of the series sealed at Eden Gardens and holiday spirit in the air, players from both sides would have to find some motivation for Sunday's tie which has been rendered of mere academic interest.

Leading the Indian side in absence of regular skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni - who served a two-match ban - Virender Sehwag wanted to seal the issue in Kolkata itself for he was not sure of the track at Ferozeshah Kotla.

Having achieved that, the home side can now let their hair down and experiment with the playing XI.

Having missed the last two one dayers, Dhoni is back in the side again, and for him Sunday's match would be a dress rehearsal for the tri-series in Bangladesh next month.

Overall for the Indian team, it would be yet another opportunity to assert their superiority over the islanders, who, along with the hosts, would compete in the Bangladesh tri-series.

India's success story in this series has been scripted by the blazing blades of their batsmen and the trend is likely to continue on Sunday.

Even in absence of proven match-winners like Dhoni or Yuvraj Singh, India's batting has looked in apple-pie order and the fourth ODI in Kolkata amply displayed the innate strength of the team.

At Eden Gardens, Sri Lanka did nearly everything right. The islanders put on 315 on the board and prised out the prize scalps of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar inside 23 runs and could not be faulted for believing they had taken the upper hand in the do-or-die match.

However, with the way Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli batted, it never looked like India was ever in a hole at that stage.

They were quick to assign roles - Kohli being the aggressor and Gambhir the accumulator - and played with a clear purpose -- first to prop up the innings and then put the chase back on track without taking too many risks.

It was such a clinical chase that would lead India into believing that they can now win from any position.

Of the four matches so far, the opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar have given the team a flying start, which made things easy for the subsequent batsmen.

Sunday's match offers an opportunity for Sehwag to sizzle in his home ground and the swashbuckling right-hander would be keen to pout behind the disappointment of Eden Gardens, where he perished in the second over.

Tendulkar has been consistency personified, scoring 69, 43 and 96 not out before law of average caught up with him in Kolkata where he managed just eight.

The batting great has already pulled out of India's tri-series in Bangladesh and would be eyeing a big knock on Sunday.

Tendulkar opening with Sehwag has forced Gautam Gambhir to drop down to the number three spot and the in-form left-hander has proved that he has the talent and temperament to succeed even in uncharacteristic roles.

A man for all season who is equally adept at acceleration and accumulation, Gambhir has matured a lot over the last one-and-half year and he relishes the finisher's role.

His Delhi teammate Virat Kohli has come a long way from being a just precocious talent and the maiden century in Kolkata would do a world of good to his confidence.

Among others, Suresh Raina has notched up one fifty in the two matches he batted and the left-hander would also be hungry for runs on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the picture is not as rosy in India's bowling department. Barring the Cuttack ODI, the Indian bowlers have looked out of sorts.

In the Rajkot humdinger, they nearly failed to defend 314 and allowed Sri Lanka to chase down India's 301 in the subsequent tie in Nagpur. In Kolkata also, Sri Lanka cruised to 315 runs even though it didn't prove enough in the end.

Apart from Zaheer Khan, none of the pacers looked menacing enough.

Praveen Kumar proved costly, Ashish Nehra looked inconsistent while Ishant Sharma's performance could be assessed from the fact that he was dropped from the Indian team for the Bangladesh tri-series.

In the spin department, Harbhajan Singh has had modest success and in fact Ravindra Jadeja stole the thunder from the Punjab off-spinner.

Fielding remains another woe for the side which continues to cut sorry figure whether it's ground fielding or catching.

In fact, their sloppy fielding has prompted cricketer-turned-commentator Sunil Gavaskar to mock that the butter-finger Indian fielders are even incapable of catching cold.

Fortunately for India, Sri Lanka has proved even inferior. The Lankan batting relies too much on Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara even though Upul Tharanga has done well with the bat.

Former skipper Mahela Jayawardene has been a huge let down, while old war horse Sanath Jayasuriya is clearly a spent force, struggling to settle in the lower middle order.

Too many injuries have also compounded their crisis and their bowling unit also lacks the sting and firepower generally associated with it.

While Chanaka Welegedara and Suranga Lakmal have been revelations, Lasith Malinga is clearly rusty after his injury layoff, while Ajantha Mendis is clearly not the enigma he once was to the Indian batsmen.

India: MS Dhoni (Captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Sudeep Tyagi, Dinesh Karthik, S Sreesanth, Ashok Dinda, Pragyan Ojha.

Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (C &WK), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilina Kandamby, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Samaraweera, Upul Tharanga, Chanaka Welegedara, Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, Suraj Randiv and Thissara Perera.

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