Lanka seeks to stretch home record

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> A rusty Sri Lanka will look to stretch its impressive limited-over's home record this week when a tri-series featuring India and West Indies begins today.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:54 IST
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A rusty Sri Lanka will look to stretch its impressive limited-over's home record this week when a tri-series featuring India and the West Indies begins today in the central town of Dambulla. Sri Lanka has dominated its limited-overs encounters over the past decade - since it surged to clinch the 1996 World Cup title - but launches the tri-series against India at the Rangiri International Stadium after a seven-month break. While Sri Lanka has not played a one-dayer since December, it opened the new season with a resounding 2-0 test series victory over a youthful West Indies outfit earlier this month. Determined to return to the winner's circle after April's shattering 4-2 limited-overs defeat against Pakistan, India goes into the tournament without two of its major run-scorers, batsman Sachin Tendulkar and skipper Sourav Ganguly. Tendulkar sidelined Tendulkar has been sidelined by an elbow surgery, while Ganguly - serving a four-match suspension for India's persistent slow bowling overrate against Pakistan - will join the squad in the middle or the tournament. The tri-series will feature four games played in Dambulla, before shifting to the capital Colombo for three more matches and the title contest between the top two teams on Aug. 9. Ganguly, who missed the last two matches against Pakistan, can now resume him one-day career in India's Aug. 3 match against Sri Lanka in Dambulla - the last outing before play moves to Colombo. Rahul Dravid leads India into the tournament, while former Australian skipper Greg Chappell will be in charge of the team for the first time since replacing New Zealander John Wright as national coach last month. The absence of Tendulkar and Ganguly has compelled Chappell to look to either attacking stroke player V V S Laxman or aggressive wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Dhoni as a replacement opener. Chappell says he has a fair idea about the team he'd field in the opening game, but wants to see how his players recover from a spate of niggling injuries. Niggling injuries Middle-order batsman Mohammad Kaif is trouble by a hamstring strain, Laxman by stressed back and Dhoni has bruised an arm. Both India and the West Indies are aware of the threat posed by Sri Lankan offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who claimed a 10-wicket haul in last week's test victory over West Indies at Kandy. The Marvan Atapattu-led Sri Lankan team's batting order is stable, but rookie Upal Tharanga is tipped to break into the one-day team as the opening partner for former skipper Sanath Jayasuriya. The home team is also considering strengthening its lower order by inducting all-rounder Russel Arnold Playing its first limited-overs competition under new Aussie coach Tom Moody, Sri Lanka's pace spearhead Chaminda Vaas may miss the opening match due to a hamstring injury. The West Indies clinched a dramatic Champions Trophy title triumph in England last year, but the team has since undergone 12 changes as several of its top players stayed home due to a contract dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board. The West Indies, has been boosted by the inclusion of big-hitting all-rounder Ricardo Powell, but its pace attack is under scrutiny. Pace spearhead Jermaine Lawson's action was reported during the first test against Sri Lanka by ICC match referee Mike Proctor, while young fast bowler Tino Best was criticized by umpires Tony Hill (New Zealand) and Simon Taufel (Australia) for bowling beamers at the Sri Lankan batsmen. Best was fined 50 per cent of his match fees during the Kandy test after being taken off the attack during the second innings. (AP)

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