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Rain threat looms as India chase 11th successive win


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Sri Lanka have never won a T20I series in India in the four attempts they've had since December 2009. Their very first attempt was a 1-1 draw. Sri Lanka scored 215/5 in the first bilateral T20I in India and restricted the hosts to 186/9. They also scored 206/7 in the second game but India managed to chase it down thanks to the efforts of Virender Sehwag, MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh. Back then, Sri Lanka's eleven boasted of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews.

Among the top-order batters, Dilshan was the lone survivor when Sri Lanka toured India again in 2016, a series that the visitors lost 2-1 with them scoring 127/9 and 82 all-out in their two losses chasing and batting first respectively. In 2017, they had Kusal Perera and Upul Tharanga but all they could manage was 87 all-out chasing 181, 172 all-out chasing a mammoth 261 (the same match in which Rohit Sharma scored his career-best 118) and posted 135/7 which was chased down by India. In their 2-0 loss in January 2020, Sri Lanka's 142/9 was chased down by India rather comfortably while the home team's 201/6 proved well beyond the visitors' reach as they folded for 123.

There is a striking gulf in both sides since they first played a bilateral T20I in India. While India, having unearthed several talents from the IPL, possess rich batting and bowling resources, Sri Lanka's growth has been negligible in comparison. Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer were the stars in India's big win in the opening T20I, while Rohit - Sri Lanka's familiar nemesis - played his part too. Barring Charith Asalanka's half-century, which was also a touch too slow to their liking, and some late hitting from Chamika Karunaratne and Dushmantha Chameera, it was a chase that never really had wheels to it. At 57/4 at the halfway stage of their innings, the match was only headed in one direction, with India's bowling miles ahead of Sri Lanka's despite the hosts not using the full quota of their frontline bowlers.

Unless Sri Lanka come up with something special with both bat and ball and try to get the best out of their available resources, this series is likely to follow the same template as the earlier ones. India are favourites to register their 11th victory on the trot, and they would also register their seventh successive bilateral T20I series win at home and their 12th overall T20I series win at home (Min. 2 matches in a series).

When: India vs Sri Lanka, 2nd T20I, Saturday, February 26 at 7:00 PM IST

Where: Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium, Dharamsala

What to expect: The last time a T20I was played in Dharamsala was during the T20 World Cup in 2016, with five matches being completed and two yielding no results. Rain forced the abandonment of the India-South Africa game in 2019, with the hosts last having played here in 2015. Rohit Sharma had scored a ton in that game but South Africa managed to chase down 200. In the six completed games here, teams chasing have won twice while the teams that have set totals have emerged victorious on four occasions. Showers are forecast for Saturday but the weather is set to be clear on Sunday when the third T20I will be played. The teams will also experience a drastic shift in temperatures compared to Lucknow.

Head to head: India 15 - 7 Sri Lanka (One no result). At home, India now enjoy a 9-2 lead over Sri Lanka.

Team watch:

India:

Injured/Unavailable: Ruturaj Gaikwad was unavailable for selection for the opening T20I after complaining of wrist pain. Should he be unavailable for this game, India are likely to go in with an unchanged eleven.

Tactics & Matchups: India have a 50-plus average during the powerplay from their last seven T20Is at home, with Rohit Sharma being the consistent performer at the top. His scores in the seven games at home are: 48, 55, 56, 40, 19, 7, 44. Unless Sri Lanka find a plan to dismiss him early, he could do a lot of damage like he has done against them in the past.

Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (c), Ishan Kishan (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson, Deepak Hooda, Ravindra Jadeja, Venkatesh Iyer, Harshal Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal.

Sri Lanka:

Injured/Unavailable: Wanindu Hasaranga won't be joining the Sri Lankan team in India as he's flying back home from Australia. Maheesh Theekshana, who suffered a hamstring injury, is also headed back home while Kusal Mendis continues to be unavailable due to his hamstring issues. Niroshan Dickwella and Dhananjaya de Silva, who are part of the Test squad, have been added to the T20I setup for the rest of the games.

Tactics and Matchups: Dickwella could replace Dinesh Chandimal and could also open the innings while the other opening option is Danushka Gunathilaka. However, both Dickwella and Gunathilaka average under 10.20 against India in T20Is, while de Silva, who has an average of 48.66 against them and his last two T20I knocks against India - 40* and 23* - came in winning causes.

Probable XI: Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Janith Liyanage, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dasun Shanaka (c), Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Jeffrey Vandersay, Praveen Jayawickrama, Lahiru Kumara.

What they said:

"I think any senior player will want a youngster to be in good headspace. Be it Rohit bhai, Virat bhai, Rahul sir, they have all passed our age. So they know how we feel when we don't perform. I didn't have a good performance against West Indies but they were still standing there with me, telling me 'we know about your talent, we know what you can do for the team, so we trust in you, don't think that we are doubting you'. This is something that a youngster will be very happy listening to and will be eager to perform for the team" - Ishan Kishan.

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