Asian rivals face-off in virtual semifinal

India, Lanka both need to win Tuesday's game to reach the finals of the CB Series.

updated: March 04, 2008 10:12 IST
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Needing to win their last game to ensure a berth in the cricket tri-series final, India's ability to handle pressure will be tested as they take on Sri Lanka in a must-win match in Hobart on Tuesday.

The Indians, who have not shown the desired consistency in the tournament so far, have no option but to defeat the islanders in the day game to qualify for the best of three finals.

In case they lose, they still have a chance of making it but for that to happen, Sri Lanka have to lose to Australia in their last league match. But the Indians are not to keen to wait till the last game.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his band of young warriors have their task cut out for the crucial encounter against Sri Lanka, who are equally determined to put it across the Indians in what promises to be a thrilling contest between the two Asian rivals.

While India need one victory to guarantee a place in the final, the task for the Lankans is a bit more difficult as they have to win both their remaining matches to secure a place in the summit showdown.

Australia have already qualified with 26 points from seven matches while India are at the second spot with 12 points from six outings. Sri Lanka are at the third slot with six points from as many matches.

Dhoni wants his team to seal a place in the finals here rather than wait anxiously for the outcome of the Lanka-Australia match.

"In any case, we would like to seal the match against Sri Lanka and not leave it to the last game between Australia and Sri Lanka. This game is very important for us."

Dhoni hoped for an improvement in his luck with the coin. "May be I will have a coin from Sholay, where either way you win," said the calm-headed Indian captain.

Dhoni has been utterly disappointed with the poor showing of the top order, whose failure was a major reason for India falling short by just 18 runs while chasing the huge target of 318 runs.

"The run-making for the top order hasn't been the story till now and it could make things so much easier for the lower order batsmen," said Dhoni.

India's top four wickets, including the ones of openers Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, have been falling cheaply and Dhoni said if needed he was open to shuffle the batting order.

"We have a few options, (Robin) Uthappa can open with Sachin but the way Gautam (Gambhir) has settled in at number three, I don't want to disturb him."

The Indians would hope that Tendulkar, who has not been in the best of form in the tri-series, clicks in order to lay a solid foundation for the team.

The Indians had reverted to the four-bowler strategy in the last game and it remains to be seen whether they continue to adopt a similar ploy for the clash at the relatively smaller Bellerive Oval.