India v Sri Lanka
Thursday 24 February 13.30
TV: live on Sky Sports
Are hosts brave enough to drop Kohli?
India are getting close to fielding their strongest T20 side. A few tweaks here and there ahead of the World Cup in Australia in just over eight months and they will look a formidable unit.
The big question is: do they have the guts for the selection choice which revolutionises their batting? Namely dropping Virat Kohli from the No 3 slot.
Kohli is a menace to this team and it is by far his weakest format given the requirements for his position to be a player who can hit at will.
No matter. For now, Ravi Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah return to the fold. Jadeja is a special player who gives them balance. Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul are absent and, of course, so is Hardik Pandya. We say of course but who knows what's wrong with him this time?
Sanju Samson should get his chance with the gloves while it will be interesting to see if Venkatesh Iyer and Sky Yadav can further enhance their credentials.
Probable XI: Rohit, Ishan, Kohli, Samson, Yadav, Venkatesh, Jadeja, Harshal, Kumar, Chahal Bumrah.
Sri Lanka managed a win in the final game of their series against Australia. Their bowlers were consistently threatening against a below-strength home team.
One doubts whether they will be as effective. Sure, the pitches will help but India are far better players of spin than Australia.
The Lankans are boosted by the return of Wanindu Hasaranga, who is fit again after a bout of Covid. But they have lost players to injury. There is no Thushara, Avishka or Ramesh Mendis. Bhanuka Rajapaksa has been left at home because of fitness issues. That's a great shame as he could solve their batting issues, which are significant.
Possible XI: Nissanka, Kusal, Asalanka, Chandimal, Shanaka, Karunaratne, Hasaranga, Chameera, Theekshana, Jayawickarama, Lahiru
Lucknow is a little-known venue because hitherto it has not been used in an IPL season. In total 14 men's matches have been played there. And from that short study period we deduce that it is not a batsman's paradise.
More than 160 has been busted seven times. To put that into context if India bat first we would expect them to be even money to bust mid 170s on the par line.
Stodge is what to expect. The average run rate has been 7.3. Sri Lanka could be a decent lay to go over 150. You can bet here.
Hope for Sri Lanka start
Nine matches have been won by the side batting first at Lucknow. Is that the edge to get with Sri Lanka at 4.003/1? Alas, don't forget India's superb chasing record in this format. It's 15 wins in their last 16.
We might have to keep our powder dry. That is unless Sri Lanka can buck their low-scoring trend. They really need to be reckless from the off to try for those 170s and 180s. It's no point getting 140 and 150 batting within them-selves and then getting beat.
In short, we want that to happen so we can bet India to get after absolutely anything remotely big.
There is value on the top bat and bowler markets. It's worth focusing on exactly where players will perform.
Let's kick off with Sri Lanka skip Dasun Shanaka at 9/1 for top bat. It's a decent shout because Hasaranga, who will almost certainly bat below him, is short at 9/2.
For India, Rohit doesn't look a risk at 3s but he didn't open in that last encounter against the Windies. That puts us off. Instead we fancy Venkatesh at 14s and Yadav at 7s.
You can bet Sportsbook markets here.
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