Cricket WC: India eye locking semifinals berth

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 India can lock in their spot in the knockout stages with victory over a Sri Lanka outfit needing to upset the hosts to keep their own hopes of progress alive at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup at Wankhede Stadium here on Thursday.

India are flying high as the only undefeated side after six comprehensive triumphs and are sitting pretty in top spot on the standings and on the brink of locking in their place in the knockout stage.

A seventh consecutive victory will ensure India are part of the pointy end of the tournament and allow them to fine-tune their lineup while also eyeing a first-place finish.

Sri Lanka were tipped to be one of the surprise packets of the tournament after powering into the final of the recent Asia Cup on home soil, though the crushing loss to India in that decider will surely remain in the back of their minds.

The 1996 champions were bundled out for only 50 when batting first in that match as Mohammed Siraj took 6/21, while India raced to the target in only 6.1 overs and with all 10 wickets in hand.

India also won their earlier clash at the same event, as well as all three ODIs when the two sides met in January this year, though the Sri Lanka XI is set to have a different look for this encounter.

Sri Lanka were hit hard by injuries before the tournament started, and it has only been made worse since it began with skipper Dasun Shanaka, Lahiru Kumara and Matheesha Pathirana all ruled out, but the remaining squad will have to find a way to cause an upset if they are to keep their hopes alive.

Jasprit Bumrah has arguably been the pick of the fast bowlers at the tournament so far with 13 wickets from India’s opening six matches.

The right-arm quick has claimed at least one scalp in each of those outings, with 3/32 against titleholders England in their last start including Dawid Malan and Joe Root in consecutive deliveries that put India back on track while defending a modest total.

Bumrah has also contained the opposition batsmen with an economy rate of 3.91 that has only been bettered by spinner Ravindra Jadeja (3.75), and another teammate in Ravichandran Ashwin (3.4) in his one match so far.

While Mohammed Shami has impressed since coming into the side for India’s past two matches, Bumrah remains the leader of the pace attack playing a crucial role in the host’s surge toward a semifinal.

Opener Pathum Nissanka has been in fine form with the bat to give Sri Lanka firm foundations even while their fragile squad has been hit hard by injuries to key players.

Nissanka was on a streak of four consecutive fifties at the tournament and might have equalled the record with one more half-century if not for a faint edge when on 46 against Afghanistan.

The consistent 25-year-old now has 289 runs from six innings at the tournament and will likely need to turn another strong start into a ton if Sri Lanka are to cause an upset and give their semi-final hopes a huge boost.

Squads

India: Rohit Sharma (c), Hardik Pandya (vc), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav

Sri Lanka: Kusal Mendis (c), Kusal Perera, Pathum Nissanka, Angelo Mathews, Dushmantha Chameera, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Maheesh Theekshana, Dunith Wellalage, Kasun Rajitha, Dilshan Madushanka, Dushan Hemantha, Chamika Karunaratne.

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